Artists Together Charting a Course

This is an assembled paper quilt with four squares.

Each square 12 x 12 x 2.5 inches
Assembled paper quilt 24 x 24 x 2.5 inches

From top left:

“Full Chroma 2”

“Cool Colors” featuring Rodney Franklin and Myra Melford, jazz pianists

“Black and White” featuring Jake Heggie and his forthcoming opera, INTELLIGENCE

“Warm Colors” featuring Shelley Doty, guitar, and Melanie DeMore, vocal activist

The first square of this work, “Full Chroma 1” was created for Composing the Future, the 2021 NCWCA Member show, which asked how artists see and project the future as we emerge from the world changing events of 2020. My “Artists Together Charting A Course” paper quilt is meant to project optimism that creative people in all the arts collectively and individually will shape the changed reality with their vision by processing the past, imagining a better way to move forward, and building the as-yet unknown.

Inspired by the title of the show, I contacted composer friends, who generously contributed their musical notation to this project. I am indebted to these incredible artists who generously contributed their musical notation and other artistic lodestones to this project.

Full Chroma 2

This piece is centered by a color wheel, symbolizing art. The ground, which is made of multi-colored mosaic triangles, breathes outwards to offer glimpses of sunshine within. It supports a compass rose with each point dedicated to a composer/musician

North is Melanie DeMore, Vocal Activist

East is Myra Melford, improvisational jazz pianist

South is Rodney Franklin, jazz fusion pianist

West is Shelley Doty, rock guitarist

Encircling the compass are passages of musical notation by Jake Heggie for his forthcoming opera INTELLIGENCE, which tells the story of Mary Jane Bowser, an educated Black woman, and Elizabeth Van Lew, a Texas abolitionist who together passed Confederate secrets to the Union army during the Civil War. The four elements of earth, air, water, and fire at the outer corners symbolize the life forces of the world.

Cool Colors

Rodney Franklin and Myra Melford, both jazz pianists, inhabit this square with the elements of water and air, in blue and silver. The artists are depicted in silhouette, both at the piano in performance. Naturally, closeups of piano keys and a Steinway concert grand are included, as well as personal symbols: A snowy egret, the spirit animal for which Myra’s band is named, and Rodney’s vinyl record of “Sky Dance,” with liner notes for his “Song for You.” The music shown in the circle comes from handwritten notes for a piece by Myra Melford.

Black and White

This square is dedicated to the forthcoming opera, INTELLIGENCE, a commission by the Houston Grand Opera by Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Sheer. It contains the story about an educated Black woman, Mary Jane Bowser, and a white abolitionist, Elizabeth van Lewe (“they called her crazy Bet”), who successfully infiltrated the Confederate White House in Richmond, Virginia, and passed valuable secrets to the Union Army. They are both seen in silhouette in their spy personas, and in photos from the Civil War era. Actually, mystery surrounds the image of Mary Bowser, about whom very little information remains, and this photo was later found to be a different person with the same name. The musical notation comes from Jake’s manuscript and contains some snippets of the text. I couldn’t resist images of the Houston Grand Opera, which brought a little bit of color into the square. I decided to keep it as a symbol of the life force burning within the arts. The square is divided into the past, on the left, with the story elements of INTELLIGENCE, and the present, with Jake Heggie seated at his piano creating a contemporary opera. Air is the element associated with this square, with its light and silvery colors.

Warm Colors

Rock guitarist Shelley Doty and vocal activist Melanie DeMore are paired with the elements of fire and earth. The choral arrangement of Melanie’s Lead With Love was recently published by Hal Leonard. I incorporated elements from the cover, featuring singers from Exigence, a Sphinx vocal ensemble that specializes in music for social change. Melanie is seen in silhouette performing with her pounding sticks, while Shelley is seen on the north point in concert with her band, Skip the Needle. The triangles and other compass points contain more info about these wonderful artists, including Shelley’s notebook cover from when she first learned musical notation (fun fact: this notebook came from Sam Ash Music, my family business, and was given to Shelley by my sister when they were both just out of college). 

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