From the Artist: Keisha "I Make Everything Beautiful" Whatley
Being commissioned for The Women of Inspiration Project created the bridge I needed to reconnect with my artistic gift and passion. In 2014, it had been over 15 years since I had painted anything. I put the paintbrush down for a myriad of reasons (starting a family, focusing on my “career”, etc.). When Dr. Whatley, who happens to be my mother, was approaching a birthday, I tried to think of a gift that would be worthy of her. I didn't have a lot of money and she had enough "stuff"... so I pondered, "What would be a meaningful gift?" and I decided to, after 15+ years, paint a portrait of my two children for her. I was nervous. I was scared. I was excited.
I painted the portrait and presented it to her for her big day. She was floored and then The Women of Inspiration Project manifested. Through Dr. Whatley’s studies of the impact of slavery, Jim Crow & racism on African American woman, she found a calling to create images that nurture & empower African American women to be their truest, most authentic selves and she wanted to share them as a way to give African American women images that support them. These images were created to be visual reminders of the strength, dignity and inspiration that preceded us and to encourage us to walk in courage, boldness and audacity. I have learned a ton about myself as an artist, a woman, a black woman and parent through participating in the creation of the images and learning about the inspiring women illustrated in this Project.
Keisha "I Make Everything Beautiful" Whatley
The Women of Inspiration: From the Project Creator, Dr. Renee Whatley
Dr. Renee Whatley, Project Creator
Toni Morrison once stated that she wrote The Bluest Eye because that was a book she wanted to read. There was nothing out there that spoke to her experience at that time. It is from a similar place that Women of Inspiration was conceived and nurtured. From that heartfelt place that recognizes the courage and the beauty we African American women bring to the world and sought an avenue to bring that front and center.
These our my Women of Inspiration, I had to force myself to stop at 12. Yours may be different. but it is important to have some. To know our history through their lives and eyes as we emulate their unique, individual qualities. And it is through deeply entering their lives that we more know ourselves; their lives of tears, turmoil, betrayal as well as triumph.
I draw strength and compassion for myself and others by imbuing these images. I can feel the pull of my head and shoulders straightening and my spine lengthening as I recognize the shoulders upon which I stand every day. That whatever my daily struggle, I do not struggle alone, but with generations of sisters that have walked this walk before me and will walk it after me. From them I derive not just strength, but imagination, creativity and fortitude.
And through these images, I offer that experience to others. And invite each of us to become Women of Inspiration to each other.