I WAS HUMAN FIRST by Yvette Reddick

I was human first, then not.  My eyes saw no color, no age and no gender.  Then, as time progressed, my transparent world became densely fogged.  I was robbed of my freedom to be, and all because I was a collection of uniqueness (African American, woman, aging citizen), an undeniable work of art.  Every human, each one of us, has been picked apart for the composition we are.   But, my will refuses to succumb to that mind imprisonment game labeled with prejudice and indifference--a diversion of self worth.  So, before you attempt to tear me down by propping heavy titles upon my back, remember, I was human first.  That's right!  So were you, then not.    Welcome to an arrangement of progression. 

In the beginning, as children, we are hidden from the troubles of the world. Artist, Joseph Hirsch uses oil on canvas, 35 x 33 in. to illustrate a situation that reveals a separation and closeness between mother and child. His main color scheme focuses around the color blue, used in 3 different shades. The spiritual meaning of blue relates to fear as expressed by the mother. It also relates to love and loyalty noted by the firm grasp the mother has on the infant. The infant's clothes consist of blue and white. Blue also symbolizes trust which can be evidenced by the baby's playful comfort. The white blanket represents the infant's innocence.
Purple and bronze, D. K. Richmond, 1905, From the collection of: Te Papa
In D. K. Richmond’s 1905 painting, Purple and Bronze, we recognize a slight distance between parent and child. The parent is close enough to protect the child, but far enough to let him discover. The color purple represents the wisdom and independence the mother possesses. If you’re familiar with bible terminology, then you may believe bronze represents judgment. In the painting, not only is the child’s clothes bronze, but he is too.
Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, Edgar Degas, 1878 - 1881, From the collection of: National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Edgar Degas’ wax figure of, Little Dancer Age Fourteen, may be compact in size, but uncondensed in its meaning. As teenagers, we’re forced to see the world for what it is, on our own. The young girls stance tells us she’s uncertain about her next move. This correlates with the conventional attitudes of the middle class during this time. The wax figure was regarded a creature and a threat to society. The people of this region of the world believed, people that resembled the little girl were rats.
Nubian woman, Charles Cordier, 1851, From the collection of: MuMa - Musée d'art moderne André Malraux
A vision of beauty, artist Charles Cordier's bust of a Nubian woman exposes the contradictions in life. The idea that black can’t be beautiful is tossed aside. She’s perfectly sculpted to express the multiplicity of cultural differences in order to promote acceptance. She has a story. The woman's eyes appear troubled yet her upper body posture resonates confidence and strength. Her ebony skin glistens as if the sun is slowly melting her away. The texture of her hair is both reflective and realistic.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, Napoleon Sarony, c. 1870, From the collection of: Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
The act of enslavement has never been exclusive to one group of people. In fact, women have been enslaved since the beginning of time. Two exceptional women that said, no more are, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. In the photograph, Cady Stanton appears to have a halo over her head, probably a water mark, but how telling. Both women can be considered angels for their role in the women’s movement as well as their contributions toward antislavery.
Portrait - New York, Paul Strand (American, 1890 - 1976), 1916, From the collection of: The J. Paul Getty Museum
The pride, the hurt, the history of an aging woman can be witnessed in Paul Stand’s portrait. The antiqued format used to capture her age is sheer perfection. The lines or wrinkles almost serve as a roadmap to her life’s story. Her eyes seem to focus on the mess of the world. Why do we abandon our predecessors? What threat do they pose?
The Underground Railroad, Charles T. Webber (American, b.1825, d.1911), 1893, From the collection of: Cincinnati Art Museum
Humans coming together in times of tragedy works as an excellent theme for Charles T. Webber’s 1893 portrait of, The Underground Railroad. In fact, throughout history, we’ve managed to elevate and work collectively toward the greater good. We see men and women of all ages and races assisting in the freedom of life.
Calling in the Gleaners, Jules Breton, 1859, From the collection of: Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Jules Brenton’s 1859 oil on canvas h. 90; W. 176 titled, Calling in the Gleaners, centers around women laboring in the fields, often referred to as peasants because of their low social status. The women are barefoot and wear dowdy garments reflective of their roles in society. They vary in age from young to old and appear overworked, but steadfast.
Kibera Walk, Dickens Otieno, 2009-07-07, From the collection of: GoDown Arts Centre
Artist, Dickens Otieno uses acrylic on canvas to present the idea that, we are not color blind, but color doesn't define us. Instead, in this painting, the color is just another accessory the character wears, much like the clothing. In the beginning of life, this is what we see, people uniquely designed. The artist purposely leaves out facial descriptions to create visual impact and to direct attention to other objects that help define the theme. There’s no denying the fact that these characters are different, and that’s what makes them equally important. One character boasts vertical lines across his shirt while the other has horizontal lines. Again, reaffirming the idea that, it’s okay to be different.
A Peoples Progression Toward Equality, Jared Bader, Photo by Jack Ramsdale, 2007-03-01, From the collection of: Mural Arts Philadelphia
The inscription at the top of the mural says it all. “With malice toward none, with charity for all,” is a quote from Abraham Lincoln. Artist Jared Bader’s, public art mural delivers the message that; as humans, we continually strive to reach a higher ground, acceptance and freedom, a right belonging to everyone regardless of color, sex or age. His use of Abraham Lincoln as the central focus corresponds with the message and theme of this piece.
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