Monica Stewart – The Beauty of Our Blackness in Her Art

oakland ca artist monica stewart I used to work at the San Francisco Public Library and though I love everything about books, I had reached a point where I felt unfulfilled.  I had read many books about starting a business and I was burning with desire to start my own–to be able to create a life by creating a business that spoke to my yearnings for independence.  So eventually, I did quit my “good job” with the city and started on my way to entrepreneurship. 

I started by selling books and body oils at the Berkeley Flea Market.  It was not much of a jump into entrepreneurship, but eventually we did rent a small space in a small strip mall, The Foothill Square in Oakland.  The little shop was about the size of a small living room, but it was perfect for us.  I had found my bliss! 

oakland ca artist monica stewart

There in that little space, I sold all kinds of knick knacks and goodies, mainly books, and I met all kinds of people–from cool folks who made the shop their little hang out, but never bought anything, to folks who would buy huge supplies of body oils, always testing what was the newest scent, to the crackhead woman who stole a bike lock right from under my nose (I was high on bliss and didn’t notice when she stuck it under her coat) all the way up to the mother of the artist, Monica Stewart, who operated The Snappy Cat Restaurant in that mall. 

oakland ca artist monica stewart

Who is Monica Stewart you ask?  She’s an Oakland artist who paints some of the most beautiful and expressive artwork of black women (and some brothers too)–thinking, dancing, praying, just being!  It’s very likely that you’ve seen her work somewhere before, as she has been featured in a number venues and TV shows.

oakland ca artist monica stewart

Well we were blessed to get three large prints from her mother way back then.  The Conversation, Grandma’s Love and Women Who Look Ahead.  I was so happy about it, but I wasn’t confident about hanging up such work.  I didn’t think our little ghetto apartment could support such work.   I put the prints away, looking for the time that I would properly get them matted and framed at least, so as to do the work justice.  Guess what?  Like an arse, I never did get those pictures framed.  And they were eventually misplaced somewhere as we were always moving from place to place.   😥      When I think about it now….well, it’s better that I don’t think about it.

oakland ca artist monica stewart

I recently featured her artwork here at my blog without even knowing it.  The piece is called Unity, and I featured it in my blog post called, Black Women Can You Forgive?  The piece was perfect for what I was trying to convey.  All of Monica Stewart’s  work is magnificent and I’m glad that I can go online to her own website and purchase prints.  What I love is that her work is so affordable!  If you are willing to spend from $20 – $60, you can own prints of her beautiful artwork!   I remember watching The Cosby Show and seeing all of the artwork on display.  I always felt kind of sad looking at it, knowing from the start that I couldn’t afford it.  Thank God for those affordable works of art!

What’s so wonderful about beautiful artwork is that it speaks to your soul!  Every time you look at the beauty of your favorite piece, it actually renews your spirit!   Artwork IS spiritual and has the power to move your human spirit–and it doesn’t have to be a Rembrandt or Picasso my people.  I remember buying a mass produced print of an African woman in silhouette from the Senegalese guy in the mall, and that piece spoke volumes to me every day as it hung in my living room over the years–it probably cost me $5 dollars or 3 for $10!  

When it comes to art, we black folks have got our hands in it.  It’s deep, deep in our spirits because it’s the one thing in our hearts  that couldn’t be repressed–not poverty wherever we may live, nor middle passage of the Survivors, nothing was able to kill our artistry.  I believe that we black folks must take black art to an even higher spiritual place!  All black people no matter where we are in the world, should have black art in their homes, based on whatever our financial means.   Or if you are the splurging type, why not do so on black art?  It’s the one way to speak peace and love to yourself and your family without actually saying a word!  It’s a way to silently and powerfully mirror your beauty back to you.  An expressive piece of black art will speak to you on a subconscious level, without your awareness, and bless you!  What’s more, it’s a blessing  to the economics of talented black artists when you decide that black artwork is important to yours and your family’s lives and regularly support them!   Why not do so, TODAY!     🙂   


5 Comments Add yours

  1. Carolyn Moon says:

    Anna, I truly believe in supporting black artists and black art. It does have an impact on you and your family. I remember Dr. Frances Cress Welsing who wrote the “Isis Papers” indicated that every black home should have black art and a illustration or a work of art featuring a black woman. She elaborates on that more and why it is important. For the sake of brevity; I think it’s self-explanatory.

    When you begin your 6th decade on this earth; you have so many anecdotal events or circumstances to share. I must tell you that when my daughters were tots and attending the first two years of elementary school; I used to read to them various books about black families children and folk tales . One in particular; “Children of the Sun” had breathtaking illustrations of black children and families. They still remember the impact those books had on them. As they grew– spiritual themes and stories about black people all over the diaspora were a part of their book shelves as well as the classics and other readings that would assist them in growing up to be well rounded individuals. I guess my point is that in learning from an early age in such a fluid and non-brainwashing manner, to love themselves and people who looked just like them; they were able to love others and their differences.

    Wonderful post and thanks for featured art images by Monica Stewart.

    1. Anna Renee says:

      The importance of black art on display in our homes cannot be neglected! We need everything that helps our spirits, especially in this new evil day and time.

  2. Carolyn Moon says:

    “We need everything that helps our spirits, especially in this new evil day and time.”


  3. Nicole says:

    Anna her art is simply breathtaking! I am overwhelmed. I hope to one day dedicate a room in my house to art. I love it! Thanks for posting this. Monica is amazing!

    1. Anna Renee says:

      It’s worth it to start collecting as soon as you can–remember you don’t have to get the most expensive pieces. I have this huge coffee table book of the Caribbean–full of large photos that I’m considering cutting out and framing! That would of course mean I’d be destroying the book, but it’s on my shelf unused anyway. Another way I collect art is to frame photos from black calendars! After the year is up, a good calendar will give you 12 fantastic pictures of black culture!
      I did that with a calendar full of picture of all kinds of hot peppers! I have them framed in my kitchen, and they look beautiful! Calendars are a cheap and fantastic way to beautify your house!

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