She called for me from the bathroom, sounding distressed. I rushed in to find my two-year-old daughter, Navy, sitting on the tile floor very concerned and pointing to something I could not see. It wasn’t until I got down on her level that I realized she had discovered a marble behind the toilet that needed rescuing. The little things are not unseen. Whether we’re aware of them or not, our minds process them, store them, and perhaps, later down the road, these little things manifest into something we recognize. When my mother hung a piece of artwork in our childhood bathroom, she probably intended for it to look nice. To me, it was something I gazed at while brushing my teeth. Something little. Something almost unseen because it was there like the outlet on the wall was there. But, I think deep down, she had hoped that the art would do more than just look nice. Maybe she hoped it would inspire us. This is what it said:
“Here’s to good women. May we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.”
These words have been stored in the back of my mind since I learned how to brush my teeth. It was only in time that this powerful quote would show up into something recognizable in me. As an artist, it has been presented in the form of imagery—photography, illustration, painting. It’s called Stripes and Buns. If you know me, you know I love naming people, cats, bunnies, objects, and art series. I also love when people find really easy things to connect over like a fashion trend or a hairstyle. I think it’s funny, but important. Connections make community. So while naming this series, I asked myself, what can almost every woman at some point in her life easily relate to more than a striped shirt and a bun? So that’s the history of the name, which I coined in 2015.
In 2018, I opened up a day in my calendar for women and girls to come by my studio in St. Augustine, Florida to have their photo taken for the Stripes and Buns series. Stripes required. Buns suggested. Because babies and short-haired people count, too! Within an hour of announcing the opening, the day was booked solid. Emails and social media messages flooded in asking politely for another opening . . . and another, and another. After four full days of shooting, over 220 women had been photographed. Upon arrival, I asked each woman and girl, in her own words, to answer this question: “What do you think it means to be a good woman?” From three-year-old, River, to eighty-seven-year-old, Doris, every person had a few minutes to jot down, scribble, or neatly write in script a word, phrase, or paragraph revealing what she thought it meant to be a good woman.
This work has brought me immense joy. From photographing authentically raw, gorgeous, radiating women, to painting in my quiet corner of the studio, this series has connected me to more beauty than imaginable. It has connected the young girl in me to the mother in me. It has connected me to you. And her. And her. And her. My hope is that this work will be seen, and she, whoever she is, might not notice it, but really see it. And one day, when she needs it, she will recognize it and know just what to do with her newfound inspiration.
Together, we rescued that little marble from its hiding place. I’ll remember the way it nestled in the cup of my daughter’s little hands and the way she marveled at the colors and depth of her treasure. Like a beautiful little seed. May I be a mother who raises her to cultivate goodness.