Who Is Anastasia?

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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 visual folk artist who loves flowers - my own flowers, grown and/or painted 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 overgrown and wild 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 ...


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

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