After seeing the photograph of an abandoned mannequin, I knew I had to paint her. I begged, actually. I could do that with these friends, in that bratty way of “oh please oh please can I have her and paint her?”
They asked permission to rescue her from the alley, and then agreed to let me paint her on the grounds that they could keep her. This was a relief, because where would I put a life-sized mannequin bust?
The next hurdle was the question of “how” to paint her? With that, this project came alive. When someone asks me to create a work of art that speaks to pain and struggle, well… That’s pretty much what I’m most passionate about painting.
At my friend’s request, she would carry The Lord’s prayer. And I knew she would have to have wings. She simply must. And those wings would carry Breast Cancer Awareness ribbons.
I wanted her symbolism to be a representation of strength and hope for them. And because of all that hope, she would have to have a red heart on her chest just like Sue Monk Kidd’s “Our Lady” in Secret Life of Bees. And, with permission, she would proudly carry that heart of hope.
I consulted with a local art instructor, brushed up on my paper mache and paste skills, and stole my husband’s drill. Then I got to work on those wings, which proved to be both strong and delicate. Then came the layers of mache and paste, and glue, styrofoam, and paint — earthy, fleshy, light. And she came alive.
In all the layers and drying time, I thought about struggles, and how they bring us to life. I thought about those I love who have lived with the unbearable. When they feel abandoned by life, love, fate, God, good fortune. And we wonder how do they do it? How do we do it? These impossible moments force us to decide to truly live, don’t they? You’ve heard the stories where lives are barely hanging on: terminal illness, sudden and unforeseeable financial hardship, natural disasters… The list feels so cliche, but those are the things that make or break our lives — that happen TO us, that we can’t control or avoid, no matter how hard we fight.
And here’s the thing… Here’s the thing. Even when we feel abandoned, when it feels like The End, it doesn’t mean we should stop living. Even when it feels unbearable, we still have a choice.
Baring our heart on our chest, with a wing and a prayer, we can still choose to live.
(If you’re interested in commissioning custom work, take a look at my details here.)