A few days ago, the Creative Writing department went to the DeYoung Museum to visit
the Revelations: Art from the African American South exhibit. A large majority of the art was done with few resources, since African Americans didn’t have much, but still wanted to express themselves and their thoughts through what they did have. Sculpture materials ranged from metal, to tree roots, to cow skeletons, and delicate canvases were replaced with blocks of wood.
Every piece had kept a part of its creator, whether it be uneven stitches done by tired hands, or a shaky pencil line, smudged by a dragging arm. To be reminded that people made these pieces, to see something that couldn’t be remade, was refreshing.
There was one significant moment described to me that I believe will be hard to erase
from memory. My class group was kneeling on the floor, legs weak, eyes looking up at the quilts pinned onto the walls around us, different fabrics unevenly stitched together. Our docent told us of a woman who once visited this exhibit. The moment the woman had walked into this room, she grew emotional looking at the quilts. When asked why, she explained how when she was a small child, she helped her grandmother and aunts stitch these, and to see them in a museum was a vision she never could have imagined.
I pondered after the telling of this story, and looked at the quilts. I saw jagged lines and
uneven squares, and however humanely beautiful I found its imperfections, I didn’t feel myself well with tears. The differences between the woman and I were certainly clear. We grew up with different lives, families, memories. It wasn’t surprising when two people reacted to something differently. However, the more I thought, the more I understood the woman. I still didn’t feel any nostalgia or anything of the sort, but the very thought of these quilts affecting someone in that personal way touched me. I left knowing that there will be more guests who through seeing some piece in this exhibit, they will feel their past reaching out to them in a place much more familiar than they first believed.
Emily Kozhina, class of 2020