Saturday, August 16, 2014

"All colours will agree in the dark." ~ Francis Bacon  


My eyes are green. Not hazel, but green. I have a reddish-brown "freckle" in one of them… forget which. I can see clearly all the way to the mountains, right up to those trees that grow on top, too. Even though they are green eyes, I know their strength comes from the 1/64 Blackfeet part of me. I bet you… 

Nana told me I was 1/64 Blackfeet, and I believe her. My grandmother had the thickest, shiniest black hair. When she died at 96, her hair had still not turned completely gray! The Blackfeet people, for the most part, live in the northern part of Montana. Their close relatives, usually called the Blackfoot, live across the border in Canada. My Blackfeet lady ancestor makes me wonder every so often… Was she brought into our family for love, or not? I fervently hope she was. Whether or not, she gave me her cheekbones, and I thank her for that… and maybe more…

The Blackfeet Nation are the people who met and befriended the Lewis and Clark expedition when they reached the Montana area on their travels. Then, one night, 5 of their boys (not "young men" - BOYS) crept into the Lewis and Clark camp and stole some horses. When the theft was discovered, and, even knowing that it was a passel of boys who did it, the Lewis and Clark party nearly decimated the entire village.  

When I was about 13 and we'd moved to Stamford, Connecticut, we had a house with a natural forest between our backyard and the people who lived on the next street down the hill. In the late fall when the snakes were snug and cozy inside their earthen dens, I'd walk all through those woods, practicing my "silent Indian walking." I'd read that Indian braves could walk noiselessly through the crunch of debris on the forest floor by rolling each foot inward as they stepped. I practiced it over and over, and I thought I did it well enough that no one could hear me approach. I must have been good, because one time I snuck up on my little brother and scared him half to death, which had been my aim all along! 

On our annual trip to Phoenix to visit the Indian Market at the Heard Museum and see the 650 Native American artists' work every year, I met a famous Blackfeet artist who has some of his work in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. He intimidated me, but I whispered that I was 1/64 Blackfeet. He looked at me, and then he looked into my eyes, and then he looked through my eyes to the back of my skull! It was a long stare, and I was fearful, but fascinated. I knew that the Blackfeet people are not prone to lots of laughter. They are fierce people and not small and lithe like the Apache or the Hopi people. He stared at me for a full minute longer, and then he rushed at me, and grabbed me in a fierce hug. It felt like the "hug" of a grizzly must feel. Finally, he put me back down on the earth and said simply, "You ARE Blackfeet!" Don't know why, but I treasure that.

There is one person who lived on this earth, though, that I hate! I've never met him, and neither have you. I don't remember his name or even know if he had one, and neither do you. But I hate him with everything inside of me! I don't even know when he lived… I think it was in the 1700's or the 1800's, for sure… I think. This man decided that all human beings were divided into five (count 'em, 5) color groups: red, yellow, brown, black, and white. And like lemmings, we all believed it and follow that outline to this day, that edict that is supposed to fit all of us born on earth! Tummy rot, I say!

Sometimes people laugh at artists, I guess. They think, sometimes, that artists are folks who've never grown up. I've heard that said. But artists who work with color absolutely know that nothing could be further from the truth about the color of human beings. Why? Because artists PAINT people! Artists use COLOR! Nearly every single person on the planet, when having their portrait painted, would see the artist slather some shade of brown onto the canvas. BROWN, I say. Brown paint  can be mixed to make nearly-black-brown to nearly-white-brown, can't it. That's the color of nearly ALL human skin!

Yeah, but Terry, you said "nearly!" Hah!

Yes, I did… on purpose. I saw a person once who, if I painted him, I could only begin by using black paint. I went into NYC to the Whitney and the Modern to have a close look at what I was studying in university. I'd had lunch with my Dad, and afterwards I walked to the United Nations building, just because I loved it there - the whole thought behind that fairly small building where most of the nations on earth could meet and just hang out and have lunch and talk… or something.  

As I was walking back to 45th and 3rd where my Dad's office was, I passed a line of protesters. They were marching against South African apartheid, and I asked if I could join them, so they made a space for me. The man who was marching directly in front of me was black… not just dark, but a beautiful black. The sun shone on his skin and was shooting off BLUE highlights into my eyes. That man could precisely be called "black." He's the only actual "black" person I've ever seen in my long life. I would have had to start painting him by dipping my brush in absolute black paint until I could get far enough to paint the various blue highlights in all their glory.

At University of Nebraska when I was 19, I saw a student hurrying past me, on that hot, humid September day, dressed in a looong tan overcoat with a hat on his head that was pulled down nearly over his entire face. Under the wide brim I could see a pair of nearly black sunglasses. He had long pants on, of course… nothing strange about that. But I was so hot and sweaty that looking at him dressed like that made me feel faint.

I kept seeing him here and there on campus, and always in that cloak-and-dagger costume. I said to someone, "Does he think he's a spy or something!"

"Shut up, Terry! He's an albino! The sun would burn him and the sunlight could blind him! Don't you know anything?"

Nope, sometimes I'm as thick as Karo syrup! There's a lot I don't know, but I DO know that the human race, who are all trying to live together on this planet, are NOT yellow, red, brown, black or white! And what I don't understand is why people are still grouping us into those 5 bogus color categories! I only turn red when I'm out in the sun too long, and it's not because of my 1/64 Blackfeet blood, either!

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