276

sketchI’ve been following (somewhat obsessively) news about the 276 Nigerian girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram. From the time I learnt of it, my mind has been alternately ablaze with outrage and hope for the girls recovery. Although this story has aroused a frenzy of international attention, there have been so many other deaths and lives changed forever by the atrocities committed by this group. At a certain point however, in our world of sordid war making, we’ve become numb to the statistics. One reads 276 kidnapped school girls, but what does that even mean? One reads 300 villagers killed, but what would that feel like? Although the numbers are merely a means of conveying quantity, I can’t help but feel that one human being is much more significant than the number 1 conveys.

 

On thinking about this, I’ve started putting together my current painting. What does 276 young school girls captured by islamic militants with a penchant for rape and brutality look like? Each girl would look different. Each girl would have a whole unique life and anatomy as well as a whole string of relationships with the people around her. The girls kidnapped were between 16 and 18. These would be girls with hope for their futures, standing on the brink of adulthood.

 

I imagine myself with my high school classmates at that age. What would we have done if approximately one quarter of our school had disappeared? How would I and my friends have reacted at being corralled by these monsters? Naparima Girls’ High School’s entire raison d’être is to educate young women to be the brightest in the country. My classmates and I were all so lucky to be born in the Caribbean and not in place that is hateful toward women and education. Although it comes with it’s own baggage, being a West Indian woman is a great and powerful thing. I’m not thankful enough for that fact.

 

So that’s where I am. The canvas is ready and I’ve started working through some sketches. I’ll post some pictures as the painting progresses. This one may take a while.
Thanks for tuning in.

 

Advertisements

Unveiled

Here is my latest, titled Unveiled. It’s been sitting in my sketch pad for a week or two. It was NOT an easy free flowing composition that came out of some blast of inspiration. Instead this piece came out of scattered energies and unfocused thoughts. I was pushing myself to work, because the act of working brings me peace. Despite feeling creatively blocked and this piece being relatively painful to complete, I’m glad I stuck with it and didn’t just tear it up or colour it black, as I was tempted to do. In a sense its a reminder to me that the work serves me when I need it, just as much as I serve the work.

For a while I’ve noticed that the piece that comes after a piece that I really like, feels like this one did. I begin with a lot of expectation and then somewhere along the line I feel like it’s totally contrived and then rounding up to the end I push through to come out with something I have mixed feelings about.

However one thing I’ve learned when it comes to the creative process is how important it is to keep working on one’s practice, regardless of how interesting or futile it seems. Movement is important with creativity and like Liz Gilbert said in her TED talk, some days your muse shows up for work and some days they don’t. If you don’t keep working though, you might miss a good day.

Portraits

This is something I drew tonight from a picture I took of myself. Notice that it looks nothing like me. I like drawing portraits but i hate doing them in front of people because I feel like I’m inconveniencing the model and I get a mad dash of performance anxiety. At the moment though I’m enjoying the experimentation. I admire artists who do really evocative portraits. So here I am trying my hand, first with some studies, and later with the full piece i have in mind.

Tomorrow I’m going to my first live figure drawing class. I haven’t drawn from live models since I forced my friends in high school to pose for me. This will be very different and though challenging – very good for me. I’ve always enjoyed figure drawing. My A-Level art portfolio focussed primarily on figures. People can be very stupid about nudes however. In high school there were many inane little girls who thought my nudes were naughty or perverse. It’s the most riduculous thing to me when people can’t look at the bare skin of a human being without garbing them in shame.

Ugly

I want the freedom to be ugly.

Social expectation, misogynistic bosses and generations of mothers echo in my mind.

From my mother – brush your hair, clean your shoes, dress properly or what will the various men in your life think of you?

From Men – Look pretty or I won’t give you the time of day. Wear high heels, be charming to me and laugh coquettishly at my stupid sexist jokes or I will simply cease to see you.

From Society – Look pretty, dress pretty, buy more, make yourself up – it doesn’t matter who you are, provided that you’re trendy.

I look at women my age and how trapped we are in trend, conformity and social expectation. Consumerism meets patriarchal advertising campaigns and we think we are making individual decisions about how we present ourselves to the world, when in fact we are playing a game – falling into a scheme – often to our financial ruin.

How do I push past pretty? How can I step over into the sublime with my work? I feel like i skim the surface of pretty and hardly reach into the grotesque which is often the most beautiful to me. As a woman, how do i reach ugly, without my instinct to beautify it? How do you reach into crazy when I have built a world around crazy – I have corseted its miscreant strands and pasted down its wildness with a thick layer of beeswax. That step is difficult. It’s terrifying.

But my work is too safe. It’s like there’s 2 artists inside of me. The one who is instinctual and terrifying and then her sister who follows close behind neatening edges and mopping up muddy footprints. How do I get miss bliss to take a hike for a little while so i can get some work done?