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PRINT May 1984

ROMARE BEARDEN SEES IN MEMORY

What is it?

I’m trying really to remember

The clock has stopped

Now I can never know

Where the edge of my world can be

If I could only enter that old calendar

That opens to an old, old July

And learn what unknowing things know . . .


—Romare Bearden

IN ONE OF ROMARE BEARDEN’S collages, a blind guitar player is led by a little boy holding a rose. The memory recreated there is a window on Bearden’s formidable art.

One “old old July” in the mid 1920s, when Bearden was 10 or 11, he visited his grandmother Cattie in Lutherville, Maryland, a rural town near Baltimore. Bearden remembers a Mrs. Johnson, whose grandmother had been born into slavery, and whose baking tins had been made by a slave blacksmith. Mrs. Johnson’s culinary specialty, passed down the generations, was a watermelon cake fashioned so expertly that it was difficult to tell from the real thing. She placed “seeds” of chocolate hardened

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