is a portrait of actress-performer Rhodessa Jones.
She and I have been friends since 1969 and have collaborated many times both on the stage and off. (Rhodessa posed for Yin
in Five Women
After painting nine 4'x 8' fabric panel backdrops for Jones' performance work, The Blue Stories: Black Erotica On Letting Go
, I was inspired to make a sculpture of Rhodessa with colorful figures arising from the head - a mother, father, grandmother and the "trickster" - all people from Jones' personal history, a recurring subject in her performance works.
I started with sketches from performance photos I had taken. I hand built a portrait bust of Rhodessa in clay, working from life and from photos. After firing it, I airbrushed the ceramic piece with colors that pick up hues used in the borders of The Blue Stories
panels and reflect African influences. The polka dot leopard pattern on the chest, for instance, refers to the leopard skin clothing traditionally worn by African chiefs and shamans. I embellished the figures with beads, copper wire, seed beads, an anklet.Storyteller
has a long life. Rhodessa continues to use a black and white photo of it on her business cards and as the logo for The Medea Project: Theatre for Incarcerated Women
.(See openspace.sfmoma.org Not Your Mother's Theater: Rhodessa Jones and the Medea Project: Open Space.)