I’m familiar with the art of these women, but have read little about their work and it’s influence on painting. I was looking at the photos (I always go to the pictures first) and in one Helen Frankenthaler is standing in front of one of her paintings. She’s really small compared to the canvas which is hanging from what looks like the ceiling of a warehouse. The painting has two shapes on it, one taking up much of the canvas the other small and bleeding off the canvas.
I was awed by the photo. That’s thinking I big, I thought.
It reminded me of one time when I was in art school and I had cut out a bunch of shapes I was working with in my painting class. The shapes were about half my size, and I was using the wall in the painting classroom as my canvas to hang them on. I was up on a ladder when my painting teacher walked in.
I just expected him to tell me that I couldn’t use the wall or to be careful on the ladder or not to get paint on the wall. But instead, with a smile on his face, he said,” It feel good to work big doesn’t it?”
I never forgot his encouragement or how good it actually felt to have all that space to myself even if just for a little while.
So when I walked into my studio this morning, and saw my goddess, hands on hips, staring straight at me, I said to myself “Think big Maria”.
Big isn’t just about size, and “thinking big” is a state of mind.
Always lingering in the back of my mind when I make a fabric painting is the thought that no one will buy it. That I’ll have done all the work and put all the time into it and then, when my health insurance comes due, I won’t have the money to pay it.
That’s the essence of small thinking.
I’m calling my goddess I Am Enough. A phrase I’ve used in my work in the past, but is once again relevant to me. She is standing by herself, hands on hips, determined and sure of herself.
I’m almost done with making her. Today I worked on her skirt, cutting some of the stars in half from a part of the same quilt she is stitched on, to define and decorate it. I still have to sew down the pansy chain on her pubic triangle, festive and fecund as it is.
The wall in my studio isn’t close to the size of the wall that was in my painting class. But my I Am Enough goddess is big in attitude and meaning, if not in size.
Ruth and Wayne, our nesting Canada Geese have no problem hanging around the sheep and donkeys. Actually they have no problem with Fate or Red either. Buds the only one on the farm who chases them. But they never go too far.
Yesterday they were taking advantage of the flooded pasture while the animals grazed.
As I was walking down the stairs this morning, I saw on the landing above me, this small moon-like circle of light. In the five years that we’ve lived in this house, I’ve never seen it before.
I immediately looked around to see where the light was coming from, what it was passing through to make the perfect one inch circle or what it was reflecting off of. It wasn’t hard to find, a tiny space in the panel of the wooden bedroom door. The sun streamed through it like light from an old movie projector.
First I took a picture of it then I looked at the time and date on my phone. April 17th, 7:46am. The edges of the circle began to soften and fade as I looked at it. A minute later it was gone.
I thought of the ancient monolithic stone calendars that people used to make to know when to plant and harvest their crops. Places like Chaco Canyon, where the sun shines through small stone windows at certain times of the year, marking the day.
I though that if the whole stairwell were dark, except for the pin prick of sunlight, it would create a room sized Camera obscura. And I would be seeing the image of whatever was on the other side of the tiny hole in the door, upside down on the stairwell.
If I go back tomorrow morning at 7:46 will the circle be there again? I imagine it will come a few seconds earlier or later every day, depending on the movement of the sun. I know some people would easily be able to figure that out. But it’s not so clear to me.
I hope I remember to look tomorrow. But I know there’s good chance I’ll forget. I’ll be outside feeding the animals or eating breakfast myself.
If I do remember I’m going to draw a circle around the small moon.
If nothing else, maybe someday, when someone else lives in the house, if they happen to see the small circle of light with the pencil line around it, they’ll know they’re not the only one who has seen it.
Ruth and Wayne, the Canada Goose couple, were back in the wetlands behind the farm this morning. I took this video of them through the budding pussywillows and brambles. The bird song is like a romantic symphony.
We started our conversation by talking about what spring means on Bedlam Farm (like being able to sleep late on the weekends because we don’t have to feed the animals) and moved on to talking about Red, Goddesses and well, you’ll just have to listen for yourself.
We’re getting closer to having our podcast available on Google and iTunes, but it’s not quite there yet.
Yesterday, before leaving my studio, I did some quick drawings of what I thought my goddesses hands might look like. I knew where they would be on her, but I couldn’t see them on the actual piece.
This morning I went into my studio, looked at my goddess and saw her hands, as if they were drawn on her already.
It was kind of amazing, because I had been looking for her hands for so long and just couldn’t see them. Yet, they were there all along.
I had removed some of the fabric from the areas of the original quilt that became my goddesses arms, so I had to replace that with the same fabric that made up the rest of her arm. There’s plenty of the striped fabric on the original quilt, so I cut a couple of pieces off of it and removed the top piece of fabric.
I hand stitched the missing pieces of striped fabric, then using my sewing machine, drew my goddesses hands.
After that, I sewed on her pubic triangle with a flower (that was made by Veronica’s Grandmother) vulva-like in the center. I still have to stitch on the pansy chain around her triangle and I do have an idea for what happens after that…
It sounded different than the way the donkeys usually bray. Then I remembered it, I hadn’t heard it all winter. It was the bray Fanny and Lulu make when they’re in donkey madness, chasing each other around, kicking their back legs, humping each other and scaring the sheep.
I still remember my nightmare from a few nights ago, but I can’t recall the terror I was feeling.
That’s a good thing. I don’t need to feel that again, what I did want to be able to do was remember the dream enough to understand why it effected me the way it did.
In the nightmare Jon and I were being held hostage by two men. But the men would leave the house and come back. The first time they left, I asked Jon if we should call the police. He said we shouldn’t that we just had to do what they said.
When the men came back one of them asked me to sit next to him on the couch. I was terrified to sit next to him but even more terrified not to. I felt I had no choice. He showed me some pearls and I told him what kind they were. But he got angry and told me I was wrong.
I knew that I had made a mistake by telling him what I thought, that I had said the wrong thing and made him angry. My fear of what he would do to me was so intense, that I made enough noise in real life, to wake Jon up. Who then woke me up.
My heart was pounding and I was breathing so heavy it took me a while to catch my breath.
“You would call the police wouldn’t you?” I asked Jon. Needing reassurance. Then I explained the nightmare to him and asked him again. He reassured me he would. I was still feeling terror from the nightmare. It took, I think, about a half hour for me to calm down. And when I did, I said out loud to Jon and to reassure myself, that if we were really in that situation, I would have called the police myself. Then I knew I was okay.
I know what this dream is about.
A couple of months ago I read the book, The Real Lolita by Sarah Weinman. It tells the true story of Sally Horner, who Vladimir Nabakov obviously based his character, Dolores Haze, on (even though he denied it) in his book Lolita.
I’ve been fascinated with the book Lolita for a long time. Reading Weinman’s story about Sally Horner, helped me understand one of the reasons why.
Because it’s about being held captive by fear.
When Sally Horner was 11 years old she was groomed by a pedophile then taken by car across the county by her kidnapper. They lived together posing as father and daughter in a few different states, him raping her repeatedly. She went to school and had friends, but she was afraid to tell anyone the truth because he scared her into believing that if she did, she’d go to jail. After almost two years of being held captive, Sally told a neighbor the truth and her neighbor called the FBI.
I was not sexually or physically abused, but I was held captive by fear.
My mother and my siblings did not experience growing up in my home the same why I did. This has been one of the most difficult things for me to understand. How I could feel so differently then they do. I understand now that even though we are all family, we can perceive the same experience in different ways.
My experience is no less real than theirs.
In my dream I was held captive by fear. I could have gone for help, but I didn’t. And the one person who I trusted in my dream, Jon, didn’t help me either. He wasn’t afraid for himself, and didn’t understand my fears, even though he was there with me.
I was terrified growing up. My father while, not physically abusive was a frightening person to me. It was in this environment that I learned it was better not to say what I was feeling or believed. This is where I learned to be silent, to hide my true self.
I didn’t feel safe around the people I was supposed to be able to trust.
Symbolically, the man holding me captive in my dream was my father and Jon represented my mother. As in my dream, my mother didn’t protect me from my father’s anger. She was either too afraid herself, or didn’t understand how frightened I was. So I never felt safe and was never able to trust my mother completely. I knew she would always take his side.
As a child, I was very alone in my fear. That fear stayed with me throughout my first marriage, keeping me from doing what I really wanted and being who I really am. It was only when I met Jon, the first person I ever felt I could really trust, that I started to emerge from my fear and begin to live my life freely.
The dream brought back the primal fear I experienced as a child, where I believed my life was in danger even if it literally wasn’t. I was too familiar with the feeling my nightmare evoked.
As a child I was dependent on my parents to keep me safe. As an adult, I can protect myself. That’s why when I woke up and I finally realized I could have gone to the police myself, that I didn’t need Jon to do it for me, I was able to leave the fear from my nightmare behind.
I think the nightmare was a way of my subconscious reminding me that this the is the reason I get triggered when I’m around anyone in my family. Because even though I understand that being around my family takes me back to a place where I feel like it’s dangerous to speak my truth and be who I really am and I regress to that fearful place I lived in for more than 45 years, there are still times I wonder why this happens and blame myself, as if I’ve done something wrong.
I believe my subconscious is telling me that there’s a reason I feel the way I do. It’s reminding me of the fear I used to live in. That my family wasn’t a safe place for me and still isn’t. Not because I’m in physical danger, the danger is psychological.
It’s when I feel that I don’ have a choice (like in the nightmare) that the fear overwhelms me. I need to know that I can leave any situation whenever I choose. And I need to stay away from people who make me feel unsafe, which is not always easy for me to do when those people are family.
Now, I’m actually grateful for my nightmare.
As scary as it was, it reminded me that I’m not a helpless child anymore. That as the adult I am now, I can make my own choices, and that I do make good choices. It reminded me that I can and will protect myself.