Acrylic on Canvas, 2015
Every painting of mine has a story. This one is no different.
I stumbled on an exhibit in the Chicago Cultural Center in the summer of 2015 called LOVE FOR SALE: The Graphic Art of Valmor Products.
The exhibit displayed ads, marketing women’s creams and products from the 1920-80s. I could not believe the slogans and claims these products made. It was a good exhibit, and the Cultural Center is beautiful. So please don’t misunderstand me — It was the 30s that had me riled up.
I’m sure marketing today is “saying” the same thing without saying it. But I did not like the tone of these ads.
“Attract and hold your loved one by smelling sweet and lovely.”
“Men go for girls who ATTRACT with Perfumed Sweetness.”
“Pretty looking skin attracts love.”
FOR. REAL. These are real ads targeting real women. According to the information in the exhibit, this small Chicago company targeted minority women.
And the ads?
Emphasizing a woman’s only goal in life – to attract a man.
The only way to go about it – be pretty, smell nice, have pretty skin.
It hurtsssssssss my heart.
I want to hug every woman who ever saw this ad and tell her she was enough. But I digress. I could not release these ads from my brain. I still cannot.
I was going through a tough time where MY role as a woman, as a partner, as a human was thoroughly unclear to me.
I felt that I had been limited, and held back. My personality was too much and I was being told to water myself down. My independence was too much. I was actually told to set dinner before the men at the table first, and judged when I did not. These ads were too close to home.
A few weeks later, my full-length mirror fell and shattered.
And as I saw myself in the reflection of the broken pieces, I could identify more with that reflection, than the “whole” one I had seen before it fell.
The “whole” reflection wore a fake smile that covered tears and fears. But the shattered pieces understood me.
The shattered me felt like the REAL me.
I immediately started drawing out the shattered pieces.
Initially, I intended to draw myself in there, but these ads had hit so close to home. They were much too perfect, as my replacement.
I saw Lindsey Stirling in concert at Chicago Theater that summer, and the song “Shatter Me” speaks to everything this painting is.
So it goes.
I pirouette in the dark
I see the stars through me
Tired mechanical heart
Beats til the song disappears
If I break the glass, then I’ll have to fly
There’s no one to catch me if I take a dive
I’m scared of changing, the days stay the same
The world is spinning but only in gray
I love this piece- It’s an anthem.
The half-tone woman is every woman who was too extra for her gender “role”. The half-tone dotted pattern is completely inspired by the old print ads.
The dark parts are actually nebulas and constellations and milky ways, if you look closely. They are everything every woman and everyONE should reach for — the stars.
Somebody shine a light
I’m frozen by the fear in me
Somebody make me feel alive
And shatter me
The painting was my permission to myself to BE myself and break free, when the people around me were telling me I was wrong to want it. And double-wrong to DO it.
It was also for every woman who felt the same way.
I have a beach towel of this painting and it makes me so happy to carry it around with me.
I have displayed the original piece for Women’s Month every March since I’ve made it. The anthem never quiets ❤
Thank you for wanting to know the story, and reading this entire post.
It means a lot to me that you care, and I hope it touched you in some way.
I have some “Shatter Me” swag in my etsy site, and the original painting is for sale.