Let Them Eat Cake essays by the artist
I was not consciously using this series as a tool to reflect upon my life's journey. I truly admire painters that can emote in the moment and abstract their life experience into an art form. Little did I know, my muse snuck up on me to channel a life review, through me, in paint using burkas and cakes as symbols of power and rewards.
I took my first steps out into the world as an emancipated minor by walking down the aisle. I quickly flipped that narrative into the divorced and single teen-mom. Like most refugees, I did not have a plan. All I knew is I had to leave and that didn't want what my family or my neighborhood had. I wanted to like and enjoy my life every day, not just weekends and on a 2-week holiday.
A quest for happiness wasn't included in my early journeys. I knew what I didn't want but I also knew what I wanted. I wanted some respect and money. You don't get that by working as a Holiday Inn waitress or selling weed. With a rigorous sense of emergency, I needed a way to make money in a way that kept moving on up and not sideways or to downhill to a prison.
I wanted enough money to not worry about buying food, or gas & tires for my car, or paying the utility bill. I wanted to see the world and meet different kinds of people and try different kinds of food, more than chuck roast, frozen dinners, or food out of cardboard boxes and cans.
Most of all, I really just wanted freedom from oppressive low paying jobs or men who thought they owned me and for once have real true, deep love in my life. I didn't have a literal burka on as I painted in Face Behind The Mask, but I was wearing a psychological one and it's hard to see options living like that. My path out was pretty much a zigzag one, too crazy to lay out here. But I'll say this, I took chances and opportunities to emotionally and physically get as far away as I could without a passport. I moved up to Fairbanks Alaska and began a new life and a new university. The UA system is underwritten by the state so tuition is low. Rent is cheap because you can rent a waterless cabin in the woods. Plus once a year instead of taxing them Alaskan citizens, every adult and child receives a big fat check.
It turns out that while finding a new life there I only swapped out the old confining cover for a different, more intellectual one. One that looked good to me and one that I found recognition in by smiles and encouragement from my new tribe. It wasn't until I was back in the lower-48 and half way through a PhD program did I realize I needed to break away again and this time, find the real me. My gut was twisted up in pain for that last year in grad school and I broke into tears at least once a week. I felt like an outsider even though I was deep in the core of some of the most prestigious research institutions.
That was many years ago and my memory of the burn of shame is still strong, even though I don't feel that shame anymore. I'm talking about that particular ground shaking shame. Those mind-numbing moments that grabs and shakes you up, deep inside when, one again in the name of freedom, you take steps to shatter an ego-driven desire. That hurt of pulling off my Dr. Science mask stung bad and I cocooned myself again watching for the the right door to open.
Today, during the pandemic, I am once again cocooned but this time by State Order. This time we are all doing this together. Everyone has this chance to look back at what we did and wonder about where we go from here after this is over. For me I know, I can feel that the transition will be soft and smooth because I've learned to fully trust my inner guidance for and stay in The Flow. And this time I have loads and loads of tools and many good friends, friends with whom I feel connected to and deeply love.
It's almost funny, except I can tell it's not, because if anything, I'll occasionally tear up when talking about how my art reflects life challenges. How can I not see that while I am in the studio doing it?
When I started out in life, I definitely left with nothing and burned all the bridges I crossed so I couldn't go back and they couldn't follow.
In the Refugee Bride, you can see the Path To Enlightenment through this window over her shoulder. For her to leave the grotto with those burned bridges behind her, she only needs to turn around and unlatch the window. She has to look for an answer in order to see the answer and take the next step in the journey of ascension. Watch for the word "only", because it often means whatever you should do is not that simple.
How long do we need to stay in the grotto examining where we came from before we can continue our journey?
"Human beings are creatures of belonging, though they may come to that sense of belonging only through long periods of exile and loneliness. "
- Poet David Whyte
-A conversation with Carmen-
Because I know now that this painting was who I was/am, I'm absolutely certain you are correct, Carmen, that I did open that latch and ran down that path and climbed up the mountain. You know what else, Carmen? I just realized now, as I write this to you, I asked my daughter to pose for this painting. The one whose conception kick-started me into adulthood and set me a-burning bridges before I climbed through that window.