The Angel That Stands By Me Transcription
MINNIE EVANS: The moon was shining and it drew my attention. He showed me the animals on that ring around the moon. And I was playing out in the street because I wasn’t old enough to go to school. Children said, “Minnie, what are you looking at?” Said, “I’m looking at those elephants going round the moon.” So they laughed at me- “Minnie crazy. We don’t see no elephants. We don’t see nothing.” I thought everyone could see them. I wasn’t like the other children.
So one night I was so tired and sleepy I had a dream. This voice spoke to me, “Why don’t you draw or die?” I said, “Is that it?…My.”
FILM TITLE: The Angel That Stands By Me: Minnie Evans’ Paintings
A film by Allie Light and Irving Saraf
A NURSING HOME IN WILMINGTON, N.C.
(Nina Howell Starr greets Minnie Evans)
HOWELL STARR: It’s been nineteen years now and at the end of the first day when I was leaving her house she said, “Thank you madam, you have added to my life today.” I want to say that Minnie Evans has added to my life. It’s been a rich experience knowing Minnie. It’s her mystical revelations and her great beauty of feeling and her incredible insight into all sorts of situations that we know very little about. I really feel that Minnie has powers that not many of us have, I’m sure she has.
ST. JOHN’S MUSEUM OF ART IN WILMINGTON, N.C.
(Minnie arrives at the St. John’s Museum of Art in Wilmington, NC, to view an exhibition of her work)
NINA: (Narrating) Minnie was born in Long Creek, Pender County, North Carolina. And she grew up in Wilmington.
ALAN AICHES: You’re looking great today.
MINNIE: (Laughs) Oh yeah.
ALAN: You feel OK?
ALAN: Do you feel OK today?
MINNIE: Yes- I’m feeling pretty good.
ALAN: Well that’s good.
(Walking, with help, up the stairs to the Museum’s entrance)
MINNIE: That’s all I’ve got-weak knees. Oh, but, I’m doing OK. Let me get up here.
SOMEONE: Can you help her up?
ALAN: I’m the director of St. John’s Museum of Art in Wilmington and I go to see Minnie and take her some art supplies so she can continue her work. I love Minnie Evans very much.
ALAN: One more, one more little one. There you go. Ok, do you want to sit down for a minute?
MINNIE: Are we going in?
ALAN: Yeah, we’re going to go inside.
INSIDE THE MUSEUM
(While seated in a wheelchair, Minnie is given a tour of the exhibition by Alan Aiches)
MINNIE: Oh yes, look at them….They’re mine. How I did that? I’m going to paint some more. They’re babies. (Referring to a specific painting) I remember that devil and those serpents. Yeah. Ah ah….My! (Viewing another painting) And the Temple By the Sea, that’s beautiful.
ALAN: It’s been a long time hasn’t it?
MINNIE: Oh yes. Oh yes, The Temple. (Viewing another painting) That’s my very first picture. My grandmother died in 1935. That’s when I made that picture, on Good Friday. And on the Saturday before Easter I made the second one. And I’ve been painting them ever since.
I worried over what to do with these. I can’t throw them away because they’re my very first. I laid up in a dark room studying what to do with this. An angel spoke to me as loud as I’m speaking to you, “Paste them on a board.” I looked at him and said, “Thank you, thank you, thank you”. (Laughs)
(Viewing another painting) Whew! My! Nobody in the world can teach me because they don’t know what to teach me. (Laughs) Nobody. I’m without a teacher…of all the teachers. Now if I had been taking light studying how to make people’s faces, maybe I would have had a teacher. But… I’m without a teacher. My teacher… God has sent me teachers: the angel that stands by me, stands by me and directs me what to do. Time for me to paint a picture and I be tired I say I’m going to rest up for a couple of days. He won’t let me. Come down grab my feet and shake me. Beat me. Scared me so bad one night I jumped off the bed and looked. Got up there, I thought some of the children had come in there. Nobody in the room. No one.
Now my other one has got wings, but he hasn’t got any wings. He’s not old enough to have wings. You have to be 1200-years-old before wings come out. He’s like a butterfly, and a butterfly in his ‘coon. He has wings, but you can’t see them. That’s the way he is. He’s in paradise, the Garden of Eden. God ain’t put him on earth for man to see yet.
(Viewing another painting) My, my. I don’t know how I did it. (Laughs) But I did it.
“On a hill far away stood that old rugged cross.” Mmm
ST. MATTHEWS A.M.E. CHURCH, WILMINGTON, N.C.
REVEREND H.A. MATTOCKS: (Preaching in a call-and-response pattern) Eternal God…
REV. MATTOCKS: …the maker and creator of all men…
REV. MATTOCKS: …it is again that we here bow in thy holy name.
REV. MATTOCKS: The man without God…
REV. MATTOCKS: …there is an emptiness…
CONGREGATION: Yes it is!
REV. MATTOCKS: …in his life.
CONGREGATION: My God, yes!
REV. MATTOCKS: The same quest….
REV. MATTOCKS: The same quest…
REV. MATTOCKS: …He’s look for peace.
REV. MATTOCKS: He’s looking for joy.
REV. MATTOCKS: He’s looking for the meaning…
REV. MATTOCKS: …of human existence.
CONGREGATION: My Lord!
REV. MATTOCKS: When he’s without God…
REV. MATTOCKS: …the Bible speaks…
REV. MATTOCKS: …to more than man
JOHN’S MUSEUM OF ART, WILMINGTON, N.C.
MINNIE: He says we will be like the angels in heaven. We’ll all know each other. I don’t care if I know anybody or not, I just want to be there. (Laughs) I just want to make it into the Garden. Don’t make no difference if I know anybody or not, I just want to be there.
Jesus says we will be like the angels in heaven. That’s what I want to be. Where Jesus is is heaven. The last commandment that Jesus taught his disciples is “Love ye one another.” Love, because God was love. That’s why He built this earth.
MATTHEWS A.M.E. CHURCH, WILMINGTON, NC
(Minnie Evans sings along with the congregation)
THE AIRLIE GARDENS IN WILMINGTON, N.C.
(Evans sits at a table in the gatehouse drawing. She whispers while drawing.)
MINNIE: My hand is not as steady now as it was then. No. But I’ve got some more to paint. I don’t know what they’re gonna look like. (Laughs) Mr. Corbett bought that garden and opened it to the public and put me there for a gatekeeper for 27 years. I have spent many happy years there.
(Drawing) Green is God’s theme color. He paints everything green. Six hundred and some shades of green.
Sometimes I don’t have to close my eyes to see them, they just come up. Sometimes I just make a picture then something tells me I’ve got to erase it out. Who cares if that picture’s wrong? God, probably. I have erased one or two pictures completely out and put them down and wait to the next day to start to working on them. Well I just go until I just get nearly crazy. Say, “What on earth this picture be?” And I keep putting it down, until after awhile He’ll say, “That’s right. Minnie, that’s right. All right.”
JOHN’S MUSEUM OF ART, WILMINGTON, N.C.
MINNIE: We are living in Revelations. Revelations tells us there’s a sea monster in the ocean. And there’s not power enough on earth to kill him. God is going to kill him Himself. He gonna call the righteous out of the depths of the earth and out of the sea to give up their dead.
(Referring to one of her paintings) That’s a dream picture. Two big lions: one in the north and one in the south. And the swans, oh dear. That’s my dream picture. I dreamt I was in a parade on Fifth Avenue. I was in a white chariot dressed all up in pretty white satin and the lion was pulling the chariot…great big one. And a big band of music behind us and one in front. We were marching down Fifth Avenue.
Well, my whole life has been nothing but dreams. When I was thirteen years old I started having those terrible dreams. Old men dressed up like the old prophets; they would carry me down to the soldiers’ cemetery. I have woke up more times in that cemetery. My grandmother told me they wasn’t dreams that I was having. I was having visions. I would tell my mother, but she couldn’t understand or didn’t try because I was a little child. Children tell you a lot of things that you have to stop and pay attention to because God puts things into their minds, into their hearts. People say because children is children they ain’t got no sense, they don’t know nothing. But children know a lot of things.
THE EVANS’ HOME NEAR WILMINGTON, N.C.
(Minnie Evans is seated with her mother, Ella Evans, on the front porch of the Evans’ home)
MINNIE: I was born December the 12, 1892. My mother was born 1878. But she don’t want to be that old…101. (Talking directly to her mother) They shootin’ us, Mama. They shootin’ us.
ELLA EVANS: They better not hit me.
MINNIE: It’s the movie pictures, and we have to be quiet.
ELLA: Yes, Lord.
MINNIE: (laughs) I’m the only child Mama’s ever had, and she’s the only child her mother ever had.
EVANS’ HOME NEAR WILMINGTON, N.C.
(Minnie Evans is seated on the front porch of the Evans’ home with her three sons—George, Elisha, and David)
MINNIE- I have wonderful sons. They haven’t ever given me any strife on earth or anything. They are loving sons. God gave me three beautiful, beautiful boys. My sons, I pick one I love the best and I can’t pick it.
GEORGE EVANS: Who’s your baby son?
MINNIE: George is my baby. My oldest son, Elisha, he was born September the 25th, 1910.
David was born February 8.
DAVID EVANS: January.
MINNIE: February the 28th 1913.
GEORGE: I bet you forgot my year.
MINNIE: Who George? He was born August the 29th 1915.
GEORGE: We’re very proud of her, to have her as a mother. We love her a lot. We love her all the way. How do it feel to be famous?
MINNIE: I don’t even know, I can’t feel it. (Laughs) I can’t realize it. You know.
GEORGE: My daddy, he used to tell me all the time. He’d say, “Oh Minnie, Minnie, Minnie’s going crazy. Minnie’s crazy.” He was trying to take it away from her. When you come into things like that, you really don’t have so much feelings of what’s going on, until later years when I see all the people admiring her work. So that’s when I got more interested in it. I used to tell Papa, “Leave her alone. Let her go ahead and paint.” “No,” he’d say, “She’s going crazy. She’s going to go crazy.”
ELISHA EVANS: Oh, my goodness. I think I was going to school when she started. Good memories, yeah. I didn’t think anything of it. Didn’t look like anything, all that crayon work, pencil work, whatever she was doing.
DAVID: I remember when she first started painting. Well, as my brother said, it didn’t look like anything. But, you know, she knew what she was doing. But we didn’t. And so she kept drawing, she kept drawing. And so finally it realized in my mind that she… that it was a gift from God. God give her something that no man can take away from her.
MINNIE: (Looking through a book of her paintings with her sons and reading the inscriptions) Nineteen-seventy. My, my, my. (Pointing to the painting) Sunrise…
MINNIE: (Pointing to the painting) …and sunset. Bird on the shore. I’m looking at the ocean, the water. That animal standing on the shores, the western shores. (Turns the page) This is Janus the Greek god with three faces. January is named after him. This is him.
GEORGE: This one on the right here.
MINNIE: That’s Juno. Here are the three faces again. (Turns the page) Oh My. Just somebody’s face.
MINNIE: My grandmother, Mary, was born in slavery. She was five years old at Emancipation, when freedom came. My ancestors came from Trinidad. Her grandmother was a little baby, a little child, when they were sold in Trinidad. And her mother had five head of children. The small pox was raging then. Her husband got the small pox and died in the woods. Four of her children also died, but she had one child left. And that was my great-grandmother’s grandmother that was left. Now this child was only just about two-and-a half years old, but she remembered all of that. So they brought that baby, they traveled through the woods until they got to a ship that brought them to Wilmington here. That’s where they was sold, she and her baby. There was a lot of other slaves put on the rail block. The man that bought them give that baby and her mother to his daughter for a wedding present. Oh Lord have mercy. Well, they grew up and had a lot of children. We have a lot of kin people.
EVANS’ HOME NEAR WILMINGTON, N.C.
(Numerous members of the extended Evans’ family are gather for a family reunion near Wilmington, N.C.)
(“Happy Birthday” is sung to Martha Evans)
MINNIE: Oh my. Happy birthday my little girl.
(The family assembles for a group photograph)
SUBTITLE: Six Generations of Minnie Evans’ Family
MINNIE: I thank you all for coming here all the way from Hollywood to create a movie of my paintings. I do thank you all, and may God ever bless you all. I do thank you very much.
Filmed in Wilmington, North Carolina
Minnie Evans’ Friends
Nina Howell Starr
Archivist and Exhibit Curator
Director, St. John’s Museum of Art
Camera Phillip Greene
Sound Kirk Schuler
Assistant Camera Robert Shoup
Assistants Deborah Henderson
Music Tucki Bailey
Sound Mix Mark Berger
Assistant Producer Lynn O’Donnell
Consultant Julia Weissman
Special Thanks To Jo Kallenborn
The Reverend H.A. Mattocks
St. Matthew A.M.E. Church
Wilmington, North Carolina
Solo Exhibit 1975
Whitney Museum of American Art
National Collection of Fine Arts
Museum of American Folk Art
North Carolina Museum of History
The Portal Gallery, London
Written, Produced, Directed & Edited
Allie Light and Irving Saraf
Funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, D.C., a federal agency.
The L.J. Skaggs and Mary C. Skaggs Foundation
The Angel That Stands By Me: Minnie Evans’ Paintings
From the series “Visions of Paradise”
Copyright 1983 Allie Light and Irving Saraf