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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.
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.