Monday, 1 October 2012

Women Are Destined for Greatness

Sister; wife; mother; daughter; artist.... These are a few things that identify who I am in this world. One, however, stands above the rest, marking me as special: WOMAN.

Cleopatra, Elizabeth I, Emily Dickinson, Georgia O'Keefe, Harriet Tubman, Mother Theresa, Margaret Thatcher. Each of these women share a common bond: greatness through perseverance, dedication, and individuality. These women were monumental leaders of their time who paved the way for us today. I admire each one of them for their unprecedented creativity in difficult times. Their work in the fields of politics, philanthropy, poetry, freedom, religion, and art, is a continual reminder to all women today that we all possess the power of greatness.

Women must work to empower and motivate others and I strive to portray this through my art. I want my art to inspire the women I paint as well as the women who see it. Art is a catalyst for greatness and creativity and it is my goal that other women will be motivated through this form of expression.
Throughout my life, I have been blessed with incredible opportunities to travel the world and each new place presents an opportunity to connect with and learn from the various cultures I visit. One of the most resonant experiences across the multiple continents, countries, and cultures I encountered, was that of the female bond, and as a female artist, I feel compelled to record the women I encounter. In my paintings, I try to capture scenes of celebration and joy, daily interactions and friendships, and comfort and support in times of loss that all women experience.

My travels have allowed me to witness firsthand the significance and power women play in daily life. In Japan, women comprise the foundation of a highly disciplined and ritualized form of art: the tea ceremony.

The tea ceremony in Japan is one of the most revered and famous customs and it has been a monumental part of Japanese culture for thousands of centuries. The tea ceremony is an example of the creative influence women have in society. Drinking tea is an activity most people consider to be a simple and almost thoughtless process. The women that perform the ceremony however, elevate the action into a meditative art form. As a collective group, these women become a creative power, one that extends into almost all aspects of Japanese life. Their devotion, discipline, and dedication are inspiration to me and act as a constant reminder to always strive for creative serenity in my work.

During a visit to Hawaii, I was invited to attend a traditional Hawaiian wedding ceremony. This joyous occasion was marked not only by the significance of man joining woman, but more importantly that of the bride's metamorphosis from daughter, to wife, and eventually, mother. The wedding ceremony began with an intimate meeting between the bride and her mother, sisters, and other female companions.

I was struck by this gathering of women because they all represented different "stages" that most of us experience during our lives. As women, we all progress through multiple roles - roles that require us to take on different characters. From daughter, to sister, friend, wife, mother, and grandmother, each role blesses us by providing new and beautiful opportunities to connect with others.
While traveling in parts of Africa, I observed the harsh reality of the pain women suffered due to disease. The women I met had lost everyone they loved to the AIDS epidemic and they were forced to rely on themselves and other women in their community.

These women formed a remarkable support system - one that was instituted out of necessity but had blossomed into a reliable and gentle bond. They provided food, shelter, clothing, and education for their children, and constantly tried to encourage and uplift all those around them. Their endurance and perseverance through hard times was one of the important lessons I have ever learned: you are not alone; you will persevere.

Recently at Ana Tzarev gallery in New York, I partnered with a group that I feel exemplifies the female empowerment and strength I try to portray in through my art. Same Sky, a wonderful organization founded by an incredible woman, Francine LeFrak, uses creativity, art, and craft to improve the lives of women in Africa. This group gives women the tools to create jewelry, which is then sold all over the world. Women that work for Same Sky earn an income much higher that normal wages earned in other jobs in the areas. These women are able to use their incomes to provide education, clothing, food, and medicine to their families. Without the creative initiative of Same Sky, many women would be forced to work elsewhere for a substantially smaller income.

I urge all women to support and encourage each other. We must work together to achieve greatness and fight for knowledge and power because it is not always given freely. The great Margaret Thatcher often quoted a passage of the famous Henry David Longfellow poem, The Ladder of Saint Augustine...

"The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept were toiling upward in the night."

This quote holds a dear place in my heart and I feel that Longfellow's poem is poignantly relevant to women. As women we must empower and strengthen each other, constantly encouraging all to work extra hard to reach our goals. What's more, we girls must learn to glide serenely like swans on the surface while pedaling like hell with all force beneath the water, in order to reach greatness. Each one of us has special traits and abilities that make us unique and successful. My unique expression is my art and I hope it provides inspiration to all that experience it. I encourage you today to find and use your own special strengths to awaken greatness in others.

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