My approach to this creation was an act of letting go of “perfection.” I started the sketch on an airplane ride back from Mexico City. Each turbulent bump led to a perfectly unplanned squiggle. I let my subconscious bleed ink onto paper placed on a small airplane meal tray, plastic cup of wine by its side. There was an energy to it, the type of energy that is only available when releasing the steady hand and opening the rigid mind.
After landing and returning to my cabin, I felt eager to pull out my sketch pad and create another quick, imperfect sketch while she/he was still in my mind and while my unpacked bags still carried with them the spirit of Mexico. The patterned blouse on this painted goddess was inspired by a hand-sewn top I bought on my travels. I framed the sketch and thought (for a second) maybe this would be the extent of that vision, but nope. She wanted to be bigger, deeper, and to have more of my attention. And so…
“What canvas should she go on?” I wondered.
I went to the shed and flipped through some fresh new canvases uninspired until I found a “poop brown” canvas. “Oh ya…this one.” The memory of my 24th birthday (almost a decade before) ran back to me. I had an art jam with a collaborative canvas for all to paint on. Each person contributed their magic and at the end of the night, a woman (who I did not know) decided to take her hands and smear all the paints on the pallet together. This, my friends, makes the color “Poop Brown!”;). She proceeded to glide her globby hands around the canvas, leaving chunks of paint in places and lightly covering the under layers almost everywhere. It’s funny (depending on who you ask), but at that moment, I just let it be. I truly had zero attachment to how that piece turned out, it wasn’t actually “mine”. In a way, it was simply a group experiment, and this is how it turned out.
Anyway, fast forward to me digging through my shed searching for the “imperfectly” perfect canvas. This one, full of texture, was the “perfect” way to make it impossible for me to get perfect lines and thus, would force me to let go, how ironic is that!?!? I took the poopy canvas into my cabin and began to pour primer on it. Standing above it I dripped the primer straight from the jar like a 4-year old having the time of her life with no thoughts of mess or clean up. It added extra perfectly uncalculated texture for the layers to come.
Beyond my relationship with Mexican culture, re-sparked by my Mexico City trip, this piece is quite cross-cultural; I may even go as far to say multi-dimensional! I, myself, am still processing the rich symbolism between each layer but will do my best to highlight some of the cultural references embedded in this creation. The forward-facing hands are reminiscent of the Hamsa Hand, which is an ancient Middle Eastern amulet symbolizing the Hand of God. In all faiths, it is a protective sign and brings forward happiness, luck, and good health. Being a fan of the #3, (and triangles in general) I like how the added eye on the bottom hand brings 3 eyes into the painting, and in the same fashion, the lower hand holding the watermelon brings in three hands. On topic, the centerpiece on the blouse has an upward and downward facing triangle, pointing to heaven and earth. This also brings in my “womb wisdom” logo, which might as well be my “signature” in this piece. J Other cultural references include the Aztec, maze pattern and the southwestern beadwork and design of the shape over her heart. There’s an ancient Mesoamerican feel to this piece, as well as a Navajo color scheme and vibe (love me some turquoise). Though still a vibrant piece, I dulled it down a bit by smearing (unevenly) a watered-down light brown paint over the top to give it a sort of worn down and timeless feel. Living out in the woods, I have come to appreciate the fact that dirt gets on everything, and now find it to be a beauty-full aesthetic.
Her eyes are piercing, wise and somehow young all at the same time. Painting this at a time where the world as we know it was/is crumbling, waves of stress, joy, confusion, and surrender entered the strokes of my bush variably in each session. Her eyes say it all. Needless to say, she was my therapy and my anchor and, in a way, as the Hamsa Hand represents she was my protector. It was a long, slow process working on her. Pattern by pattern, layer by layer, color by changing color… she came to be. Now, when I stare at her my eyes float around the canvas with pride and even more curiosity. It feels strange to claim I’ve ‘created’ this painting, when really it was more like the spirit of this piece wanted to come through.
As a whole, I love how both the actual texture and the perceived texture, through the patterns and dry brushwork, make this creation feel (to the eye) like a tapestry, yet again giving it a more indigenous atmosphere. She taught and shaped me while I painted her. For this, I’m grateful and really look forward to exploring this color pallet and approach further.