Shut up and be pretty / Tais-toi et sois belle
sanguine, charcoal and pastel on paper
17in. x 20in.
Collection of Ms. Alexandra Dean, Ontario, Canada
Circé speaks to the silencing of women and the other messages that women internalize and are conditioned to adhere to. ” Be seen and not heard ” as well as other oppressive realities that serve to infantilize and silence women. Although she is not crying, the pain and watery eyes speak to her vulnerability, the black electrical tape used to silence her is a stark and brutal visual reminder that the collective and individual voices of women are often silenced and lost.
Back in 2007, after many years of being empowered by Eve Ensler’s “ The Vagina Monologues “ and actually being part of the events in various ways, i came to want to depict and celebrate vaginas through paintings. Now this didn’t come easily for me as i wasn’t born with a vagina and had to earn mine, i had to claim mine back.
I was born with a male looking body, was assigned male at birth and led a life of being in a hell where i was for all intents and purposes, an invisible female. I’ve been different in my head from childhood. I sensed that i was not like other boys, didn’t get their games or attitudes, how they thought and reacted to life in general. My narrative in this respect is that of most all females born with that condition called transsexuality.
I missed not having my own vagina, something i always thought i should have had and was denied for some strange reason. Of course this feeling was as a young child and yet it remained throughout my life because even if i came to understand that biology isn’t perfect and that the whole idea that our bodies can only be one of two sexes was false, i knew that my brain wasn’t matched to the body i was born with.
As an adult, i discovered that what i was going through had a name and that much scientific studies had been done that pointed towards a congenital brain condition, one in which the brain isn’t affected like the rest of the body and so doesn’t follow the same sexed pathway. In other words, my brain remained female as my body developed in the male body pattern. I was transexual.
Well, after the initial shock of finally knowing this truth that i had suspected all along, i began undertaking the steps that would eventually bring my body in line with my brain. In november of 2001, after having answered to all the necessary steps and jumped through all the hoops that the medical and psych experts demanded, i was cleared to proceed to the corrective surgery that would see me in all my female glory, yes, i was going to have my very own vagina.
The road to my coming of age as a female was a long and very painful one but one that i had no choice in, it was simply how it had to be, this wasn’t a nurture thing or about playing with gender for the heck of it, it truly was a matter of life and death for me, and i made it through.
While going through what is called a transition, i came across many women who became friends, teachers, mentors, heroines, sisters and yes lover. My eyes opened unto a world feminine, one in which i was for the first time in my life, feeling at home in. I could relate on levels that felt right, warm and clear. Then, i began giving lectures and workshops about women such as i and their lives in the hopes that better understanding would come as a result. It was also at this time that i became close to the V Day events, and participated in promoting and helping this effort to fight against violence done to women and young girls. I must have seen the Monologues themselves at least a dozen times if not more and to hear how my sisters spoke of their vaginas, what they had been through, what they had experienced, well, it gave me courage to speak of vaginas from my perspective, to show vaginas through paintings, in art. I embarked on a series of pieces that i am now sharing with all. I believe in the beauty, strength, love, warmth, passion, birth, power and heart of vaginas, that they can be about all matter of things to say and we as humans need to listen to their voices.
I hope that the paintings of vaginas i am sharing with you will touch you, make you smile and cringe, think and react. My paintings of vaginas are not porn, they are not insensitive but their are there, in the light and they want to speak.