I recently had all the slides of my artwork digitalized. Above is one of them, an enamel I made many years ago. This one reminded me of a time when when I was young and obsessed with my being a girl and not as respected as my brother who was eighteen months younger. In the forties a girl was expected to be married when she grew up and dependent on her husband. Boys were being groomed to do something important in life.
My brother was invited to go with my father on Sundays to collect rents on properties my father owned. It was understood back then, that because I was a girl, my place was with my mother and sister, doing what women are supposed to do. In order to get the kind of attention I craved, for my accomplishments, I became competitive with my brother. I did manage to excel in school and being creative, but nothing I achieved received the same respect my brother easily received by simply being male.
I didn’t want to be a boy. I loved dressing up and imagining myself as pretty and popular as my seven year older sister was. I just wanted to be treated equally with boys, to have a chance to prove myself as a woman. I think now I was born angry over the inequity because this same issue, women’s rights, surfaced time and again for the next four decades.
Then, on a trip to New York with my brother and our parents, when I was 12, I saw a painting by Rousseau entitled, “The Dream” at the Museum of Modern Art. The painting pulled me into another world. This was a world in which a woman sitting next to lion was being depicted as strong and as courageous as the lion.
No one had ever offered me an “Alternate Perspective” on what being a woman could be before. The images in that painting before me were telling me that I had a choice. I could stand in my power being a woman without having to compete. Sure it would take courage and strength, but I could choose to be that. Rousseau’s symbolism struck an “alternative truth”, that I didn’t have to be a victim of the picture my every day life painted–that of women being beholden to men.
I was so excited I wanted to be able help other people see”alternate truths“with the same daring Rousseau had expressed. I wanted to offer what I knew to be true so that other’s could be as free as I felt at that moment. So I became an artist.
Many more instances occurred during the next four decades where I resented what I perceived as men’s sense of superiority when they didn’t want to believe women could make it as an artist. During that time I soul searched myself to find out who I was. I was reinventing myself along the way until I finally did make peace with the anger. I didn’t need it anymore to achieve.
It’s been a long journey on one self awareness after another to come to where I am now. And I know the journey’s not over until you’ve transcended this earthly life.
The images in the jungle on the enamel above are more subdued and calm than the images in Rousseau’s painting. There is a peace in the jungle scene I painted with enamel. I think I painted this enamel to congratulate myself on a job well done.
I’ve been challenged and have changed as a result. I never gave up. I kept plodding through one challenge after another, knowing those challenges have come to help me become more empowered.
My beliefs have changed over the years. My perspective on life is more expansive.
Self awareness helps us understand our truths. It certainly opens ourselves to more happiness. That’s because, by accepting who we are, we’re not swayed by other’s beliefs for us, beliefs that are based on their fears. And self awareness helps us to produce the art that’s authentic to who we are.
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