|Artist Mary Whyte|
My opinion is that women are generally cruel to other women. We are judgemental based on looks, culture, race, religion, and other differences. We tend to exclude women who don't fit in our group. This book is a gentle and beautiful display of women who accept, love, and nurture other women - transcending all of the wrong lessons we are taught as girls.
Artist Mary Whyte
Mary Whyte is a talented watercolor artist who was raised in a typical segregated, rural, white home of the 50s and 60s. Her exposure to people of color included the attendants in the private club her family belonged to and the man who cleaned their 12 acre property two times a year.
|Down Bohicket Road: An Artist's Journey|
"While the words here may reveal some of their character, I hope that my paintings and sketches more closely capture the lilt of their voices, the heat of the kitchen, and their fierce love of God." - Mary Whyte
The Gullah Women and Girls of Johns Island
Years ago I saw a random, short video clip of a Gullah parade, funeral, or celebration. I wasn't sure what it was but I was immediately interested in learning a bit more about that culture. Which is how I learned about Mary Whyte's amazing watercolor portrayals of Gullah women.
I will probably never be able to afford a Mary Whyte painting (original or reproduction) so I recently bought this hardcover book for the collection of paintings. Little did I know that the story behind the paintings was just as beautiful.
When Mary Whyte, a privileged white woman, arrived in their community the Gullah women of Hebron St. Francis Senior Center immediately took her in. They fed her, loved her, and added her to their family. Nevermind that these women had no material wealth, some had been impacted by hurricane Hugo, and most (if not all; I'm still learning) descended from lowcountry slaves.
These women welcomed her into their weekly Wednesday gatherings; quilting, eating, and worship. They posed for her paintings. And she portrayed them with the light in their eyes shining through.
When asked what Ms. Alfreda thought of Mary the first time they met, her answer moved me to tears:
"Here was this skinny, kind of pitiful white girl comin' in, not knowin' where she was goin' or what she was looking for, and definitely in need of some love..."
I'll leave the rest of it for you to read in context of the story. I think it will be better that way.
I will say that I don't know if Mary and her husband knew what they were looking for when they moved to South Carolina following that year of cancer treatment. But I don't imagine they had any idea they'd find someone like Ms. Alfreda and the other women of Johns Island.
This book is a gentle weaving of memories and paintings, descriptions of ordinary lives, and examples of extraordinary love and acceptance. This is not a hit-you-over-the-head social commentary even though it is a powerful example of how women should love and care for each other during the "little biddy amount of time" we have on this earth.
"All royalties from the sale of this book benefit the Hebron St. Francis Senior Center on Johns Island, South Carolina." - from the backflap of Down Bohicket Road
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