Last December I was invited to a holiday gathering in Southern California that my friend Doris Davis warned me would be a Christmas house party unlike any other I had ever attended. My natural curiosity and Doris' cryptic invitation led me to anticipate a possibly unique experience. I say this because as a seasoned world traveler, I really (maybe halfheartedly) believed I had seen just about everything.
Our drive to this December holiday party led us to a well-appointed townhouse complex in Inglewood, California. The front entrance to the two story townhouse was festooned with a cheery and welcoming profusion of colorful ornaments, festive green garlands, and a lit Santa Claus. As we moved past the entry to the living room, I was immediately greeted by a large space with an assembly of about twenty elegant African-American women seated on plush sofas and chairs among decorations positioned atop a profusion of table tops, book shelves and armoires. Standing erect around the perimeter were several vignettes, including the centerpiece of the room, a luscious Christmas tree dressed with Santas and angel ornaments.
The collection on display represented all manner of iconic holiday images -- most with an African-American theme with American patriotic accents -- punctuating spaces around the room. President Obama was even represented on a glass tree ornament on a small tree.
The salon (the living room deserves this more elegant name), literally glowed with many colors, textures and materials framing eye popping scenarios that seemed to literally transport me into a kind of holiday kingdom of Christmas celebration.
Some arrangements reminded me of well crafted maquettes or models that artists construct to guide the process of creating large scale sculptures. With so much to see, it was impossible to take in all of this spectacular decor at once, so after Doris introduced me to the hostess, the very lovely Sellena Carter, I found a perch and just sat down for a while to imbibe the wonder of it all in small gulps.
After tarrying for at least an hour in the living room chatting with guests and sharing the wonders of the collection, one guest suggested that I go upstairs. The walk up the stairs was a slow process because the walls were covered with art works with holiday themes too. The bedrooms and bathrooms were decorated with an eclectic mix of holiday textiles, small sculptures and eye catching little glass and metal symbols of the holidays. The beds in both bedrooms were dressed in beautiful holiday themed quilts and pillows.
And that wasn't all. Down the stairs I made a detour into the kitchen that was not left out of the decoration mode. There were holiday serving pieces, utensils, posters, and linens all with themes of the season. And last, but not least, I peaked at the red and green embellishment in the laundry room, from baskets to candles. No space in this amazing abode lacked attention.
This lovely afternoon was topped off by a delicious repast and a gift exchange orchestrated by Ms. Carter.
The creator, collector and visionary of this holiday wonder land, Ms. Sellena Carter, has hosted a holiday gathering for decades and collected Black themed memorabilia from every imaginable source. Her resources have included multiple outlets from art galleries, antique stores, superstores, online shopping, thrift stores, travels, to gifts from friends who know her passion for the collection. Some items in her collection are antique, while others may be recent acquisitions. Many pieces and arrangements tell stories of the reason for the season, some have secular iconography, most are hand crafted, and all of what I saw brought a smile to my face. I do, however, have a feeling that Santa is her favorite iconic character.
I was blessed to have met a very warm and creative woman who has devoted many years to acquiring, curating, and fine tuning a rapturous Black-themed collection. Her home includes vintage touches with swaths of contemporary expressions of Black lifestyles that she joyfully shares with her community of appreciative neighbors and friends. I was honored to be among the guests.
I know for sure now that I can still be surprised. Merry Christmas to all and thank you Doris for including me in this holiday treat. And oh, please look at the pictures that follow. Words don't do justice to the visual experience.