Joanna Klingenstein is a Research Assistant at the Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education at CWRU’s Mandel School for Applied Social Sciences; she is also a current graduate student in CWRU’s Religious Studies program. Ms. Klingenstein created the painting below in response to the following quotations from Zora Neale Hurston’s essay, “How It Feels to Be Colored Me:”

“At certain times I have no race. I am me. When I set my hat at a certain angle and saunter down Seventh Avenue, Harlem City, feeling as snooty as the lions in front of the Forty-Second Street Library, for instance. So far as my feelings are concerned, Peggy Hopkins Joyce on the Boule Mich with her gorgeous raiment, stately carriage, knees knocking together in a most aristocratic manner, has nothing on me.  The cosmic Zora emerges.  I belong to no race nor time.  I am the eternal feminie with its string of beads… Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry.  It merely astonishes me.  How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me…

But in the main, I feel like a brown bag of miscellany propped against a wall.  Against a wall in company with other bags, white, red and yellow. Pour out the contents, and there is discovered a jumble of small things, priceless and worthless.  A first-water diamond, an empty spool, bits of broken glass, lengths of string, a key to a door long since crumbled away, a rusty knife-blade, old shoes saved for a road that never was and never will be, a nail bent under the weight of things too heavy for any nail, a dried flower or two still a little fragrant.  In your hand is the brown bag. One the ground before you is the jumble it held – so much like the jumble in the bags, could they be emptied, that all might be dumped in a single heap and the bags refilled without altering the content of any greatly. A bit of colored glass more or less would not matter. Perhaps that is how the Great Stuffer of Bags filled them in the first place – who knows?”


Painting Title: “The Cosmic Zora”
Artist: Joanna Klingenstein
Medium: Oil paint
Size: 18″ x 24″
Technique: palette knife impasto, some brushwork
Description from the artist:
This painting is a response to Prompt #3. I drew on the totality of this passage to come up with the design, but pulled out certain imagery to feature. On the left of the image is what Zora describes as “the main.” This reminded me of images from the dust bowl or Great Depression. Bags against the wall, dried up flowers, random items. Sort of lifeless and forgotten. The right side of the image is what she describes as the cosmic Zora. The powerful, vibrant woman commanding the street she walks on. I picture the Zora from the main always dreaming to be the cosmic Zora full time. The red in the chest on the Zora from the main signifies that the cosmic Zora is always inside of her, even if the environment does not reflect that. Perhaps this is how so many women of color feel in our society – torn between opposing identities.
Ms. Klingenstein has also provided an audio recording of her reading her description: