A lot of my work focuses on the lifespan of flowers. I call my cotton pieces “Needle Roses” because I know the crop’s history, how difficult it is to harvest by hand, along with a nod to its beautiful purple and pink blossoms that precede the pods of fluffy fiber. Although I grew up in a Southern town, it was surrounded by tobacco fields. I did not see a cotton field until after I'd left for college. It’s surprising to see an entirely white field in a countryside that never gets snow. The way it transforms the landscape is practically alien.
When I showed my first cotton painting, I saw someone begin to tear up while looking at it. The tall blonde lady explained that her grandmother had died while picking cotton. I listened as she described what life was like for her family and how special her grandmother was to her and how she still feels the loss. Looking at my painting brought that all back to her. She hugged me and left. I felt like I had been turned upside down. I continue to work on this subject, to dig deeper, to understand a wider perspective, and to challenge my own assumptions.
“Needle Rose Blues” is the first time I’ve used barbed wire in a painting. To explore the subject of cotton is to discuss how it represents the shared history of people on opposite sides of power. Cotton is a hard subject. You don’t see a lot of artists using it because you have to be prepared for the conversations that come with it.
I have a designated area in the studio for working on my Needle Rose pieces. It looks a like a miniature cotton field with all the plant stalks and cotton pods in various stages of opening. The cuttings last a long time.
I think the nicest thing someone has said about the Needle Rose pieces is that they didn’t realize cotton was so beautiful. Even today, it's hard for southerners to see it as anything other than a crop with a terrible history.
"Needle Rose Blues"
20x16 canvas. 28x24 in wood frame with copper finish.
Available at Daphne Lodge. Call (229) 273-2596