On discomfort as portal for creativity

By Danié Gómez-Ortigoza

January 24, 2021

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My mother is an artist. She paints abstract art. For the longest time it seemed as if her art got on the way of our relationship. She wasn’t present for most of my childhood, but her art for me became a portal into her mind, and a bridge of communication at an age where words or logical explanations weren’t useful. I could see into her paintings and read through her pain and her internal struggles, some of which I’ve experienced myself in time.

I remember explaining her paintings to others at the opening of one of her exhibitions in Mexico: what started as a conversation with one curious person, became a curated tour of her work. Everyone was listening. And yet I see how so much needs to happen for someone to cross the doorway of an art gallery for the first time, or dare to create something. But art is basic, and elemental. That’s exactly why it’s transcendental.

We are all born creative beings, but some people need creative expression more than others. When you are one of those people, you’d better find a way to let that creativity flow, otherwise, more often than not, it becomes harmful. I saw that happen to my mother.

One of the first barriers I transgressed when I decided to break free of all the molds I had willingly adapted to, was braiding myself boldly: carrying a feminist manifesto and a daily intention on top of my head that felt and looked like a different version of myself. I needed to see that version in the mirror to free myself from the layers that surrounded my actions for a long time, but had nothing to do with my essence. Then I started painting my studio: first it was pink, then yellow, and now it even has a touch of Klein blue. I was always told I could’t paint walls. First it was my father, then it was my husband who loves white. They both mean well, but the reason I’m writing this post is to tell you that it all starts with the little things you feel you can, or you can’t do.

As simple and childish as it might seem, I suddenly realized I was an adult and could have free reign of my space. How often has the fear of doing something stopped you from action?  I see it in my children. I see myself in them in so many ways, and I encourage it as much as I can: the need to paint, move the body, create, sing, hug, wear costumes, be angry,  make mistakes, laugh.

Then I started turning every photo-shoot into performance art. So many messages came to me as I was doing those pictures, and I was able to transmit them. Those evolved into videos with voice-layering. Then I created Canvas, and started sharing this process of transformation with other women, which turned into Braiding Ceremonies. Today I’m learning to weave, I’m sewing constantly and finding ways to intervene my photographic material,  playing with words and knowledge. I feel free, and I’ve been able to achieve this freedom thanks to my husband who gives me space to be, and takes-over certain activities with my kids.  He understands my need for solitude and creation as I also find equilibrium with a corporate job. I want you to feel that freedom as well, because change will be the result of many of us feeling liberated.

I recently painted a portal in my house, right at the hall where my kids’ room and my studio cross. I wrote with pencil all the things I’m grateful for and all the ways I think I can contribute through braiding and all the messages, and places this practice has lead me to. Then I covered it with yellow paint. It’s a visual reminder of the things that matter to me for those days in which the message is not as clear. create your portal; your visual reminder.

Sometime ago I read a description of the feeling that looking at ‘L’origine du monde’, from Gustave Courbet sparked. I didn’t write who the author was, but it says the following:

When I stood before her, this unknown known woman in repose, I saw myself, my mother, my grandmother, a woman revealed lovingly by a man’s hand and I rendered in oil, barely 18 x 21” and a rectangular canvas. I wept. I worked at the beauty of naming it so clearly. Origin of the world. We come into this world to women, a woman who is spent, broken open, in all. No wonder woman have been feared and worshiped ever since man first saw the crowning of a human head here, legs spread, a brushstroke of light.

We are fire. We are water. We are earth. We are air. We are all things elemental.

The world begins with yes. Changing women. We begin again like the moon. We can no longer deny the destiny that is ours by becoming women who wait, waiting to love, waiting to speak, waiting to act. This is not patience but pathology. We are sensual and sexual beings intrinsically bound to both heaven and earth, our bodies are hologram. In our withholding of power, we aggregate power, and that creates war.

 

Start with a yes. It could be a braid, it could be clay, it could be swimming naked somewhere. Whatever it is make it yours. Stand in your power.