This was a self-help project. I graduated from college with a degree in art (now what do I do?), I broke up with my serious boyfriend rather than marrying him, and I finally started dealing with my own issues instead of distracting myself from them. I wanted to be independent, self sufficient, and more me--who is that, anyway? I needed to prove that I was more than just half of a whole, more than just a student (which was how I defined myself for all of my memorable life) and more than a result of my circumstances or my genetics. So I spent a month on a farm in the middle of nowhere, with six wonderful artists I had never met, and attempted to work some of that out with my paintbrush.
In my memory of her house, my grandma had a sign above the door which I could not read. Turns out this sign was just written in an old English typeface, but to little girl Molly it seemed like another language. I think it read something like the title of this painting, which can be translated as bless or protect this house. I am German from all angles, so to me this is a sort of family crest. The home contains the family; it is the family, with all its differences and similarities, its securities and boundaries, support and judgment. The family lifts you, it gives air and food and life, it raises you and envelopes your failures and successes. Within this painting are all the scenes examined more closely in the following work. This home, this family, shaped what is to come—yet there is life past the windows and doors, and chances for more change and growth.
This painting was my first at the Grinnell Artist Residency. It contains bits of that environment, absorbed into colors and forms. Thick yellow curtains covered the enormous window in my shared bedroom. The shape of a curled mustache, warm mugs of coffee and tea, and the hours spent outside on green lawn chairs all crept their way into the composition. I can practically smell American Spirits when I look at it!
Tables and dining rooms are built to encourage interaction, celebration, and sociability. Such pleasant occasions can turn volatile, especially when families reunite. The table is the tradition, the chairs are the family; the cake is the family and the piece is you, it’s me. You versus your family, me versus mine. We are undeniably similar to family, yet obviously different. The family supports, but it can be the harshest judge. It feeds you, but it eats at you, too. Instinctual love combats frustration. It is bigger than you, you are part of it, and you cannot separate yourself. Most of your bonds within the family and similarities to its members make you stronger, but some bring weakness. I love my family, but I struggle to accept its weaknesses and to simultaneously reject those weaknesses in myself.
“It may have been a warning. It may also have been a burden. Even if love was "underneath it all," there was a great deal piled on top, and what would you find when you dug down? Not a simple gift, pure and shining; instead, something ancient and possibly baneful, like an iron charm rusting among old bones. A talisman of sorts, this love, but a heavy one; a heavy thing for me to carry around with me, slung on its iron chain around my neck.” -Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin
In the first painting, not all details are revealed. There is tension between the two green chairs leaning into the curved white couch, the lamp as a panicked referee attempts to sort out the disagreement. A closer look reveals this strain actually follows intimacy—in the form of a passionately discarded tie. Spaces full of pain and anger were always once inhabited by love and devotion, which raises the question—what happened here? Where did this affair go wrong?
Because now the tie escapes. The man crawls away. Is he sneaking out slyly while she sleeps or looks the other way? Or did she forget him, take him for granted, leave him in the dark and dust to show himself out? How long can a tie stay that way, swept under the furniture, before it must go? Before the tension above becomes too overwhelming and the passion below evaporates?
“And since then I have thought, why is it that women have chosen to sew such flags, and then to lay them on the tops of beds? For they make a bed the most noticeable thing in the room. And then I have thought, it’s for a warning. Because you may think a bed is a peaceful thing, Sir, and to you it may mean rest and comfort and a good night’s sleep. But it isn’t so for everyone; and there are many dangerous things which may take place in a bed. It is where we are born, and that is our first peril in life; and it is where women give birth, which is often their last. And it is where the act takes place between men and women that I will not mention to you, Sir, but I suppose you know what it is; and some call it love, and others despair, or else merely an indignity which they must suffer through. And finally beds are what we sleep in, and where we dream, and often where we die.” --Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace (Yes, I love her books. They're just so relevant to my work!)
The bed is you, it’s me. It’s where you let yourself completely relax; it’s the most intimate place. It’s where you become unconscious and where you dream. You keep your dearest and most necessary things close to it. It’s where you lay awake, thinking and listening. It is one place you never have to censor yourself. It’s almost completely internal. Choosing to share your bed is choosing to share yourself. You are it. You must be your own constant; you must create your own stability and your own safe sleeping place, where you can take care of you.
This painting is a reminder to inhale deeply. My chest is a vast, empty blue sky.
The cage is fragile, barely balanced, and inside it I am tense with the pressure of holding still, breath shallow, clamped tightly to my perch. If I make too great a movement, the cage may tip--safe space shattered.
The cage door was always unlocked. I decide to pass through it; decide to trust that leaving may not mean the end of safety or support. I try not to bring along the things that travel in a dark, heavy suitcase. Pack them up and leave them on the ground. Let them go and go away! Only take the things which function as balloons, making me lighter instead of heavier.
I can move beyond the tradition, the escape, the protection of the family, and be my own constant. Create a new safe space between my shoulders and crown. Lean over and fall, and feel the freedom from gravity. My chest is a vast, empty blue sky.