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Forever Blooming

By Jill Bold
Photos by Ebony Gabrielle

She’s a multifaceted artist who dreams up oil paintings, collages, sculptures and other creations forged out of any medium. College-educated in sustainable architecture and art, she strives to surpass the boundaries of her artistic abilities — a forever-learner. She’s a commissioned portrait artist who’s currently evolving into more surreal and abstract styles. Her daily inspiration?

“It really just depends on the day and where the sun’s at in the sky when I wake up,” she says.

Artist Ebony Gabrielle was happy to pour her creative energy into painting Issue 9’s cover of Opal Lee. The oil painting that the 25-year-old Arlington native spent seven hours painting explores Opal’s commitment to growth and serves as a visual representation of the ever-blooming 96-year-old community leader.

“She talked about how she feels like she has a lot more work to do, even though she’s accomplished so much,” Ebony says, reflecting on Opal’s past contributions and continuing goals. “And I tie that in with nature, how there’s always something blooming and something really beautiful around, but there’s always also something growing as well.”

Q: What did you know about Opal before you painted her?

A: “I knew that she was an activist for Juneteenth and talked to kids. My mom was an elementary school principal in the DFW area, and I went to her schools where Ms. Opal visited and spoke to the kids and gave out Juneteenth. My mom brought me one home that was autographed, and she showed me pictures of her and Opal. It was pretty cool.”

Q: What imagery in this painting has deeper meaning?

A: “I put her shoes on her in the painting because they’re tennis shoes, signifying that she still has some walking to do, and there’s some work to be done.”

Q: Why do you have bluebonnets obscuring her face?

A: “She’s lounging in the chair with these bluebonnets in her face, enjoying the flowers and the fruits of her labor. It’s really impactful and powerful that the only flowers in the picture are the ones that she’s holding, to show she’s planted a seed for other activists or different people to make positive change. It also shows that she’s done her work and that her flowers are blooming.” 

I wanted to go back to nature as a nod to the powerful women that werein Opal’s life as well as the powerful woman that she is, continuing to inspire.”

- Ebony Gabrielle

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