Where to leave the old?

Retrato de familia, 2018 (left) and 2010 (right)

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A picture speaks more than a thousand words. Many of us see the importance of photography to keep track of our physical changes. We keep pictures of family reunions, anniversaries, birthdays, new year celebrations and so on. But pictures rarely can capture the changes in our believes and emotional states through time. To me, painting is a way to understand and keep track of the emotional changes in me and I use symbols to depict those changes.

Where to leave the old?

I looked at the corner where I storage all the paintings I haven’t sold. They show the person I was five, eight or ten years ago. I thought about the time, energy and money I invested in them and I wondered if I wanted to leave them there as they are: A testimony of the person I was or a dead memory. Instead I took two of them, broken. A hole in the middle of each canvas speaks of the adventure of moving from St. Pauli to Bergedorf that left me with four broken paintings. I could repair them, make them look like new and conform with the compositions just as they are. Or I could change them and show the reality of the person I have become. I decided for the second option.

La mecánica de mi corazón, 2018 (left) – Moriviví, 2010 (right)

Reinterpret the symbols

To change a painting first I must evaluate what symbols I used and which is their relevance today. Do those symbols still have the same meaning? I use plants and flowers to represent my femininity and my cultural identity. I also use animals to represent aspects of my persona that I want to develop or improve. Water, buildings or ruins are used to represent a migration process in which I leave the old and accept a new life in Germany. Fruits are in my paintings a symbol of abundance and independence but in “Retrato de familia, 2010” these were depicted in small size. In the new version of 2018, natural elements like flowers and fruits become predominant and in this sense, a more optimistic representation of the present life. The fish-bird, symbol of endless change, appears free of its cage and between the outside world and the inside world, the public space and the private space; breaking the barrier between this two sides of the same person.

In “Moriviví, 2010” leaves were displayed in uniform green, more as a background than as a key element bacause I was restraining myself from displaying my cultural identity. In its new version “La mecánica de mi corazón, 2018”, plants dominate in the front as well as the background and create a frame for the center figure who now holds a fish-bird in bright green. In this way I reinforce the importance of my gender and my cultural identity. The plant around the heart and in the center of the composition (Moriviví-Mimosa pudica) represents perseverance and preserves the meaning of the painting even after the title has been changed.

My paintings are not intended to represent the world around me. They only represent how I feel about the world around me, the impact it has on me and how I react to it.

“Yerba mala is what I want to be”

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“Yerba mala” will be the title of my new album that brings together Latin-Jazz, Pop, Ballads, all baptized with several refreshing folkloristic compositions. Its graphic design will include a selection of my paintings in which I depict animals as symbols of change or important moments in my life and plants as symbols of cultural identification and femininity.  This album is a celebration of change and a reaffirmation of the person I have become since I chose to work as a singer and painter. Its title “Yerba mala” (Bad weed), is a popular expression to define someone that is no good or has a rebellious behavior and can be used to call a woman who doesn’t conform with the established rules and conventions.

A change in style

In the last 18 months this title has obtained a stronger and more personal relevance and became more transcendental in my artistic expression. My dresses have more color, new paintings have become more abundant in natural elements and my songs have become more folkloristic. At the same time a heated discussion in the media about gender equality has come again to our attention making clear that despite our achievements in a society that praises to be egalitarian, we cannot deny we still have much to learn. These discussions inspire me to write about my gender experience from the perspective of an artist.

My old self and double standards

Before I started this project, I assumed a passive approach in my everyday life and avoided conflict as much as I could. I used to believe that in order to be feminine, to be a good teammate and to achieve what I wanted I had to keep quiet, say only the positive things and never complain. I also had to smile and never raise my voice. In other words: “be a good girl”. How wrong I was! By accepting and following the conventions and rules I didn’t make, I ended frustrated and unsatisfied. Some of these conventions came from the culture in which I grew up and from my family. To my surprise I also found many of those conventions here in Germany. For example, a woman once told me that I look angry on stage. I told her that I was not angry but focused on my performance and that my colleagues didn’t smile neither. To this, she answered: “Yes, but they are men!” I found this situation rather funny than anything else, but it serves as an example that we could encounter and participate in a double standard where a certain behaviour or appearance is expected from us simply because we are women.

Automatic behaviour and compromises

We all follow an automatic behaviour every day when we go to work, our routine to go to bed, among others. This only becomes problematic if we assume an automatic way of thinking for things that would require a deep reflection. The process of writing my new songs involved questioning my own automatic behaviour. I was unfortunately following a traditional gender role that I was taught since I was young.

Today, I am not willing to compromise my authenticity for conventions and rules that are not mine. I smile only if I want to. I don’t color my hair. I don’t wear tight clothes in dark colors because I feel better in loose and colorful clothes. I don’t have to lose weight to look sexy because I don’t have to look sexy. And most importantly, I say what I think even if the other side doesn’t like my words. If that person doesn’t want to listen, I simply turn around and leave. By doing or not doing these things I am not more or less feminine. Not following conventions usually unfolds into conflict but these confrontations are a sign that our interactions need to change!

Someone once told me: “your feminism is a wall and an obstacle”. I say: my belief in a more equal society is not an obstacle but a rule of engagement.

Yerba Mala (translated lyrics)

Bad weed is what I want to be
in your hands again
and thus sleep after making love
Oh, leka nosht my love

To awake with your kisses
and like a free warrior
face the world fiercely and without fear

Bad weed, bad weed I want to be
give bitter verses with honey flavour
And though it hurts, I’ll always tell the truth
Laughter is worthless in a life of falsehood

May they call me bad weed
and yet I will not die
I will blossom in the fields
with others like me

And no matter if destiny hurts me
or if I am blessed by God
I am a swallow under the sky in Zagora

Bad weed, bad weed I want to be
give bitter verses with honey flavour
And though it hurts, I’ll always tell the truth
Laughter is worthless in a life of falsehood

Video (duo version)

This video is an early duo version of the song – for the „Yerba Mala“ album, we will record an arrangement featuring a percussion set of congas, bongos and güiro as well as guitars, double bass and trumpet.

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Video-Link: http://youtu.be/M7WEd2NOSvo

“Your paintings are too selfish…”

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“Your paintings are too selfish…”

Someone once told me: “your paintings are too selfish”. He was referring to the fact that many of my paintings show a female figure that looks similar to me. This criticism surprised me. The reason for my paintings was clear to me but it wasn’t clear to that person. So, let me take the time to explain why I paint myself.

Selfies vs. self-portraits

Many of us are used to take “selfies” to tell the world where we are and what we are doing. Some of the most popular are with our cats, dogs, friends but also with our coffee or beer. In this way we tell a story of our lives, a form of portrait.
Portraits have existed since the origins of human artistic expressions but self-representations of the artist became more frequent during the 15th century. Self-portraits in painting can reveal aspects of the life of the artist as well as his or her emotional state and psychological features.
Usually, when we see ourselves in the mirror we see a constellation of features that are known to us, we expect to see “us”. Self-portraits function as a form of mirror but unlike mirrors, the process of self-recognition while we paint a canvas could be slow, difficult and sometimes emotionally distressing.

Self-portrait: a mirror to the unkown

My self portraits are, in this sense, a mirror that will not tell me what I expect to see but one that will present flaws as well as strengths. They are a process to find as well as to construct a person in constant change. While I paint, I learn to see the stranger and the unknown person in me. I use a series of symbols like flowers, trees, animals, ruins, windows, water, the “fish-bird” to narrate the story of significant changes in my life. Some of these changes involve my reality as an immigrant, the reinvention of my cultural identity, the distance of my family, my relationship with music and how I define my womanhood. For instance, in this new painting of mine, I showed myself with a hermit crab sitting on my arm. It has a specific meaning, because hermit crabs regularly leave their shells as they grow brigger, to find a new one that matches their new size. Being an immigrant and an artist, I can relate to that process of giving up a home and recreating it as a consequence of growing.

Selling paintings

To be honest, I don’t do paintings in order to sell them. I would paint even if nobody would buy them. I still feel honored when someone purchases my art, because I feel that they can identify with the emotional process that the painting embodies. Painting myself is not always easy but it’s one thing I am willing to do and that is important to me to understand myself a little better.