Always Open

by James Quarles

A colorful and vibrant illustration with a Cherokee style pattern in deep sea blue-green with different size triangles in gradients of tan, pink, and olive green in the background. The original poem “Always Open” by artist James Quarles is written in white ink against this pattern. In the foreground sits Ma Ellen, the Black Cherokee 104 year old great grandmother of the artist. She has short white and black hair, a soft smile, and a dark brown skin tone. She’s wearing a light blue dress, white pearl earrings, a gold necklace and large shades. Ma Ellen has one arm wrapped around the toddler boy sitting in her lap with an excited expression on his face. There is another little boy standing upright and resting his head against the boy in Ma Ellen’s lap. He has a soft smile and gentle look on his face. Standing beside these three is an adolescent girl with two pigtails, a pearly white smile and a medium brown skin tone of the same shade as her little brothers. These children are the younger cousins of James.

A word from the artist:

This piece is dedicated to my Greatgrandma “Ma Ellen” who raised 10 kids on a farm in North Carolina, and always made sure everyone was taken care of until her death at the age of 104. She was a strong, kind hearted, Black, and Cherokee woman. And although at times it seemed like there wasn’t enough room for joy, love, or celebration in this world, she would always show you how to make it.