Live Virtual Group Session: 12pm EDT September 30th 2020

Our workshop today included 18 participants from across the U.S. as well as
Angola, Athens, Bahrain, and Canada. The group engaged in a silent, slow looking at
the painting Profile/Part I, The Twenties: Pittsburgh Memories, Mill Hand’s Lunch
Bucket, 1978 by Romare Bearden.
They then typed into the chat what they saw
immediately and upon closer study. Responses spanned form, function, and a range of
feelings. We noted human figures, open doors, a stove, big hands, multiple frames,
photographs and images, texture, scraps, a window, a ceiling, smoke, and pollution.
Deeper discussion explored what the layered collage’s elements represent — what
meaning could we make? Participants contrasted the flatness of the visual texture
(“water stains or wallpaper?”) with its movement (“almost chaotic”) with a blend of light,
shadow, hands (offering help, or reaching for help?), exploitation of labor, violence,
unspoken truths, family lineage, and a sense of shared experiences. One participant
recognized how multiple margins create a sense of self-referentiality – the process of
creating something despite the pieces refusing to cohere into a narrative. We were left
wondering: are estrangement and fragmentation connected, leading to alienation?

Our writing prompt, “Tell the story of a moment in scraps and remnants” inspired six
readers to share what they wrote in four minutes. The diverse responses included a list
of items that formed a collage, a palimpsest (a manuscript or piece of writing material on
which the original writing has been effaced to make room for later writing but of which
traces remain), and a car trip through Detroit (“Everywhere I lived or worked is
gone”…”Not ruins, something ruined”). Another writer picked up on the painting’s
intergenerational theme by recognizing a grandmother of 14 and describing a history
through war and across generations. The reading of the piece itself was noted as
sounding staccato, which added to the impact of listening. Imagery in other writings
brought to mind people, places and texture (“His hand, his garden, his flannel shirt”) as
well as purpose (a teacher surrounded by books, bricks, and students with a Pink Floyd
mindset “We don’t need no education.”) Our final writer-reader wrote about picking up
the pieces of memory – life’s moments floating away like a kaleidoscope flipping.

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.

Also, we would love to learn more about your experience of these sessions, so if you’re able, please take the time to fill out a follow-up survey of one to two quick questions!

Please join us for our next session Monday, October 5th at 6pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.

Romare Bearden

 (American, 1911–1988)
Mill hand’s lunch bucket (Pittsburgh memories)
 , 1978–1978
Collage and Watercolor
34.9 x 46 cm. (13.7 x 18.1 in.)