For the Love of Care

Kat Morris
November 28, 2023

When We Grow Older, we are continually enriched by the wisdom garnered most through our collective lived experiences.

As years become decades, we grow to appreciate the love and care passed through our veins, lineages, cultures, creations, and the intersectional stories we call our own. Far too often, however, we miss the beauty in these moments of care. From the unnamed labor of caregiving for our family members to the devaluation of professional caregivers, our society does not honor the unsung heroes who carry our humanity from birth to death. Yet through the power of visual art and storytelling, we can express our gratitude for caregivers, honor the elegance of aging, and envision our future societies defined not by what we seek, but by the abundance available to all regardless of age, gender, race, culture, ability, or nationality.

Earlier this month, we partnered with Caring Across Generations and Metta Fund to bring these visions to CareFest!

Yosimar Reyes, Xia Gordon, Monica Ahanonu, James Quarles, and Cece Carpio used their artistry to cultivate “When We Grow Older: An Exhibition on Care & Aging” the art installation. These five artists connected with three California Care Fellows, María Tirado, María Sánchez, and Cesia Álvarez — who generously shared their stories on aging as caregivers. As Spanish-speaking Latina and Afro-Latina women, these Care Fellows represent the intersectional reality of caregiving in California where over two million people (60+) are aging into poverty—45% of whom are Black women. Integrating BIPOC artists and cultural strategy gave rise to powerful, narrative-shifting visual storytelling at CareFest. The inaugural convention was hosted at the illustrious UCLA Luskin Conference Center on November 2-3, 2023—garnering an estimated 500 attendees with a shared mission! Leaders, influencers, changemakers, and caregivers alike gathered for CareFest to reshape the future of care through media, philanthropy, and policy change. These artists provided them with a retreat to experience how that future could look and feel. 

Cece Carpio (she/her)

Cece Carpio is a Constellations Fellow whose artistry tells stories of immigration, ancestry, collective movements, and resilience. Using acrylic, ink, aerosol, and installation, her work aims to capture the beauty and magic of the mundane. As a visual storyteller, she paints to lift her communities, share their stories, and provoke the power of their imagination.

This piece, Generations of Care, is inspired by the stories of caregivers María Tirado, Cesia Álvarez, and María Sánchez and their shared vision of care for elders being filled with ease, love, and dignity, within and as part of the cycles of nature. The ritual of hair braiding is an intimate act, a weaving element of passing down traditions of wisdom and care. 

“It also embodies part of my own story in which my mother was abroad taking care of other families while I grew up and being cared for by my great-grandmother who raised four generations of our family,” Cece shared.

Image description: Generations of Care depicts brown-skin-toned women and girls combing and braiding each others’ hair. The detailed beach setting is juxtaposed by a red circle painted at the center of the scene behind the women.

James Quarles (he/him)

James Quarles is an artist born, raised, and currently based in Cleveland, Ohio. With a focus on painting, graphic design, and illustration, he graduated from Columbus College of Art & Design in 2009. He uses his talents in both visual and written expression to add social commentary to political issues, and pop culture, and engage with all walks of life. James has a scrupulous attention to detail that he uses along with bright color palettes to stir strong connections of something familiar, and inclusive, but unseen. His love of visual and literary storytelling has always been a part of his work, and influenced by his family. In the ways of Sankofa, bringing something from the past, and presenting it to the future leaders, creatives, and minds of today.

Divine Feminine 

Divine Feminine, both the illustration and the poem, represents how James cares for those who have always cared for him, using the gifts handed down to him by cherished family members. The poem is in reference to finding the strength possessed by the women caregivers in his family tree and how he honors and holds them in such high regard. 

Image description: In this piece, Divine Feminine, James Quarles hands his mother, Ma Q, a bowl and utensils in one hand and a steaming mug in the other as she lays cozy under a white blanket with a smile and a stack of books. Ma Q has a medium brown skin town, and James has a lighter brown skin tone. In the background, against the owl-print wallpaper, hangs a large blue patterned frame displaying James’ original poem, “Divine Feminine” written in black ink. 

Always Open

Always Open is dedicated to James’ great grandma "Ma Ellen" who raised 10 kids on a farm in North Carolina and always made sure everyone was taken care of until her death at the age of 104. She was a strong, kind-hearted, Black, and Cherokee woman. And although at times it seemed like there wasn't enough room for joy, love, or celebration in this world, she would always show you how to make it.

Image description: Always Open depicts A Cherokee-style pattern sitting in the background with the original poem “Always Open written atop it. In the foreground sits Ma Ellen surrounded by three of her great-grandchildren; two little boys and one adolescent girl all sharing the same medium brown skin tone. 

“Who will take care of the caregivers? WE WILL!" James declares. 

Monica Ahanonu (she/her)

Monica Ahanonu is an illustrator, model, and creator based in Los Angeles, California. She started her career at DreamWorks Animation where she honed her unique artistic style. Considered an expert in color theory and vector illustration, Monica continues to innovate the digital space for Black artists. Her portraits and pop art make learning about people from other cultures, industries, and backgrounds accessible. 

Her fifth illustrated book, “Black Icons in Herstory", was released in October 2022. Monica wants to make sure everyone honors their own uniqueness and beauty. Now as IMG Models’ first signed illustrator, Monica is emerging as a leading tastemaker in fashion while she continues to elevate her talents in illustration. You will find Monica showcasing her signature style and doing capsule clothing collections, book illustration, package design, and digital campaigns as well as on the red carpet for various events.  She has recently worked with Vanity Fair, Ugg, Lagos Jewelry, Gap, Google, Facebook, Netflix, Sephora, TIME, Peloton, TOMS, Simon & Schuster, and Adobe. 

“Just because you’re different from the people around you doesn’t mean you’re not beautiful”, says Monica. “I believe in diverse beauty. It brings color and variation into the world ...and more excitement. I’m glad that I can bring that to light with my work.”

Akatago depicts a young granddaughter, learning to sew and mix patterns just like her grandma. Meanwhile, her mom is fixing her grandma's clothes, showing how we all help and care for each other over time. Patience, grace, and willingness to see the positive, are what care means to me.

Image description: Akatago depicts three generations of women, all sharing a similar deep brown skin tone, smiling as the grandmother teaches her eager granddaughter how to sew. Her daughter stands behind her fastening the bow on the back of her dress.

Xia Gordon (she/her)

Xia Gordon is a designer, illustrator, and founder of carefulblackgrlstudio based in Brooklyn, NY. Xia’s artistic vision is a tapestry woven with threads of passion for film, music, and mysticism. Hailing from Orlando, FL, and armed with a BFA in Illustration and cartooning from the School of Visual Arts, she embarked on a journey that led to collaborations with industry giants like Google, Pixar, and Netflix. Through these experiences, she honed her craft, pouring her heart and soul into editorial illustrations and children's book designs. Xia aims to transcend the boundaries of age, identity, and background. carefulblackgrlstudio is the space where she infuses her heritage and perspective into every creation. She is on a mission to create art that resonates deeply, leaving a lasting imprint on both children and adults. Inclusivity, empathy, and a reverence for ritual and magic are the cornerstones of her work.

 “Caring, to me, is akin to tending a garden,” says Xia. “It's about nurturing the growth or well-being of those around me, providing a safe space for them to flourish, and expressing that through meaningful gestures and steadfast support.”

Sunrise Perennials captures the elegant and timeless essence of elders gracefully navigating the currents of life, each step a testament to their accumulated wisdom and inner strength. It’s a tribute to the enduring beauty and wisdom that elders bring to the world, their existence echoing the profound depth of their experiences.

Image description: Sunrise Perennials depicts a collage of four vignettes, elders are depicted with vibrant livelihoods painted along a winding gray-black road against a light green background.

Fireside Chat with Favianna Rodriguez, co-founder of The Center for Cultural Power

To further explore the power and purpose of art in the CareCantWait movement, The Center for Cultural Power president, Favianna “Favi” Rodriguez moderated a panel discussing “How Art Drives Narrative Change”. Favi is an award-winning artist renowned for her thought leadership and strategic action on uniting art, culture, and social impact.

She shared this panel with Anna Karrer Manley, the Senior Director of Communications and strategy of one of our partner organizations, Metta Fund. Anna co-anchors equity-focused and narrative change efforts—such as the When We Grow Older installation! Anna and Favi were joined by artist Yosimar Reyes who spoke on using his platform to shift narratives on being undocumented and being a caregiver to his Abuelita; as well as Care Fellow María Tirado, who told the story of how her mother raised her to be an advocate for seniors and underserved Black and immigrant communities—all while being a full-time caregiver active in political movements to advance protections and equity in the care infrastructure today! You can watch the full Fireside Chat here.

Yosimar Reyes (he/him)

Yosimar Reyes is a nationally recognized poet who writes about immigrant joy, power, and victory. He is based in San Jose, CA where he lives with his Abuelita and perrito named Chulito. He is a poet who is also a caregiver to his 88-year-old grandmother. They are both undocumented but despite all the adversities they face in this country, Yosimar wants to show the power of care and how he and his Abuelita are each other's motivation. These two poems are a small glimpse of the many emotions he feels as a caregiver. 

“To me, care means to be connected to something higher than me. Care is a spiritual connection, its empathy. These are two love poems for a woman who has taught me that no matter what happens, I carry home with me,” Yosimar shares. 

Alt description: The videos each feature a series of photographs of the artist, Yosimar, and his abuelita caring for one another throughout their daily lives, while Yosimar’s voice speaks poetry over the slideshows with closed captioning on screen. Mira esto en español aquí.