This is not a thesis. Just a bunch of thoughts.
I’ve always wondered how an artist could have a show with a homogenous body of work, either with the same theme or with a similar style. I felt like that would require for them to focus for so long on one thing. I had my first solo show in May 2015 and I found that the only thing all the pieces had in common was that they were about life lessons that had really marked me, hence the name “Le Timoun Mande Gonbo Cho…” The show ended up very different from what I had expected — in a good way , and eventually I even stopped seeing it as a solo, due to how crucial everyone’s participation had been. JanLou and Cedric Roy (Dzgot) were responsible for the sound, their selection of electronic music helped give the same rave vibe I had been in while painting all these pieces. Lighting artist, Lionel St Pierre (MediUm), had made an installation of LED strips which interacted with the music all night, which reinforced that rave feel. We also collaborated in making these moving paintings on one side of the gallery, which allowed me to have the video art aspect of my art not be left out. The crowd was filled with so many people that had highly influenced my education and work; their presence was also crucial to making that night what it was. My first solo show, had nothing solo about it. It was more like a graduation where you acknowledge everyone that helped you get to where you are. And the official starting point of you doing things on your own.
A year later, I felt like it was time for me to have another solo show, for multiple reasons. I kept dwelling on all the tiny curating mistakes I had made at my first show, but more importantly, I had figured out what my work had been about this whole time: exploring (the super confusing and intricate concept of) femininity.
One of the Haitian Kreyol terms I find the most interesting is the term Limena. Whats a Limena? I’d been asking around and lots of definitions and different connotations exist for the term. Some people say its a woman that is slutty, some say it’s one that’s preppy, some think its a woman that knows her worth and what she wants and wont settle for less, some say its a materialistic woman who has all the wrong values, some use the term interchangeably with the term woman,etc…I decided my show would be called Limena Chronicles, because it seems to really go along with the intricacies and inner conflicts of being a woman, whereas the term “fanm” (woman) came with too many preconceptions and unrealistic expectations.
The truth is, I wish I could write a super objective thesis about the subject, but the more I thought about it the more confused I was about what the subject even was. Was my show about the female gender? Was it about female energy? Was it something I related to? Was it something I was lacking, and trying to get to?
Humans have established such rigid gender roles in all given societies, that the identity is often hard to detach from the biological attributes of a person. However, 2016 is a time where gender is such a blurry concept, and we’re given so many tools to dissociate ourselves from or reinforce the label attributed to us: fashion, surgery, names, accessories, etc… that it almost doesn’t really mean anything anymore, aside from within that biological context. What it means to be feminine varies from individual to individual, and whether we like it or not is a concept that is no longer bounded by gender. To some extent, I believe gender can have an effect one someone’s inclinations to be more feminine or masculine, but gender roles (which aren’t up to us) usually have something to do with it. Some of us feel feminine without our environment perceiving us as so, some of us view femininity as this foreign thing we don’t relate at all to, sometimes we see it as a part of us that we’re discovering little by little, sometimes as a part of someone we love and we learn to view it as something exterior but complementary to what is in us, some of us have a definition for it but don’t feel like it should be called femininity, it’s all very confusing and beautiful.
For weeks after the show, I would encounter people and they would start this discussion about how their perception of women or feminine energy differs or goes along with what is considered typical. Being someone who primarily identifies as just… alive, rejects most expectations, while still embracing so many things usually deemed “girly”, I was able to understand most standpoints.
V grew up away from her father and was explaining to me that their conception of what being a real woman was contained a great deal of what people considered masculine, and that, for her, was the way they expressed their femininity. Their demeanour and behaviour show they desired to fill in for the lack of male presence in the house. Personally, I interpreted that as a wish to be self-sufficient rather than being man-like. That protective attitude mothers usually have towards their offsprings seemed to me to have more to to do with it than the necessity to have a man around. Isn’t that somehow still feminine?
S is a fellow artist with whom I discussed this topic recently, who also happens to be male. According to them, embracing their femininity allowed for a more fluid and free expression of their vision in their studio practice. However the fact that this concept was usually attached to being a woman did not seem to fit their conception of it: “I hate using the words feminine because it’s a word and a concept that humans created. I think being feminine doesn’t mean to be like a girl or feel like a girl or act like a girl. I think being feminine is knowing how to navigate the world using your emotions, creativity, feeling, and sensuality. It’s about redefining what it means for men to be men (or even women to be women).” It was interesting for me to hear someone’s perspective, for whom femininity had such importance, while they were perfectly aware their environment disagreed with them.
I also spoke to another male friend, who identifies as masculine but does not deny the fact that we all have both energies in us, which we use accordingly. “The way I speak to a woman I am hoping to create a connection with, they said, is usually different from how I speak to my male friends. Being aware that she will most likely be a more sensitive and delicate being, I will subconsciously use that aspect of me in order to be more relatable in my approach. The more masculine aspects can be used for her to view me as complementary, however, to connect as humans, defining genders is usually counterproductive.” So many people put the emphasis on how different we are as humans, on the sole basis of gender and create these unnecessary boundaries, which leads to complete confusion when someone refuses to be defined on that basis.
After having asked about it on social media, and reading the answers — some more influenced by environment or upbringing, some completely personal, others embracing gender roles — I concluded that we’re all using or rejecting these labels, ultimately to define ourselves while still pertaining to the whole. “I am woman but I don’t do this or that”, “I am not a woman but I feel feminine and mostly relate to women”, “I don’t identify to a given gender, but I like this or that”, “I don’t feel like my appearance responds to the way I feel”, “I am not this or that but relate to what it goes through”, “I want/refuse to be this or that”, or for some people…”I am a lamp”
Just remember not to limit yourself.