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collage: and she was

The attributes of femininity are many and as diverse as wildflowers in a field.

Women, for instance, are uniquely suited to putting things back together. Be it a home, a family or a broken heart, there is something intrinsically feminine to the act of mending.

This ability to bring wholeness by means of refurbishing the existing parts is fundamental to many of the activities that have traditionally been relegated to the home. Making or fixing garments, quilting, and even cooking are good examples. In my opinion, they are the result of believing that the whole is greater and more useful than the parts themselves. That's why there is faith in the art of mending, and there is vision. Furthermore, contrary to what people might think, these endeavors require imagination, effort, and a great deal of ingenuity. They are creativity in action. Care at its most practical, and love that heals.

Repairing oneself is a more problematic and lengthy undertaking. It seems selfish to turn inward and take the time to replenish the batteries. Whatever that looks like for you, I would bet that it tends to remain at the bottom your "to do" list. Women are known to care for others rather more diligently than for themselves, but the unseen damage within is real, and it chips away at our well-being.

Self-neglect is a widespread practice among women. I continue to fall prey to it unaware of the price I inevitably will have to pay. Redirecting that tendency to focus on others first is a challenging task initially, although it can definitely be accomplished.

I now set time aside to make collages and paint. For decades I deemed it frivolous and wasteful. I worked, took care of people and things, and was too exhausted to even think about being creative. I thought I was prioritizing the “important” things, which instantly put me and my innate drive to create firmly in the category of “irrelevant.” Them or me was the dichotomy, and some around me took advantage of this distorted view. A few mental breakdowns down the line, I realized it was just not working out. It never had.

What changed was that I gave myself a bit of freedom. Little by little, I shed the guilt and the roles I had been assigned within my culture. It was an exercise in becoming.

The women who found their own freedom in collage over the last century, came from entirely disparate backgrounds. For decades now, they have been weaving a cloth that signifies their presence, not only in the art world, but in the public sphere at large. They became visible and even notorious. Without shame, and by bringing bits and pieces of themselves together (some of which had been lost to gender disparity, violence, or societal pressures), they emerged triumphant and whole. Whatever their unique message, it is one of their choosing and it comes across loud and clear.

Learn more about the work of these remarkable collage artists by following the link below.


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