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Teaching My Child How to See Grandmother's Mask

20th century
Medium & Support
Acrylic on paper
Support: 27 3/8 x 26 1/4 in.
Outsider Art
Object Type
Credit Line
Gift of Delphia Allen Lamberson and Hoke Smith Holt
Accession Number
In Copyright
© Lonnie Holley / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The center of the painting features a mask, frontal view. On the right side there are silhouettes of an adult and a child.

Label History

LH: this face here is the mothers face, this is her breast, this is her child, without eyes visible, this would be the grandmamma or great grandmamma or great great grandmamma. But when we look back on them in an African manner, because of from which way we came, we can’t just look back on our DNA and define how to love one another. Minorities or Self taught artists or artists, I think I’ve been in the mainstream ever since I’ve got the title African American artist but I got kinda shoved on to a position, or they put us in these categories and conditions. And I think that was kinda wrong for a long long time instead of looking at people and seeing them as artists or seeing them as what they are to the arts in America. So here if we look at this right here, see you didn’t see the ghostly looking face, the mouth is open, you go in through that, you got a ghost. I can’t see no ghosts, but I can feel a spirit. I can feel when my grooves of my-- my grandmama get on me and my mama get on me. Its like dreaming. I can feel myself dream. But I cannot feel no ghost. So this whole thing about the ghostly manner that we are so afraid of. What do you teach? Now this is a black woman, she got a black child, but no eyes. Neither one of them have no eyes. You don’t need no eyes to teach your child about the value of itself all the way back to its grandparents. This is in your DNA is what I’m trying to say. LH: All of these... That’s a face right there, if you look at that, that’s a face, then you change to the other side, that’s another face, that’s like grandmama had a mama. If you look at this outline right here, that goes deep into the abstract. That’s what mess them up with me, because I go so deep into the abstract by the time I come back, they totally messed up. So what I’m trying to do with these all of these different shades of paintings and all of this other kind of stuff that we call ghosts and spirits and make-ups of our manners, let’s erase all of that and see humanity in its development. Once we do that, then our ancestors would learn to appreciate what you have learned to appreciate. And that is them. No more than them. That’s her teaching that baby while it is in her womb. See that baby, it is like she is pregnant with that child. Can you dig that now? LH: You gotta see three (faces), you gotta see her and her child and then you gotta see this profile here. That’s the one you kind of get scared of. Because, you’re not going to the cemetery with her tonight is ya? Why can’t I go -- I’m going to go to the cemetery with her in the day – how come I can’t come out with her at night. We too afraid. Can you imagine- People scaring the baby to sleep- you better go to sleep or the boogieman gonna get you, so you get under the cover, you so scared, you close your eyes, first thing you know you gone to sleep. They’ll scare you to death like that! You’d never come out of your house. For real, this is what’s happening to humanity today. I call it a really shade [or shave?] down of humanity.

Label Date: 05/05/17
Type: Artist's quote
Written by: transcription of Lonnie B. Holley interview

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