YOU DON'T OWN ME 'You Don' Own Me' was painted after a visit to the Middleton Plantation. On this plantation indigo was grown; the second cash crop for the lowcountry. Grown on lowland swamps, indigo proved to be a natural seasonal complement to rice; and large plantations intensively staffed with enslaved Africans proved to be ideal for combing the two products. By the mid-1750s indigo production in the colony was in high gear and 500,000 pounds were being exported annually. On the grounds of the Middleton Plantation is Eliza's House (c. 1870). It was once occupied by former enslaved people at Middleton Place. This two-family duplex was constructed of mill-sawn weatherboard with a central, double (back-to-back) fireplace, and the interior and exterior walls were whitewashed. There was no connecting access between the two units, but occupants of each half had equal use of the porch and the loft. It is known as "Eliza's House" in memory of Eliza Leach, a South Carolina African American born in 1891, and the last person to live in the building. Eliza also worked over 40 years at Middleton Place, performing a variety of duties, from sweeping and raking in the Gardens to collecting tickets and distributing brochures to visitors.
The Gullah ancestors were not only surrounded by indigo, but they were saturated with the spiritual understanding of the truth in which it represented. It is said the color indigo is characterized by very high frequency vibration and with purple and gold, is considered to be a color that expresses spirituality, elevation and intense search of absolute truth. From a spiritual color indigo is considered the reflection of the Holy Spirit. Indigo has an effect on balance and coordination, self-reflection, mental clarity and wisdom. It has a balancing influence on our frustrations and fears. The indigo color energy relates to our true understanding of life. When our indigo energy is balanced we are more able to understand the meaning of our lives and see the need to help others as part of our own spiritual growth.
When touring Eliza's house you notice a display with the first names of the enslaved that were owned by the Middleton family. Next to their names is a dollar amount, given to show their worth. I noticed the amount of $1.00 besides someone's name. This inspired me to paint 'You Don't Own Me'. The woman in this painting is known to be disobedient, which did not make for a good slave; therefore they placed a value on her at $1.00. Her stance with her shoulders held straight and her head held high shows that she knows her worth. She understands that she is a child of God and is and will be free. And if she could turn around she would say, "You Don't Own Me."
"Don't let anybody make you feel you are nobody" -Martin Luther King Jr.