Eyes that Feel:
Edythe Boone and Marjorie Suchocki
by Patricia Adams Farmer
Meet Edythe Boone, a 75-year old African American artist, educator, activist and great-grandmother. A portrait of a Bay Area legend best known for her work on the iconic San Francisco Women's Building mural "MaestraPeace" , A New Color follows the indefatigable “Edy” as she transforms the world one mural at a time. After Berkeley establishes an annual day in her honor, Edythe vows to retire. Yet despite her achievements, she juggles multiple jobs and wonders if she will find a way to follow the yearning in her heart to paint in her studio. A vibrant documentary about a creative life lived against the odds, A New Color pays tribute to the transformative power of art.
The Transformative Power of Art
A New Color: Its Significance and Potential Impact
Patricia Adams Farmer is an essayist and novelist in the tradition of process theology. She is the author of Embracing a Beautiful God and the Fat Soul Philosophy Novel Series (The Metaphor Maker and Fat Soul Fridays).
She and her husband, Ron Farmer, live and write on the north central coast of Ecuador. Visit her website at patriciaadamsfarmer.com or follower her adventures in Ecuador at Life at Latitude Zero.
Her essays in JJB include The Quaking and Breaking of Everything; Replanting Yourself in Beauty; A Life in a Day: Making Peace with Time; Kindness: the Beautiful Contagion, and many others
Eyes That Feel: Edythe Boone and Marjorie Suchocki
Art transforms. We know that. But now, Edythe (Edy) Boone takes the transforming power of art to a new level. In fact, she aspires—she has always aspired—to break the color barrier. And I don’t mean the color barrier as in racial color. No, I’m speaking literally here: she wants to develop a new color. A brand new color!
Edy is 75 years wise, an art teacher, a muralist, a community artist who inspires people of all ages in the San Francisco Bay Area. And yes, she dreams of developing a new color, a brand new color that no one has ever seen before. Discovering a new color? Come on. Who can do that? It would be like finding a new planet! Of course she may have to retire to do it. But in her case, she would not be retiring from work, but only to work longer, harder, more intensely. Did I mention that she’s seventy-five? This driven artist, possessed by a passion that only artists understand, only wants to paint. And the world adores her. I adore her. You will too when you see this little clip from the film which will secure her legacy: A New Color.
Edy didn’t grow up with paints and brushes and drawing lessons on perspective. No, this woman’s desire to be an artist was not even taken seriously in her neighborhood—a laughable idea, really. Not an auspicious beginning for the now iconic artist that she has become. But Edy Boone has one of those rare spirits that seems to take a NO for LETS JUST SEE ABOUT THAT. Or to use process theologian Monica Coleman’s words: Making a way out of no way. Edy puts it this way: “You can’t change your beginnings, but you sure can put a nice beautiful ending to the story.”
Edy makes it clear that she is a woman of faith, and I believe her. She seems to have a faith in a God of the near-impossible . She possesses a sensitivity to something divine and novel and just a little subversive. I don’t know anything about her theology, but somewhere in there, she most certainly believes in a God of possibilities, something akin to Whitehead’s view of God: the author of all novelty in the world; the one who lures us to fresh, unrealized possibilities; the God of unconditional love and more colors that we can see.
Just look at Edy’s murals and portraits: look at the eyes of the people she paints. They reveal the insides of the subject—the soul, the heart, the struggles. Edy’s own eyes seem to see things we do not.
Eyes. Eyes that see deep down inside . . . This makes me think of Marjorie Suchocki, a process theologian who just turned 80—another incredibly creative mind, one that only gets better with age.
Now that she’s retired, she has even more time to reflect and theologize. Recently she wrote me in an e-mail (I told her flat out that I was going to use this!) that while riding her bike, she was thinking about eyes.
I was thinking about eyes—you know, "the eyes of God" and the wonder of seeing and all, but then I thought "but God doesn't HAVE eyes, being Spirit and all, so how does God see?" The answer, it seems to me, is that God sees feelingly.
“God sees from the inside,” she says. “Everything. What richness!”
I wonder if people like Edy and Marjorie have a gift of seeing inside things, not EVERYTHING, like God, but more than we do. They help us see things better and thus feel the world more intensely. These are women who believe in the near-impossible, that we can discover new colors and see beyond them to feeling itself. And feeling is what makes up the universe.
Yes, these are women with EYES; these are the kind of women I want to be like.