I have loved visual art since I was a little girl. My mom filled my childhood with the beauty of the painted, sculpted, and visually rendered world. One time we were waiting in the car for something. It may have been an appointment or an order of food. I’m not sure but I know we were waiting long enough that I was allowed to get into the front passenger seat to pass the time. My mom always packed things for me to do. That day I had coloring books. She got bored and started squinting at the books’ pages. She found one she liked. It was a picture of Bugs Bunny. My mom slipped into a state of peace as she tucked her fingers into the box and glided the Crayolas over the page. She would swoop across the page and then come to a fine and firm halt before reaching into the box for another color. Unlike me, she never tried to double them; never created a press on that page that she didn’t fully intend. When she was done she handed it the book bubble folded to that page. I gasped and I gaped. I held it to the side. I stared into Bugs’ perfectly popping eyes. And I slipped my own finger over the page. I was especially taken with the places she had colored with the white crayon, a member of the box I never had any luck using. It was perfectly everything and to her nothing at all. No sweat. She thought my wonder at this work was, in a word, disproportionate. I have had a few other times in my life where I have looked at a work of art and felt that same feeling. There were masks from Benin. There were trees shielding curious animals by the great Alix Dorleus of Ayiti. There were Rodins. All of them. But 2010 came and I found that feeling in the works of Birthday Girl, Sugarfoot and Gigi, Naomi Catherine, Na, Dodi and Dendi’s mom – my sister in love, Naomi Chambers.
Naomi, your work leaves me in awe. I look at what you allow to pour from your spirit onto a canvas or an installation and what I see is a portal back into childhood. It may be that your work is a portal back to any childhood or what any childhood ought to be. Or perhaps it is a portal to a realm of truly enjoying the beauty of the world around us no matter how much of it may be less than we hope for. Your work always calls me to something wonderful. Something fun. Something made of joy. As Brittney Cooper says, joy isn’t the presence of happiness. Dr. Cooper taught me that happiness is usually dependent on happenings and reminded me that joy is divine. Joy is that which the world did not give you and that which the world can’t take away. Joy is pure. Joy is uniform and simple. Joy looks like it was created in a single moment of brush strokes or even long mothering fingers slipping into a box of crayons under the roof of a Toyota Camry fostering indefinite patience. Your work is joy. Your towers of pancakes and cupcakes are patience and the joy of a first bite gently soaked in syrup or butter or pecans or strawberries. Gently soaked in imagination. Your work is play. Your lineup of faces striking poses stir up a string of masquerade balls that invite us all to play the characters of our childhoods’ most whimsical possibilities. Whimsical enough to conquer fears of any colors that intimidated us or our ambitions. Your portrait of an infant well fed is a return to the innocence of one single love. The love that exists within the arms of a person who looks into your eyes and offers you full comfort, unconditional love, and arms of strong support. A love that wraps a baby in the blissful sleep like a floating marshmallow atop a delicate cup of rich chocolate. Your works are made of wings and when I look at them, I feel I can fly. I feel joy. I am grateful.