“But the spheres are pomegranates and the music is the sweet-bitter jangle in your mind / when you pierce the skin and discover what’s inside.”
Two years ago today, I finally completed this painting. Out of all my work, this painting means the most to me because over the 3 or 4 months during its creation, it pushed and pulled me in different directions, threatening at times to tear me to pieces. I went through a different style, different colors, different scale, and an all-around different emotional experience and state of mind. I certainly see that my artwork underwent a fundamental change after I did this painting, and I think it is about time it earned its own post.
This piece, perhaps more than any other, is a careful combination of overwhelming inspiration, constant frustration, emotional challenge, and masochistic physical labor. All of it occasionally punctuated by drug-induced hyper-focus.
First and foremost, this is a nude portrait of a woman. Second, (and this is more of a confession) it’s someone I know. It is also someone who has played a very curious role in my life over many years. That is the story I wish to share, thus making this the most personal entry ever.
It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I am a lesbian, but surprisingly, I did not always know this about myself. Around the time I met Genevieve, I was either not completely “out” yet or I had just come out. In any case, I was just beginning to unpack my feelings for other women and it was all very new and scary. It was akin to my current feelings about liquid eyeliner: I know I want this, but I’m terrified and not quite sure what to do with it yet.
I wanted to paint about it in a way that made me feel comfortable, but I was afraid of attempting to paint a woman. I asked myself how that would even work, where would I start? What colors would I use? (all of my previous human forms had involved the male figure and had been blue) would they be small or large-scale? (I had big feelings about this…so large canvas right?)
Thankfully, life helped me answer all of these questions soon after I met Genevieve. Something about her made me feel as though I had been hit with a sledgehammer. Right in my chest (crack open my sternum and poke). She was captivating and beautiful and I never forgot that feeling I had when I met her on the rugby pitch. She had the sun behind her and her reddish-brown hair in a braid. I saw her and I died.
During our long-distance friendship, I had gone through a few relationships, as did she, but we had always remained in touch. Looking back it would seem that I had always been utterly paralyzed by how beautiful she was. This was new, certainly, and while I found it easy to forget about her while I was in a relationship, the times when I was not were plagued with crippling desire.
I remember writing something about her. I can’t find the entry but I did find this word cloud I made around the same time to give you an idea of where my mind was. Essentially, I described my feelings for her as…
“like licking the dried droplets of wine off the rim of the glass. It leaves a glorious taste on your tongue, but leave you utterly unsatisfied…”
and casually threw in a mention that her body reminds me of ripe fruit. You know, normal things you say to girls you are infatuated with.
Toward the beginning of 2011 I was going through a very interesting time in my life. I was newly single, living in the gayest city in the world and finding no shortage of women to give my attention to. Just as expected, my feelings for Genevieve were resurrected and became so strong that it literally made me feel sick to my stomach. I finally got to the point where I felt like I was drowning in this feeling, and I couldn’t contain it anymore.
I rolled out my 8 foot by 6 foot piece of raw, un-stretched canvas and decided I needed to paint, otherwise, I was going to explode.
The best part is that she knew everything the whole time. I have this unique affliction where I am not only incapable of lying, but also incapable of hiding my feelings. Therefore, I told her everything. She acknowledged it without reciprocation but ended up doing something much more helpful.
After hearing of my plans of the mural that I insisted I needed to paint otherwise I was going to die, she willingly offered her help in the form of a photograph to use for reference. I remember waking up to the message and the photo (the morning of her birthday) and I recall very clearly that I shed actual tears.
The last part of this story is the progression. I found in the depths of my external hard-drive that I had documented the progress I had made in this piece. I will not post the original photo she sent me, but I will start the progression with the sketch I did based off of the photograph. Since I am a pretty damn good sketch artist, you will get a very clear idea of what I had to work with.
So this is what the canvas went through over the course of 2 months:
And that is how I managed to put years worth of pent up feelings into a painting and also why this is my favorite piece.
I hope you all enjoyed that.