NYU Black Renaissance Noire Volume 18 Issue 3 - Fall 2018 - Page 46

visual arts Mugshot Portraits: By Lava Thomas Women of the Montgomery Bus Boycott Lava Thomas September 2018 Alberta J. James, 2018 Graphite and conté pencil on paper 33 1/4” by 47” My mother, however, rebelled against her upbringing. So there was always tension in our family. She was a party girl who frequented jazz clubs and hung out with musicians. My mother was a glamorous, beautiful woman who wasn’t interested in living a conventional lifestyle, even after she had children. As a consequence, my grandmother, grand-aunts and my great-grandmother were all very protective of me, and I spent my childhood in church, singing in the choir, going to Bible study, until I was about 12 years old, when I rebelled myself. o Addie J. Hamerter, 2018 Graphite and conté pencil on paper 33 1/4” by 47” You have an interesting name, how did you get it? Lava was my nickname as a child, and it stuck. It’s short for Lavynell. Briefly describe your family background and how it influences your artwork aesthetically, its content, and your artistic process My great-grandparents and grandparents migrated from Decatur, Texas, to Los Angeles in 1943, when my mother was a child. They were part of the Great Migration out of the Jim Crow South during wwii. I grew up listening to my grandmother’s stories about her childhood in Texas. I’m not a religious or church-going person today, but aspects of those childhood experiences come into my artwork. I use tambourines in large-scale installations and wall compositions. It’s a way to use the artifacts from my childhood and history. You work in multiple disciplines & media: drawing, painting, mixed-media, sculpture, even design and fashion. What factors contribute to which media/discipline you employ? I’m very intentional with the materials/ media I select for each project. I choose them based on how effectively and succinctly they convey ideas and content. The series is in dialogue with the current political and social climate of the country: the resurgence of White nationalism, the rise of racial hostility and lethal violence, the ascent of White male supremacy in the Executive Branch of government and the methodical erosion of Civil Rights laws and protections by the current administration. One story that stands out in my memory is of her witnessing a kkk cross burning. Like most Southern Blacks, my family was churchgoing. My grandmother was a choir director and pianist, and my great-grandmother played the organ. Music was a big part of my childhood in and out of church. Our church family was like extended family. My grandmother also had a beauty shop that was a gathering place for women in our community. p While mug shots intrinsically aim to dehumanize and criminalize, these life-size, highly detailed portraits offer a counter narrative--illuminating and emphasizing the leadership and sustained labor of women to the boycott’s success. Mugshot Portraits: Women of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, takes a contemporary look back at a powerful, yet under-acknowledged legacy of Black women’s activism through a series of graphite and Conté pencil portraits based on mug shots of women who were indicted under Alabama’s anti-boycott laws.