Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Family Experience and a Pop Star

My cousin Dr Ronald Craig of Olso, Norway, called me about 6 weeks ago to tell me that his daughter, Norwegian Pop Star Mira Craig  is to be the subject of a Norwegian Broadcasting Company documentary TV program on her family, especially her American family.  They were particularly interested in the story of my and Ronnie's great-grandparents Joseph and Mollie Manigault.  Joseph, of a once-wealthy white family in Charleston, SC, was born in 1841 in the Manigault House, home of my 3rd great grandparents Joseph and Charlotte Manigault, and now part of the Charleston Museum.  He was an accounting clerk for the Charleston and Savannah Railway, but eventually was not accepted by his society and family, probably due to his mulatto wife and children.  Mollie Steward was of African and Native American descent, born on Edisto Island, SC and was trained in the Indian ways of making medicines, poultices and salves for healing.  She was also a locally famed fortune teller, clothing designer and dressmaker, and owned several businesses including a vegetable and fruit stand and a moving and hauling company.  The Manigaults had eight children born between 1879 and 1897, including my grandmother Marie and Mira's great-grandmother Selena.
Mira, Ronnie, Mira's baby son Mio and a Norwegian production crew came to Charleston this past Monday.  I was honored to represent our Charleston family and  to tell the story of Mollie and Joseph.
I spent quite a bit of time reviewing family records and checking names, dates, and facts in documents and with relatives over the phone in the days leading up to the visit so I would be ready.  The Chief Interpreter from the Charleston Museum called last Friday with questions about Joseph, as there was very little told of him in Manigault family documents, and the Broadcasting Company had sent her a list of questions about him and Mollie. She too wanted to be as prepared as possible for the interview, as she was to lead them on the Manigault House tour that would be recorded for the broadcast.  I spoke with her on the phone for quite a while telling her our story, which she said was fascinating.
On Tuesday we were to visit the grave of Joseph, who passed away 100 years ago this past January, in all-white Magnolia Cemetery and Mollie's grave in all-black Old Bethel Cemetery, so my grandson Nicholas Roper and I spruced up the graves this past weekend, scrubbing off mold from the stones and picking up a little street debris near the cemetery entrance.
 I was quite nervous at the thought of being on television, but my nerves calmed down once we started filming.  I walked Mira and Ronnie over to Mollie's grave and starting telling them all about her.  After a while, I was quiet while Mira spoke into the camera telling the audience in Norwegian what I had just told her in my Geechee-accented English.
After a great lunch at Fleet Landing on Concord Street downtown, the film crew had a ball photographing and recording from the restaurant's decks overlooking the Cooper River and Charleston Harbor.  Then we were off to the Manigault House.  We met with Museum staff members and as the last afternoon tourists were leaving the mansion, the crew started with Mira and Ronnie coming into the Temple Gate of the property.  I had invited family members Debby Hazel, daughter of my uncle the late Joseph Manigault Hazel, Walter Boags,  son of my aunt the late Eleanor Marie Hazel Boags, and my sister Rovena Hazel Owens.  Rovena and I are the daughters of the late Walter Hazel.  My father and all his siblings have now passed on, so it was a real treat for us to be in that house that they always pointed out to us as children as they told us of our ancestors.  Their spirits were quite evident with us and a lot of emotions were felt by us all.  A real bonus was being able to move somewhat freely around the house, and even the third floor, which is not renovated and is off-limits on the tours, which made this visit really personal for us.  We especially loved spending time in Joseph and Charlotte's bedroom, which, we noted, is where we were all conceived generations earlier!  The Interpreter remarked that Debby very much resembles Elizabeth Wragg Manigault, our 4th great-grandmother, whose portrait hangs in the drawing room. What do you think?
The documentary program is to be aired on Norwegian television next Fall, so hopefully we will be able to view it online or on a CD.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Rev. McKinley Washington Portrait

20" x 24" - Oil on Canvas
      I was commissioned by the Sea Island Comprehensive Health Care Corporation to paint this portrait of their founder Rev. McKinley Washington Jr.  It was presented to him last night at a 40th Anniversary Concert featuring pianist Wilfred Delphin, soprano singer Valerie Francis, and the Charlton Singleton Jazz Quartet.  What an amazing evening!!  The highpoint was the final number - with Valerie singing Gershwin's "Summertime" accompanied by Wilfred on piano and Charlton on trumpet.  
       Rev. Washington told me afterwards that he didn't remember taking a photo on his tractor like that - I told him he didn't - I made it up from a few images his wife sent me of himself and of the tractor.
       I got nervous when I saw famed artist Jonathan Green enter the theater before the program, as I knew that he, such a famous master painter,  would see my work, and in front of all those people to boot!  He came over to my seat and personally congratulated me on it - What a thrill!!!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Colin Quashie

My brother-in-law, famed contemporary artist Colin Quashie, recently opened "Plantation - (plan-ta-shun) Exhibit Installation" at the Redux Contemporary Art Center in Charleston.  Here is a link to his blog, which includes photos of the exhibit.    Quite a show!!          

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Wisteria Gate

11"x14" - Oil on canvas

I painted this for the change-out at the Charleston Artist Guild Gallery.  We have to move to a new area in the gallery, change out our art and display new works every 3 months.  If you're downtown in Charleston, stop by 160 East Bay St and check us out - over 70 local artists - great prices.
For the last 2 weeks, I've been busy with a portrait commission - I'll post that after it is presented later this month.