BLACK EYED ME Created between 2008 – 2017 Mixed media on board, acrylic and oil paint, black eyed peas, napkins, toilet paper, gift paper and coffee beans The Beginning
The painting Black Eyed Me was commenced in 2008 in Toronto while conducting an art as therapy program called the Community Arts Collective (CAC) which painter Shelley Karen Batcules and husband Imre Jim Torma designed as a therapeutic creative process to communicate and express personal struggles related to poverty and mental health. The “community” group environment stimulated people to reach out of their isolation in the realization they were in a safe environment predicated on the tenets “love, compassion and respect” allowing them a new found freedom to learn, express and creatively cope clear of the shame, stigma and silent psychological struggle related to mental health. The Power of Art Therapy & the Process of Building Community Shelley and Jim developed an art therapy in-patient program at St. Joseph’s Health Centre where Shelley and Jim worked with patients dealing with serious mental health issues. Many patients required long term regular care or additional support following release from the hospital, however few accessible and affordable outlets existed. Shelley and Jim developed the Community Arts Collective as an extention of the in-patient hospital program, which became a regular accessible out-patient program held weekly in a local Parkdale - High Park church. The CAC program was open to all people in the community interested in accessing the power of art therapy and the sharing of ideas and breaking bread with people facing the same loneliness many feel in the isolation of depression, bi-polar disorder, agoraphobia, schizophrenia among others.
CAC was designed to include the culinary arts by incorporating food, nutrition and cooking practices during the art making process. Local grocers and markets donated produce for the making of fresh meals every week. Jim and Shelley would teach participants how to create healthy four course meals on an extreme budget, often feeding 40 people on $40.00.
The Message and the media of the Black Eyed Pea Mixing food with thought stimulated Shelley to utilize everyday food staples and products as a mixed media tool of expression. The Black eyed pea stands for the heritage of struggle and survival specific to the subject matter and experience of the group.
Most CAC participants were forced to use the Food Bank as they lived on the economic edge - many living on the street. The history of the black-eyed pea in the civil war is an ideal metaphor for the struggles people face within the rat race developed by those seeking power and control over the many.
“Black Eyed Me” is a radial crop composition with colour choices that signify “eyes wide open”, “waking up to smell the coffee” the retina with pinpointed vision built up with coffee beans to see the push / pull between external reality of the outside world and the reverse vortex thrust drawing inward to the unknown subconscious soul hidden within - “the window to the soul”.
History of the Black Eyed Pea Tradition
May We Never Forget Our Roots & Traditions!!! By Ron Perrin, Fort Worth Texas
"The Real Story is much more interesting and has gone untold in fear that feelings would be hurt. It’s a story of war, the most brutal and bloody war, military might and power pushed upon civilians, women, children and elderly. Never seen as a war crime, this was the policy of the greatest nation on earth trying to maintain that status at all costs. An unhealed wound remains in the hearts of some people of the southern states even today; on the other hand, the policy of slavery has been an open wound that has also been slow to heal but is okay to talk about.
The story of THE BLACK EYED PEA being considered good luck relates directly back to Sherman's Bloody March to the Sea in late 1864. It was called The Savannah Campaign and was lead by Major General William T. Sherman. The Civil War campaign began on 11/15/64 when Sherman 's troops marched from the captured city of Atlanta, Georgia, and ended at the port of Savannah on 12/22/1864.
When the smoke cleared, the southerners who had survived the onslaught came out of hiding. They found that the blue belly aggressors that had looted and stolen everything of value and everything you could eat including all livestock, death and destruction were everywhere. While in hiding, few had enough to eat, and starvation was now upon the survivors.
There was no international aid, no Red Cross meal trucks. The Northern army had taken everything they could carry and eaten everything they could eat. But they couldn’t take it all. The devastated people of the south found for some unknown reason that Sherman ’s bloodthirsty troops had left silos full of black-eyed peas.
At the time in the north, the lowly black-eyed pea was only used to feed stock. The northern troops saw it as the thing of least value. Taking grain for their horses and livestock and other crops to feed themselves, they just couldn’t take everything. So they left the black eyed peas in great quantities assuming it would be of no use to the survivors, since all the livestock it could feed had either been taken or eaten.
Southerners awoke to face a new year in this devastation and were facing massive starvation if not for the good luck of having the black-eyed peas to eat. From New Years Day 1866 forward, the tradition grew to eat black eyed peas on New Year’s Day for good luck."