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.)

4 thoughts on “Live Virtual Group Session: 12pm EDT September 30th 2020

  1. Patricia D.

    Grandmother of 14
    Daughter of an unknown father
    Sent to a foster home
    Brought up Christian
    Until she was taken back
    By her mother
    Daughter of a Rabbi
    Beloved by us all
    WWII factory worker
    Telephone operator
    When wires were
    pulled in and out
    Her granddaughter
    Proud to be
    a decendant of
    She believed
    I, we, could be
    Who we fully are

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Renee Daniels

    Shouts from my little sister. Barks from her dog. Frightened noises coming from her pet rabbit. Cold gray October day, the backdrop for her dog’s innate nature. Slate gray sky. Cold wind. Sad ending.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Story of a moment in scraps and remnants~~~

    Bits and pieces scattered about form my life.
    Memories built from experiences flooding through the mind and heart.
    A childhood surrounded by nature,
    offering me security.
    Its beauty surrounded me and comforted me.

    Growing and maturing,
    moving out into the world.
    Viewing the harshness and cruelty so foreign from life once known.

    I take time to draw my mind back to those times past.
    The simpler, kinder life.
    I mourn for the bits and pieces of time lost.

    But memories bring me comfort as does my warm patchwork quilt,
    formed by scraps and remnants of treasured moments of my life.

    If only the world could be surrounded by this same quilt.


  4. al3793

    They call it decluttering. I’ve already warned you about hoarding empty cans of paint. But this not de-trashing. This is not like standing at the top of the tower overseeing the story of your life. This is about sitting in the trenches of life filled with the scraps and remnants of our lives, that steeps my heart with warmth, knowing my loves and how I am loved. The scraps and remnants are what an archeologist would consider a successful dig into the lived experience and meaning of those who lived in this home were they to uncover it in future millennia. They would find an infants hand imprinted on a disc of red clay etched with “Happy Mother’s Day”, the first baseball glove “autographed” by a youthful all-star, the portfolio of elementary first drawings and paintings including titles like, “Its a Beautiful Day” or “Jaguire”. They would find a worn rug leading to the sun room warmed not only by the sun’s rays but by well-used wood stove that wards off the chill of winter. They would find bedrooms filled with photos, robes and slippers and other signs of life that reflect the warm love encountered there and that percolated throughout this home.

    Liked by 1 person

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