Friday, March 18, 2011

I was brought up by Non-Conformists

Neva Fiaschi Roberts

 This is my Grandmother. She, along with my Grandfather, pretty much raised my brother and me.  Here is Grandma in Torre del Lago, Italy, in approx 1942 at age 20. Wasn't she so beautiful?  Che bella!  Below is Grandma on one of the trips she and Grandpa made back each year for 3 weeks.  Perhaps this was in 1990. My Grandparents' story is amazing. Stay tuned for more.  One of the reasons I am such a free-spirit type of artist, in my folkart, the reason that I am a 'Bohemian' artist, but also in my everyday life, is because of Grandma and Grandpa Roberts.
Grandpa, Donald Hugh Roberts, was an artist and an acclaimed architect as well as a dean at Howard University in Washington, DC.  My Grandpa went home to God's glory last November.  I am saddened to my core that he is gone, but Oh Death! Where is your sting?  I rejoice because I can imagine my Grandpa rejoicing at the face of His Lord.  And he got to not only walk again, but to leap and jump and sing.  Grandpa was not only an artist, who studied and lived with Frank Lloyd Wright (yep, that's the truth) he painted and drew, he had his own 'font'...his handwriting was legendary.....I've got to make it into a font someday, and he was a photographer extraordinaire.  He always used Canons.  The combination of him and my Grandma helped to make me who I am, especially the non-conformist part.  Just look at them!  You may not be imagining what life was like when they married and came back from Italy to live in Dayton, Ohio.  You may not know that the Italian people loved my Grandpa, he respected them enough to quickly learn their language and not expect them to only communicate in English (plus, he was extra smart to learn it so fast), but they had no issues with him being a black man and Grandma being white.  But just imagine Dayton, Ohio in 1947 when my father was born.  Just imagine that.

Look how HAPPY they are here all those years ago.  Do you think they let the ideas and racism of the times hinder their marriage?  They had three children. My father was the first.  Their boldness and non-conformity is what got me here.  The house where I grew up in Washington, DC was my Grandfather's design, as well as the two houses next door.  What a great environment to help my art, to grow up in a house that was designed by my Grandfather, and inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright.

When I see Grandpa with my Italian family, I am moved at how people have the chance to just be who they are.  They are not defined by their race or their color, but that certainly enhances and colors who they are.  I am so proud to have my Bohemian spirit fostered by my marvelous grandparents, Donald and Neva Roberts.