All Water Has Perfect Memory

Mixed Media on Canvas; Approx. 148cm x 150cm (58in. x 59in.)

Toni Morrison is one of the most celebrated and successful novelist in America. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988 for her fifth novel, “Beloved”. She also received the National Book Critics Award for the “Song of Solomon” in 1978.

Detail from PE 0038 TONI MORRISON

When asked about her childhood Toni Morrison replied that she remembered her self being surrounded by extraordinary adults who were smarter than her. Despite being better educated than her elders she always thought that they had true wisdom and that she had only attained book learning. It was only when she began to write she was able to marry the two of those things: wisdom and education.

Portrait of Toni photographed by Brian Lanker

Tony had a notion that you can’t evolve good criticism until you have good books. And during the time she spent in publishing she felt that white editors didn’t always give black writers the respect of serious and rigorous editing that they deserved. She goes on explaining how difficult it was to get balance from the attention of the critics and the reviewer’s because all they wanted to talk about was anything but political implications. And when they finally started talking about political implications they never spoke about the artistic strategies. “They never gave you two legs to walk on, always one”

Detail from PE 0038 TONI MORRISON

I can’t tell you what my favorite quote from her is because the more I explore her work the more I am enamored by her thinking, her writing, and her attitude. However, I can tell to you about the inspiration behind this painting. While listening to a compilation of poetry from Amanda Gorman she quotes Toni Morrison from a speech she was giving in New York and during that speech she said “all water has a perfect memory and is just trying to get back to where it was”. Even out of context I was amazed by the quote and wanted to know more, and after some digging I found the speech a couple days later. Morrison was talking about how many times the Mississippi River has been straightened to make room for more livable acreage. And how the families that lived along the Mississippi River in these so called places would experience floods every year and even multiple times in a year.

Mississippi River

She talked about how they called them floods, and she explained that she had a different name for it. She said that the excess water wasn’t a flood it was just the water remembering where it used to go on it’s way home. For centuries man has been trying to get nature to bend to it’s will and every now and then nature reminds us of it’s true force.

Detail from PE 0038 TONI MORRISON

The grid that encases Toni Morrison‘s portrait is symbolic of the channels that water has to travel through. Some channels flow directly into others, and others are blocked for energy and resources or to secure more livable acreage. However the water will always remember it’s way home.


“My job is not to become anybody’s creature, not the publishers, not the critical establishments, not the medias, not anybody’s. I’m not doing anyone justice, not the women’s movement, not the black movement, not the novels, not anyone, if I toe the line” -Toni Morrison💙🌊

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