Examining my work through my morning reads...
I read an article this morning that snagged my interest and sparked my inspiration about painting figures. The article or blog, These 20 Female Artists Are Pushing Figurative Painting Forward, Artsy Editorial by Cassey Lesser, was posted just last week. Recent. When I thought figure painting was almost dead....
Loads of thoughts placed themselves in my mind, still lingering now. I got to writing because it has always been the best way I stimulate and process my thoughts. I skimmed it through many times while writing, and pretty cool things happened.
The first thing I looked at was the age of the artists. Many of them were my age, born 1989 - 27 years old, exhibiting in museums already. Where was I? But I had to quickly get over that non-conducive judgment, smiling and rolling my eyes because we all torture ourselves this way sometimes. I took it more like a fact to study and place somewhere where it could be beneficial in my research.
The article had a nice mix of artists in their early-to-mid-career's and ranged from subjects like culture, gender, pop-life and identity. Take a read, it's a fun one!
It got me thinking... where was my work? How can I contribute to this wave of creativity?
A couple of things are for sure - my work is the reflection of my environment. I am working with figures, mainly feminine and abstracted. I am working with dancers and a dance culture.
But how can I push? To be honest I try to ask myself that at least once or twice a week, but don't get very ahead when I can't see the big picture. There's been plenty of times where I've felt either exuberant and inspired like I've hit a stepping stone, and other times terribly lost. Every step is complex and not in a simple order of ascension.
What if I started with the female representation in my work - where is it and how? And not my inspiration? (most of us know it's "belly dance.") But what if I started by taking that out of the picture at least this one time...? Just the feminine figure...?
As I look through my body of work, the female figure is depicted somewhat flowy, fluid, semi-open. It's supposed to be showing a feeling of freedom that we experience when we dance. But sometimes I'm not convinced it's open enough or expressing enough. This thought led me to think about re-visiting a small series I did about three years ago. One painting in particular titled Drum Solo (right) that I worked with constructing and de-constructing layers of paint to create the body. I layered on, scrapped and peeled off, and layered on again.
The feminine is also in my more wild and multi-media work title Calligraphic Dancer. By wild I mean organic and natural. It's a compilation of moving the body in reaction to symbols while listening to music. It means different things to the women whom I've worked with, but they all say the same - they feel relaxed and themselves. I'll have to continue working through this project with strength because I stop and return, stop and return, many times. I'm not the type to force work upon myself when it's not it's time.
Now what if we added my muse - belly dance/Middle Eastern Dance/ Oriental Dance/ Raqs Sharqi/This dance that has been globalized and fused, turned over, sprinkled, like constantly kneading fresh dough? Something that has come to my mind quite often, and it might be from the traumatizing experience I had in college - why if you are not Middle Eastern? Why would you even? Where is your "identity" in this? So why does "identity" have to be your family's heritage? I'm beginning to ask... why can't "identity" be your environmental culture? At age 15 I began learning, taking classes - dance in general was always a part of me and my family's roots. Dance.
So it took root at age 15 - a very deep root that's a nice, strong little tree today. Now, Miami has loads of prospering schools and conventions that welcome hundreds of guests, and Masters visiting from all over the world that aren't even Middle Eastern, entertainment bookings, classes! There's a world in Miami that is empowering a grand number of people - that's "belly dance." I'm proud that this is where the muse in my work comes from, a part of my identity, one fraction that is strong, that is involved almost every day. "Belly Dance" is the dance form that is not just Middle Eastern any more - it's older. It is much older because it comes from our wild bodies. We give to it, feed it our experiences, as any art form. It mixes in with the music, and plants itself into the feminine very smoothly and positively. The connection is global.
With the rising and strengthening movements of women and gender rights, this seems to fit in nicely, so my work has to "push" to express these historical moments. I'll have to paint to the conversations that we belly dancers have to deal with constantly -
are we skinny enough, are we juicy enough, do we need more weight to shimmy, do we need less, is my costume too bland, do I need more bling, should I represent so-and-so person to get recognition, politics, who is that, why is she undercutting, how dare she, I feel great in this class, my teacher is beautiful, this teacher is scary, I don't care about traditional things, I care about honoring the masters, sisterhood, what is a tahtib, I need to make more money, am I selling myself, I hope I don't forget the choreography, I love the girls I dance with, let me look on youtube, tips in my costume, floor work, her hips are beautiful, so Egyptian, wow that turn, is he is belly dancing....
There's so much that runs through our minds - it's an evolving dance-form and there is still SO much misconception and learning to be done. I am a believer that with anything we must honor and train ourselves from history. This feeds what and who we are today. Miami Belly Dance culture is a branch from what came out of the Middle East since the early 1900's. To some, it has become more spiritual, more inner, more wild and organic, even with the historical knowledge. To others it's just a flashy, fleeting class that passed in their life for a couple of weeks.
What I collaborate is conversations from the wild feminine with the added muse of Oriental Dance from my Miami dance culture.