Who Is Anastasia?

My photo
New Castle, Indiana Zone 5, United States
When I was 55, I decided to embrace the things I love and hold precious and dear - regardless of anyone else's thoughts and opinion. I am a folk artist who loves flowers - my own flowers, grown by me. I love good, hearty, exotic foods, and I love to prepare them myself. I love the secret garden situated in my backyard, regardless of how junky it gets. No longer able to afford a vacation, this will have to be it for the time being. In the winter months, I still enjoy it. Anyway, here I am sharing my art, favorite recipes, cocktails, gardening tips, and just my usual vents and bantering. After all, I'm old enough to say whatever the heck I want to now ... Oh, the two pictures below are NOT of my garden, although the one with the pink French doors looks very much like the backyard I grew up with. I am searching for pictures of that wonderful place and will post soon.


My Book Available on AMAZON

Stacey Torres ART Prints

Stacey Torres ART Prints
A very limited selection of reproductions from my paintings can be found here

May 14, 2017

The Chattel Houses of Bimsha

The Chattel Houses on the Caribbean island of Barbados are a common sight, often taken for granted by those who reside there and see them every day. Dating back to “plantation days,” these tiny two room cottages were designed to be movable and transported when needed. Approximately 12 x 20 feet, and made of wood (without using any nails), they were positioned on concrete blocks, stones, or even a small hill. Sometimes, a small shed could be attached to the back for a bathroom of sorts.

The name “Chattel” comes from the French term, for a movable possession, and therefore, not real estate. Emancipated slaves were allowed to own homes, but they could not own land. Therefore, they created these small portable cabins. The owner of the house had to take it wherever he found work, from one (sugar) plantation to another, and would rent a small parcel of land for his house from his employer. If there was a landlord/tenant dispute, the owner of the house had to leave – and take his house with him. The walls of the home could be taken apart easily and placed on a flat bed truck, or a wagon pulled by a mule or horse. Once they reached their new location, the house could be reassembled as before.

"Aunt Mae's Chattel House," by Stacey Torres
Today, the island is still dotted with these curious little homes. They have a simple design of two windows and a center door to the front; and windows on each side (I'm not certain of the back). The windows were usually jalousie windows, or have storm shutters, and sometimes just open with no glass. Many of the houses are on permanent locations now with foundations, running water and electricity. Some have been refurbished and fitted to accommodate tourists and/or for commercial use. However, some of the original older houses are merely lived in as always.

"Da Neighbor's Goat," by Stacey Torres

"Saturday Morning," by Stacey Torres

Homeowners were working class people. They took tremendous pride in their homes, painting them in gorgeous color combinations and using fretwork as trim that served to give a tiny bit of shade and protect the wooden structure from weather. There are newer large homes built in the style of the original Chattel House, but nothing can ever take the place of these early “tiny homes.” Small, practical and transportable. The unique style of these sweet little houses are even more pronounced when you see one or two additions added on. The original starter house was once called a “One Roof.” If you added a shed, it was called “One Roof and a Shed.” If you added an addition, it would be a “Two Roof House and Shed.” The roofs were typically made of corrugated iron.

"Today Was Catchin' Day" by Stacey Torres

My maternal family's roots are from this island. I visited there in 1967 when my grandparents went on a pilgrimage back home for their 50th wedding anniversary. I was fortunate to visit the tiny Chattel House where my grandfather, Arthur Clement Moore, was born and raised. His two older sisters and some young cousins were still living there. I saw their gardens, their goats, their shed. However, they had graduated to electricity and plumbing by then. Like so many other Chattel Houses, this one had an addition built onto the back. I often dream of that little house and the garden of peppers and squash, and the goats that stood guard. It's funny how my memories always take me back to the gardens of my youth. It is my ultimate goal to be able to travel back to Barbados someday soon, to spend some time there finding my people and painting the beloved Chattel Houses of Bimsha (a nickname of endearment for the island).

So, I've been working on a series of beautiful little Chattel Houses, the way I remember them. These charming treasures, deep in the history of my people were built and remain full of pride and love. I'm sharing my heritage with you as part of my exhibit, "Stacey Torres: Living In Color," May 13 to June 17, at the Henry County Art Center. Commissioned paintings are possible.
"Share N Share Alike" by Stacey Torres

Originally published in The Courier-Times, April 2017

What REAL Women Did For Each Other

March is Women's History Month. We all hear the usual stories about trailblazing women who made history doing something considered remarkable for her time. This has been a tumultuous time for women these last few years. Along with all of the protests, marches and cries for equality, justice and respect, much of our own personal history has been lost in the shuffle.

I think about the woman my mother and grandmother raised me to be – Strong, independent, unwavering, faithful, giving and resilient. They taught me to have my own; to survive and hopefully to not have to worry about where my meals will come from when I'm 80. Thus, I fine-tune my craft on a daily basis, padding my nest, and keeping my eagle eyes clear. In all of this, I am always of the opinion that we get by giving, and if possible, never lose sight of love, human kindness and trust. Yes, these qualities still exist.

"Aunt Mattie Whitfield," by Stacey Torres
My Aunt Mattie was not my real aunt. She was a very close family friend - an unlikely friendship that began when my mother was in a deadly car accident in 1949, traveling from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, MO to Wilberforce University in Ohio. She and several students were traveling together when they were involved in the collision on U.S. 40 between Knightstown, IN and New Castle, IN.

When the ambulance arrived, they refused to take my mother, the lone survivor, to the hospital because she was black. As she lay bleeding on the street, a local funeral home offered to transport her to the (Henry County) hospital in their hearse. Because her family lived a great distance away in Canada, my mother was alone in a hospital in a small town where she knew no one -- and where she ultimately knew from experience, that the color of her skin would alienate her further.

It was then that she met Mattie Whitfield, an older local African American woman who sometimes went to the hospital to volunteer. She would sit with patients, read to them or pray with them. It was just something she liked to do. Upon learning there was a young black girl there with no family, she immediately took it upon herself to take my mother under her wing. In time, she came to love and care for her until she was healed, and the family could get to Indiana. At the time, my grandfather worked as a porter for the Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railroads. They governed when he could take time off and when he and the family could travel by rail outside of Canada. There were no other options.

When my mother was well enough to leave the hospital, Mattie and her husband, Herbie, took her home with them where they cared for her further. They lived in a small white house on South 16th Street by the railroad tracks. Finally, the family (my grandparents, two aunts and an uncle) arrived from Canada, and they were embraced by the Whitfields as well. All of them lived together in their 2-bedroom home for an additional 6 weeks while Mom continued to recover. They all worked together to give her their own form of old fashioned natural “physical therapy” that included salves, massages, prayer and careful exercise.

This is what strong, clear-thinking giving women did for each other. I say “women,” because even though Uncle Herbie was crucial in opening his home too, knowing the woman that Mrs. Whitfield was, she would have reached out and cared for my mother – or anyone – whether she knew them or not. Because that's the quality of humanity she possessed. She had no fear, no boundaries, no limits; just an abundance of love, compassion and patience. During this time, in that cramped love-filled house, they all became “family,” bridging the gap between Indiana and Canada. Mattie became "Aunt Mattie," and she was a very integral part of our lives for the next 20 years. But, that's another story and another painting altogether.
At my parents' wedding (Queens, NY) in 1952, Aunt Mattie is seen in the distance - She was an honored guest.
First published in The Courier-Times, March 2017

March 9, 2017

Embracing Gratitude Over Gravity

Yesterday (February 18), I drove to Indianapolis to visit a friend. The weather has been unseasonably warm the past week, yet I was really surprised when I spotted mounds of Tulip and Lily shoots coming up through the soil along side some Snow Drops. Those were not so much of a surprise, considering they and Crocus will bloom through the snow. But it's the early greening that has me concerned.

Will the blossoms survive should we have an inevitable freeze, snow or hard frost? Some years ago, I lost my cherry trees to an April ice storm. My friends tell me to calm down, and let Mother Nature do what she does … all things come in time … all things come on time. And that includes us.

Over the past year, I've spent many hours in the mirror having private conversations with myself, and wondering if what was happening to me was normal – or, as I always like to say – attributed to my illness last year. Well, of course, it's normal. I'm simply going gray!

I've had a strand here and there, but in the last six months, I've developed a white-out! Unlike my mother, who had a magnificent spread of glorious silver white hair , my hair did not look anything like hers. She started to get a classic “salt & pepper” look somewhere around 50. Then, almost overnight, it was suddenly sparkling white. I was shocked, and didn't know how to approach the subject – what did she think of it? She said, “Oh, don't worry; it's a badge of honor. You have to earn it.”

“Earn what?” I asked.

“Stardust.” And, that was that.

Well, there is no salt & pepper or stardust on my head; it's more like salt & saw dust, and runs down the center of my head like a dull skunk! Years ago, I chose to embrace my natural hair and don't use any chemicals on my head at all. Besides, it would be my luck that if I tried to dye it, it would look even more rusty than it does now.

So, it took me a while to find a way to embrace my hair – along with ALL of the other manifestations happening to my body at this season of my life. I prayed on it. I watched my friends make their own personal decisions about their aging, and I finally decided to just celebrate all of these changes.

Gratitude vs Gravity: that would become my goal. I have much to be grateful for in so many ways. I am aging, as we all are. But I'm grateful for the ability to be here for this event. I've got aches and pains; many unexplained; and, new health issues that scare me. My fears of being and dealing with life changes alone haunt me … However, if my knee hurts, my instinct is to rub it until the pain leaves. That's not a bad thing; it's honoring the part of the body that calls out for attention. I am grateful, because I can still move on my own, and do that simple task for myself.

When I have kidney pain, I am grateful that I at least now have answers as to why there is such pain. When I hear my joints scream 'snap, crackle or pop' when I rise from a chair, I am grateful, because it means the muscle inside my chest that transports my blood continues to sing along as well. When I see a gray or silver hair on my head (or elsewhere), I am grateful. Because some people don't live long enough to see their own. Life could be worse. And, when I have to massage my hands each night before I sleep, I am grateful; because this means I've been using them to paint and create art all day – and sometimes into the night. Oftentimes I have to force myself to drink enough water. But, then I realize, there may be a day I will forget how to swallow. So, I am grateful.

I decided to meet my hair, saggy body parts and changing destiny in my own way, and I'm elated – and grateful. Like the early Snow Drops in the grass, my stardust is on time.

Published in The Courier-Times, Feb 2017

February 25, 2017

I can't believe this happened to me

In July 2016, I was contacted by The Janice Mason Art Museum in Cadiz, Kentucky inviting me to present a solo art exhibit. Immediately, I understood the magnitude of this offer. Giving a one-woman art show is amazing enough. But to be asked by a museum is golden. As coveted as a gallery exhibit would be, a museum show is the cream on the berries and is priceless on an artist's resume.

I eventually accepted the invitation, having no idea what this would involve. I almost considered backing out, but the Museum staff made it very clear that they wanted to show my work, and that they particularly wanted to show it in the cold, dismal winter months. Because my art is extremely colorful and bold, the idea was to bring some brightness into an otherwise bland and often depressing season. I agreed to go ahead with it, and thus, my show named, “COLOR STORM: If Not Now; When?” materialized.

I thought five months would be sufficient time to pull this off. Well, it would be had I been more adept at preparing my artwork to be “gallery-ready.” This undertaking was huge! The framing, matting, wrapping, labels/tags, preparing an extensive spread sheet with the details of the 70 paintings I planned to exhibit, damage control, coordinating mediums and themes, and the pricing. Beyond that, many paintings needed to be re-worked.

Also, framing is an expensive luxury for some artists. I relied upon professional framing for group exhibits, etc., and, most likely, I will again. But with this many paintings, I decided to try and do some of the presentation process myself (with a little help from my artist friends). I've learned to do some of this. But, let's face it, I'm just not good in this area.

So, I put in hours of work preparing my art to go to Kentucky in December. The show would open on January 5, and run until February 25. The Museum agreed to transport my paintings to and from my home and the Cadiz. I stressed and worried, and worked well into the early morning hours for weeks on new paintings. My home looked like a war zone with paintings crowded in my living room as I cataloged the entire collection. I couldn't breathe, and suffered anxious panic attacks, bouts of fear and even depression.

While most people would assume this was a joyous effort, they don't realize that art IS work. It is the work I do, and it is my intent to do the very best I am able. A representative from the museum arrived at my home on a Saturday when most of Indiana was coated in ice. I fretted over his safety in making the 5+ hour journey here, as well as his return to Kentucky. And then, it was my plan to rest and breathe. But, of course, I didn't. My adrenaline has been rushing about for months.

Yesterday, I and two friends journeyed to Southern Kentucky for my Meet The Artist Reception, which had originally been scheduled for last week, but yet another ice storm made it impossible to travel. It was a most remarkable day forever embedded in my crazy Book of Life.

First of all, The Janice Mason Art Museum is a delightful venue housed in a former Post Office building. It's absolutely perfect for showing art, with it's beautiful architecture, antique P.O. boxes and character. I was greeted by someBoard Members, and guests from the community, including several artists from Trigg County, Kentucky.

This was a fabulous experience for me; an opportunity many only dream of. But what really touched me was the community of Cadiz itself. A small city with a vastly diverse group of people of different races and cultures living and working in a remarkably harmonious way for the betterment of their city, county, their families and the arts. Last night, we attended a community fund raising supper celebrating the 30th Anniversary of “Genesis Express,” a civic organization that benefits children through various programs. Watching these folks working together and interacting with mutual love and respect was reminiscent of days gone by, when that was the norm everywhere in this country. It was a reminder that we are all one, and need to take care of each other – ALL of us. Not just what's best for me, you, us, them, and they – ALL of US!

Out of the darkness, COLOR STORM brought me to see the light. Why can't we all treat each other with loving kindness and make it all great again that way? If Not Now; When?

Soon He Will Be Home

The warm, savory aroma of a beautiful turkey slow roasting in the oven gently coats the tiny kitchen with warmth and security … comfort food. Only, it's not a turkey, but a small, chicken in a foil pan with a few potatoes, carrots and onions adorning the sides. It sure smells like turkey. But some moms are just like that. They do what they have to do with what they have, and make magic happen every night. On top of the stove is a small worn pot half filled with a thin gravy and a few biscuits warm in a pan.

The drafty apartment is small, with just one bedroom … his. She sleeps on the sofa, where she shields her eyes from the flashing neon signs across from their fourth floor flat, with an old blanket she pulls over her head. But, tonight she is not sleeping. It happens to be Christmas night, and she's waiting up for him. The two of them share this small space, along with simple dreams, hopes, joys, sadness; all the things many mothers and sons share these days.

Madonna by Stacey Torres
She worries about him. Tonight he is working – volunteering, actually – at a suicide crises center, talking courage and hope into the people who sometimes call in, lost in their dark desperation … hoping to find some strength and purpose with their lives when all else has abandoned them. Her son is very good at this, apparently. Always full of hope and logic, his gentle way of accepting others and walking them through their issues comes natural to him. Her husband died a few years ago, and the two of them barely get by.

The mother didn't really want her son to go out this evening; after all, it is Christmas – and his birthday. But he explains to her that this night, more than most others, is a very crucial time for people who are lost, depressed, and suffering from ravaged hearts and souls. “They need me,” he tells her. And knowing this to be true, she resigns herself to wait up for him so they may share a simple Christmas supper together later that night.

This night is no different than any other to her. She frets and agonizes over her son constantly. You see, he is different. His tall graceful presence, with those dark eyes and skin cause him to stand apart from others in a unique unearthly way. People have taunted him, mocked and even threatened him because he was different. Because his beliefs are different, and he looks at the world and humanity differently. They assume the worst in him, and judge him without knowing him – or her. He lives in a world where he is constantly profiled by people who live in fear and ignorance. The mother fears there will be no generation in their family after him. That's just the way things are now. She hopes he will be home soon.

Many years ago on a Christmas night, the aroma of a wild foul boiling in an earthenware pot over some embers out in the courtyard is both comforting and tantalizing. There, she sits and waits as her unleavened pancakes bake on hot stones.

He is late again. Out with his friends working on his birthday. As always, she is worried about him. His work takes him to places and people she is she feels are dangerous for him. But deep in her heart she knows it's what he is meant to do. It's his life's work.

He spends day and weeks talking to people; teaching them ways to live a more fulfilling life, and giving them courage and hope when they are lost in their dark desperation. He has fed the hungry, comforted the sick, and is always accepting of others.

Her husband died a few years before their son began his work. And, now the two of them live a modest and humble life, and she trusts his judgment and decisions.

She knows, however, there is nothing she can do but support his dreams and his wishes. The long hours spent talking and sharing these hopes tells her that he is accepting of his calling and ultimate fate. All she can do is be there for him.

The son has told his mother that he has been taunted, followed, threatened and mocked by people who do not know or trust him. She frets and agonizes over her son constantly. You see, he is different. His tall graceful presence, with those dark eyes and skin cause him to stand apart from others in a unique unearthly way. Some love him and respect what he teaches them. But there are many he feels threatened by. He is judged and profiled by people who live in fear and ignorance. The mother fears there will be no generation in their family after him. That's just the way things were then. She hopes he will soon be home.

Originally published in The Courier-Times, December 2016

Being Thankful - It's Not That Hard

And so, today is the first Sunday in Advent – or, the beginning of the Advent Season, which runs until Christmas Eve. And then, we have the 12 Days of Christmas, which begin on Christmas Day through Epiphany on January 6. Complicated? Not at all. If you put it in the context of what it is, and not what it has become. In the merchandising world, the Christmas season trumps everything from Labor Day on, running right over Advent, and reluctantly leaving on Christmas night so the stores can start stocking their Valentine's Day cards.

But to us Christians, the Advent Season was meant to be a profound time that prepared us for the miracles of Christmas. It was meant to be used as a simple time to reflect, wait and breathe in the peace and warmth that our bodies, souls and minds so crave. In a way, this peaceful time helps us to replenish ourselves after a year of stress, conflict, broken promises, pain, fears, anger and challenges. At least, ideally that's what it should be. And, this year, more than any other in our history thus far – we need to – as a people; not just Christians – but all of us, breathe in the peace and let go of the toxic negativity we have allowed into our hearts, our homes and frequently spills out of our mouths.

We have much to be thankful for … not what we have wished for or wanted; not for what we have or have gained; not even for healing. But, instead, we need to learn to be thankful for what we've gone through and have survived. The trials that were put before us – we got through them, and we're here … with beating pulses and a purpose. There is still time to set our hearts right – to love and be loved in return – and to do unto others the way we all deserve to be treated and cared for.

Last week, I was challenged by a friend to be verbally silent for a minimum of 24 hours. Miraculously, I completed the challenge, which was peaceful, enjoyable and awakened some things within me that have overslept way too long. Prior to the start of me keeping my mouth shut for a day, I had a beautiful conversation with a wonderful woman I have not seen since I was a young child. We connected on social media a few months ago, but this was the first time I called her on the phone. I could hear my mother's voice urging me to call and reach out to this remarkable woman.

The lady and my mother met in college in the 1940s, and were good friends until my mother's passage last year. But I called her, and we chatted for a good hour. This woman, who is now 90 years of age, is sharp and vibrant, active in the arts and her community, as she always has been. At this time, she is in the process of writing three books, and recently received the Key to her City for all of her years of dedication to keeping our history and culture alive, while teaching young women and men to prepare themselves for the world. She kept telling me she wanted to see me, and that she'd be there for me – as another mother, should I feel that need – but, ultimately as my friend. This has become the norm for me lately. I've found myself being friends with my late mother's peers and associates, and it has been wonderful. So, here is another beautiful soul placed in my life to help fill a tender void.

New beginnings are here for us to make the most of. During this Advent season, regardless of your faith, use this time to replenish your spirit, your heart and the goodness you brought on this earth with you. Breathe in the peace and warmth of this season. And, exhale the negativity, fears and hate that may have crept in when you weren't looking. Be grateful for the here and now. And above all, be kind to one another.

First published by The Courier-Times in November 2016

The Backyard --Today's Vacation Spot

The Backyard --Today's Vacation Spot
A simple garden meal in the shade. No, it's not my backyard, but it looks identical to the one I grew up with at our home in Queens. Looking for an original pic of it to post soon!

Old Fashioned Tips