Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Celebration of Black History Month

And unveiling of my new website


Greetings Friends,

For Black history month I would like to salute two of my favorite writers/ entertainers, Billie Holiday and Langston Hughes. Both of these colorful iconic figures gained popularity in the wonderful Harlem Renaissance. Can you imagine in the most dangerous of  times in the early 1920's and 30's in the height  of racial upheaval;  the mighty migration of hundreds of thousands of  blacks from the southern United States to the north;  the souls of some of out brightest stars find their way to Harlem, New York. Attracting droves of poets, painters, singers , musicians and other creative bohemian persuasions, settling all in one area; where individualism and creativity were openly celebrated.

 I believe that had I been a product of that era, I too would  have risked everything  and found myself pulling up roots and going to Harlem. I can imagine the sweet smell of unloosed creativity, the smoky jazz bars, and hearing the live spoken word of Langston who may have opened the show for the wonderful Lady Blue. I can imagine the excitement and would have been wearing my bad felt hat with the large peacock feather to the side, with my sheer black padded shouldered dress and just in time for open mike, I would have starry eyed but boldly, stepped forward with my tribute to the lady herself, Ms. Billie Holiday.

Lady Blu

by Lisa M. Cliff
Lady Blu, a single orchid in your hair
Heart of Harlem's Renaissance
A voice both melodic and intense
She rhythmically and carefully soothed my pain
I deliberately and carefully captured her essence
She sang my heart
I painted her soul
on her very foundation
life took its hard toll
Never forgotten, I will never forget
I painted her blu, She painted my heart
Lady Blu, an orchid crowned in her Hair
Heart of Harlem's renaissance
a  steamy  cool  nonchalance
She rhythmically, carefully sang my heart
and masterfully methodically unsung my blue
Inspiring this painting
to my discerning minds eye
This beautiful melodic  butterfly
The essence of cool I found in you
My dearest Lady Blu
An orchid crowned upon your du
Heart of Harlem's renaissance
soulful steely cool ambiance
Thank you Lady Blu for being the essence of cool
the essence of Harlem's steamy cool blu

Billie Holiday was a beautiful soulful songstress and jazz singer born in 1915. She had many hits on the jazz charts but was duly noted for her rendition of "Strange Fruit" a protest song about the horrific lynching's throughout the South in the early 1900's as well as many other memorable songs such as "God Bless the Child", and "Good Morning Heartache." Billie played in all the hottest clubs throughout New York and also sung with the great Count Basie's big band.  She was a  staple on the jazz scene,  I would call Billie the Anita Baker of our time. She was the voice of women everywhere, singing our songs, revealing our hearts, and helping us to heal. However, despite her many achievements, Billie led a troubled life and found herself caught in the drug fast lane, she left us far too soon.
I also want to salute Langston Hughes, in spite of  increasing racism, Langston a black man, made incredible inroads for that time. After spending time in the navy, traveled to South Africa and Europe. After returning to the states, received a BA from Lincoln University in 1929. Langston went on to write poetry and a number of plays and notable books. His writing was honest and profound, often leaned on the verge of  anger but reflected the frustration for racial injustice from that time when African Americans or Negroes as we were called, were being held in slavery, hunted and killed. For most Blacks there was little time for creativity, it was all about survival. Yet in places like Harlem, St Louis, Chicago and Cleveland, creativity and education of African Americans could not be suppressed.

My favorite and most well known poem of Langston Hughes was one of the inspirations that called me to write.  As I moved forward in my artistic quest , like many other tortured artists, I questioned if my dream of painting for a living would ever be realized. This poem captured my feelings as if I wrote it myself.

A Dream Deferred
By Langston Hughes
 What happens to a dream deferred
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun
or fester like a sore
and then run
Does it stink like rotten meet
Or crust and sugar over-
syrupy sweet
maybe it sags like a heavy load
Or does it explode?
I often wonder if Langston, like me, allowed doubt to creep in at times; I did feel like my world like a raisin would explode but by faith, I continued forward.  I am so appreciative of the work, spirit and commitment of our fore sisters and brothers from that dark time. For those that suffered tremendously and in spite of the most horrible circumstances, presented some of the most profoundly brilliant work in America. The following is another Langston Hughes poem. It's beauty brings tears to my eye.

My People
By Langston Hughes
 The night is beautiful,
So the faces of my people.
The stars are beautiful,
So the eyes of my people
Beautiful, also, is the sun.
Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people.

Thank you Langston and Lady Blu for your strength and grace under fire. Langston died in 1967 of natural causes and our dear sister Billie Holiday lost her fight with drug and alcohol in 1959.  Two icons that have made an indelible marks on our country. Rest in peace my friends, rest in peace.

Let's make it a point to teach our children and honor Black History every day, ok? Will you join me. We share a deep colorful culture that has and continues to shape and affect the entire world.  Black, white, red or yellow, we are all deeply intrinsically connected by God's grace.  

Speaking of God's Grace, I also want to take this time to announce my new web site which is I tried to take it up a notch, separating the images by theme and I added a few poems. My intention was to "warm" up my web presence by creating  an inviting interactive site that would also be an artistic experience.  Of course all the art is original and is FOR SALE, most prices are clearly listed; all you have to do is contact me via email with the works title, I will call you back within 24 hours. I accept VISA, MasterCard and American Express.  As an emerging artist, I am always on the lookout for collectors, with this in mind I also offer lay-a-way so that you can pay over time.  Some of the work is also available in affordable  limited edition prints.  

There is also a contact us page where you are welcome to leave comments. Feedback on the site itself is also welcome. The one thing that I eventually want to do is change the name to, however, in the mean time, please check me out. There is also a "Tell a Friend" button on the home page that allows you to instantly share my website with others,  Please Do Share!
Remember, art should be a reflection of your personality, it should speak to your heart;  It is an investment and should reflect your tastes, sensibilities, values and styles; Art should add colorful dimension and bring life to a room and warmth to your home.  My intention with every brush stroke is to infuse positive energy into every work of art. To create work that will contribute to making our world beautiful and to  continue to make art that will remind us all of our own inner beauty and shared humanity.

Why don't you add richness and warmth to your home by investing in a "Lisa Cliff  Masterpiece" today!

Thanks again for visiting my art blog. Your interest and support means so much to me. Until next time and from my soul to yours,

 "Namaste" (Be Well)
Lisa  M. Cliff



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