Archive for May, 2008

Happy Birthday, ‘Retta Mae
May 29, 2008

Though my private and very shy mother would not want her current image plastered on the internet, I don’t think she’ll mind a nostalgic glimpse at the young her, long before my sister and I were even a glint in my father’s eye.

I feel very fortunate to have been raised by this incredibly kind, creative and deceptively tough woman.  She provided a buffer from life’s harsher realities, allowing her girls to enjoy the wonder and enchantment of childhood.  She buoyed us through many a storm, including her own cancer scare when I was ten.  She maintained good humor throughout, quelling our fears.  Just prior to her admission into the hospital, a feline brawl necessitated stitches for our cat.  My mama sung/quipped, “we’ve a got an injured kitty and I’m gonna lose my titty.”  Gotta love her.

My foibles are my own, but everything that is good in me is because of her.


Eddie (R.I.P) and Loretta, my folks, in the early days of courtship.

50 Years of Alvin Ailey!
May 27, 2008

In an incredible coincidence, soon after reflecting on my late friend Adrienne’s golden handiwork for the esteemed Judith Jamison, I had the pleasure to work with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, styling a photo shoot in celebration of their Golden Anniversary (thanks to a referral from Lloyd Boston.)

Ms. Jamison, Artistic Director, along with Masazumi Chaya, Associate Artistic Director, masterfully helmed the shoot. Longtime AAADT photographer Andrew Eccles demonstrated his exquisite skill at capturing bodies in motion. And those bodies…the dancers are marvels of nature and testimony to the awesome potential of just what the human body can do. Their talent and prowess is inspiring.

Of the company’s 30 dancers, 12 were featured in the shoot: the 26-year Ailey veteran, Renee Robinson, Kirven Boyd, Clifton Brown, Courtney Brene Corbin, Antonio Douhit, Alicia J. Graf, Jamar Roberts, Matthew Rushing, Glenn Allen Sims, Linda Celeste Sims, Yusha-Marie Sorzano and Constance Stamatiou.

It was quite an honor to be chosen to help create the images that will herald fifty years of brilliant dance history. Check out all the exciting Anniversary activities at

Ephemeral Faerie
May 11, 2008

Ms. Tisha, the Chocolate Angel, lovingly hand-made by Adrienne McDonald, bears a serene countenance upon her embroidered face; her raw wool hair, muslin skin, lace apron and cotton dress all stained with coffee, the artist’s favorite dyestuff. Even the gloss on the buttons festooning the quilted wings is tempered by a coffee dousing. On May 2, 29 days after Adrienne posted this image to her Etsy site with the headline, Art Angel, she became one.

Adrienne Annette McDonald, born in Atlanta on January 5, 1962 was raised in Washington, DC, where she began her arts journey in high school, studying fashion design at the prestigious Duke Ellington School of the Arts. She attended college at the Art Institute of Chicago (majoring in textile design) where she along with fellow students launched Gallerie Garb.

Upon graduation she relocated to New York with dreams of creating clothing for entertainers. Those dreams were realized with work done for Maya Angelou, Bill Cosby, Judith Jamison and Prince. A 1990 Hanes advertisement shot by photographer Matthew Rolston features an iconic image of dance legend Jamison in Adrienne’s dramatic portrait-collar jacket.

When she began collaborating on theatrical productions, Adrienne would create miniature costumes rather than sketch out her ideas. The fanciful miniatures she dubbed “Urban Faeries,” soon were collected and exhibited as works of art. She continued to put her fashion design skills to work on a diminutive scale by launching a collection of entirely hand-made dolls which took on the Urban Faeries moniker.

Though she’d explored several arts mediums, including glass blowing, she truly found her creative voice making dolls. She delighted in the magical and she could share her wondrous sense of whimsy through the “lives” of her creations. She tagged each doll with a hand-written note bearing the name she’d given it and sometimes an artist’s statement such as, “Inspired by decadent, whimsical, downtown New Yorkers, Urban Faeries are created from found objects and discarded clothing. One often thinks of faeries in the woods but they also dance among the city streets.” Cowrie shells, rusted safety pins and bobbins, even light bulbs found their way into her work.

from the collection of Cassandra Williams-Rush

She found inspiration not only in New York, but wherever she went. She came full circle and returned to the Nation’s capital, where she lived in recent years until her passing. The faceless Urban Faeries evolved into RawShuga Primitives, dolls with Adrienne’s signature patchwork, coffee stains, burned edges and funky soul, but with simple faces, partly drawn, partly stitched that bridged her unique style with the simplistic folk dolls of those outsider artists who’ve gone before her.

Her collectors are legion and I am proud to be one of them. I treasure my five very different dolls; a gorgeous grey, sunset orange and spring green-dyed, crinkled silk shirt she gifted me with as well as a beautiful tea-dyed silk scarf with a hand-embroidered organza panel that allows a glimpse at the treasures Adrienne tucked inside: cowrie shells, beads, pieces of crystal and fragrant chunks of frankincense resin–a veritable mojo bag I’ll cherish always.

Adrienne’s eyes had an enchanted sparkle seldom seen in anyone past the age of five. The welcome page of her shop sums up the source of her enchantment. “Welcome to Rawshuga, where everything is made by hand…Creating magic is my goal. Rawshuga is my gift to the world and I feel blessed to share it.”

The Adrienne A. McDonald Memorial Fund has been established at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church. Donations can be mailed to 3601 Alabama Avenue SE Washington, DC 20020.