I don’t remember the first conversation or even the first collaboration we made. I just remember her always being there. I remember her always making things and laughing in that way that makes me think:
I am fortunate to live a life populated by powerful artists/creators. Let me stress this as best as I am able: I am so fortunate.
Some artists make pretty things or useful things or create technologies that make lots of money for somebody, somewhere. And then there are the rest of us.
We are the artists that create in order to survive. We create in order to know ourselves out from under the rubble of pseudo-life here at the end of the industrial age. We are the artists who create in order to survive the shame and damage of misogyny, racism, classicism. We create to see our beauty and our ability in a world that refuses to acknowledge us at all. Some of us create because it is life. We are the artists that create beyond our survival and make the future as it will one day exist.
Miss. Sherry Led is a performer, a visual artist, a writer, a story teller . . . and . . .and . . .and . . . and how can I possibly separate her identity as an artist from her identity as a mother, a lover, a friend, an activist, and a healer? I can’t, so I won’t.
Miss. Led created a beautiful book for children, The Red Feather, on the history of the Mardi-Gras Indians. Read here to learn more about the importance of telling this story to the children of New Orleans and beyond. And see the cover here.
This mighty woman is my inspiration and my student, she is my teacher and my collaborator. She is my friend and my role model. She is a portion of my memory as we have lived our art in time, together. How do you introduce someone like that to anyone?
In her latest series of paintings we are treated to cracked mirrors and anatomically correct hearts, to needles threaded and mending, to wide open jaws exposing the dark alien world of our innards.
It is the coloration on these that gives me the little ‘gasp’ in my chest. It’s the mechanism that tells me when I’m looking at something meaningful. Leddy’s latest work shows a developed sense of what I am going to call “the loveliness of a subtle but pervasive and indefinite darkness”. There is a quality in this work attractive to the children in us still making peace with too many small-dark things. And doing a fine job of just that. These are small portraits of success the way it looks day by day.
I can not pick a favorite, but the hearts bursting from a big lovely jaw is just what happens when the artist laughs that laugh. A person has to earn a laugh like that, on one hand, on the other, a person has to promise to give it all away again, too. Here’s a few to see. Miss. Led has threatened to unleash these as greeting cards. xxo Our talk is below.
It turned out as nice as I’d hoped.
MICHELLE: You do it all! And over the years we have done much of it together. One thing I always get coming off of you is that raw need to create, you just have to do it, make your own interpretations and visions something that exist outside yourself. You’ve got that gritty feel around you of an artist that works to fill a private but voracious appetite. My favorite kind, of course. You recently put yourself up to a project where you did two paintings a day for a month. Where did this come from? The idea and the motivation?
LED: Healing healing healing! Everything at that moment was swirling around inside of me my head my heart questions about my purpose and how I was going to get unstuck from this new safe life I have created for myself. Come to find out I don’t like the safe life, it feels alot like dying to me so I had to come up with a way to start projecting things outward! So I gave myself a commitment! A small step to take
ME: The paintings are beautiful, your use of color puts this marvelous depth into fairly simple images. Really lovely the outcome. How did it go? The commitment? Did you have to motivate yourself?
LED: The commitment was wonderful! Two a day ended up being too much so I created one complete painting and a sketch a day! I feel like all of us that create have a Genius that is like an Angel just waiting to come through. My job is to pick up the sharpie or paint brush sooo..the more I worked the more images would come! There was a point after I painted a piece about the missing Nigerian Girls that I just felt blank. For motivation I asked people to throw words at me that made images It worked well!
ME: Commitments and disciplines are the motion that genius needs, it’s so true. You mentioned asking yourself about your purpose. This project came from thinking in those terms. I ask myself these kinds of questions, too, all the time and so often it seems that the answer I get is something like: “I’d tell you, but, you don’t want to know, so I can’t, you won’t listen.” Did you get an answer or an inkling to this question? Even if it is a transitional or vague answer, did you find something useful for yourself?
LED: I did get some insights of course in the bigger picture. But that’s not what I am looking for at the moment. I realized I was really asking for a divine job to do! I’ve spent a lot of time trying to be “good” as of late or more my judgement of what good is ..which is this idea that I should be able to be happy anywhere in any situation. What I’ve learned is I’m not that fucking evolved and if I were I wouldn’t be surrounded by all the amazing inspiration I have. My intensity draws what I need and Ventura and a “nice family life” are not it. I feed off energy around me I need motion in my ocean so to speak I want adventures, healing, art, music, dance, and color and lots and lots of people and nature in my daily! So now I’m moving out of this not so comfortable comfort zone to do what part I do know and that is to be a part of something already in motion!
ME: Oh . . . I can hear that motion in those words too. The word ‘Happy’ is a good one to question or just hold in a fair amount of suspicion, I think. You put something into words there that I needed today: I’m not that fucking evolved. That is true, isn’t it? Okay . . . so . . . I’ll ask . . . and I’ll take everything you say as temporary and not exactly so and always evolving . . . So . . . do you think that is part of what is happening on a larger scale . . . I feel so much tension on a daily basis and I wonder why it seems turned-up right now . . . is it me? Am I older? Is it more annoying? Are we evolving? So . . . do you think we are doing something along these lines? And in the same vein, does healing make unknown territory? Does healing create new space?
LED: I believe that everything is moving faster. I believe large scale change is happening I believe people are choosing to become conscious or not become conscious. I believe things are happening on a grand, spiritual level that I am only semi-conscious of but am willing to learn more about I know I’m sensitive to energy and feel the same tension you do and YES we are evolving I am making a decision to bring light or to bring the dark to it and that to me is healing honesty with no secrets..like that story you wrote bout your Mama! I also believe that the more evolved we become, the more sensitive we are and need to find tools to transmute that energy around us like the violet flame for example I surround myself and space with it regularly .
I can not explain but every day is dramatic in the clarity that I can find in it, but it is also quite difficult. And the choices are moment into moment, for me, as of lately, the more I seem able to glean, the more poor my performance has been. It is like something is saying: “Well, now that you can see, we have to show you!”
Your question about new space is a little harder but every time we remove something we are used to having, there is an emptiness. I think my ego grieves when I get rid of a hunk of it that I no longer need and that makes me uncomfortable but usually only for a short period of time because I’ve opened up space for more of the good to come in!
ME: When you asked others to send words of inspiration, how did that go, did that work?
LED: So many of my friends sent words about a connection we had had or an experience or just words that came to them at the moment…What I chose were the simple words that had a deeper meaning to me Empty bucket..brought images of the song Dear Elijah from an old activist friend of mine and I saw a bucket being carried and leaking, making things grow on the path behind it!
Home is in my heart…brought to mind a ripped open chest with the perfect place to dwell inside of it! We lift as we rise…. at first a ladder with a hand reaching back to grasp the hand behind it came to mind and then the ladder changed to a spine with feet walking up the vertebrae which reminded me of motherhood and an African American Womens anthology called This Bridge Called My Back and the spine gets stronger the more upright we walk! True Blue... turned into a self portrait as I see the color blue as honest strong and healing and That is what I desire in myself. Every little piece plays a part... reminded me that we all hold onto a piece of the life puzzle and everyone transforms and grows no matter what and that became a hand holding a puzzle piece with a picture of a chrystalis on it while beautiful colored butterflies sat all over the hand.
ME: So, Leddy, are you happy?
LED: HAPPY it is so real I’ve gotten so many glimpses and am willing to do anything possible to get there to have my hormones in balance with the universe to feel well and serene to trust to have absolute faith in my path TO HAVE FUN and when life happens to suck observe it with grace and dignity TO LOVE THE SHIT OUTTA IT! My happy hasn’t been completely created yet this other idea isn’t mine so I cant be it! I think art is a ritual in healing creating that unknown space you mentioned. Life and experience are the celebration and I need to share it I like lots of others at my party! I’ve begun to know myself as different then who I thought I was and it’s awesome! So I’m going to Portland and we will see what happens next! XO
ME: All my love to you Leddy. All my f’n love. xxo
(Hey . . . if you want to see these beauties made into cards . . . get in touch with me and let’s help Leddy make that happen!)