On the Easel
This preliminary body of work is as much a glimpse into my private process as it is a presentation of conceptual art investigating the social strata of what it means to be a modern woman. My inspiration comes from personal experiences, interviews with my models, pop culture, legends, history, and my imagination.
Ideas that sprout from a tiny seed of inspiration – a word, a color, a song lyric, the way light plays over an object, or the persistent memories of childhood trauma that occasionally rear their heads and threaten to derail my well-being and productivity – often grow into enormously complex stories depicted in symbolism, color choices, and methods of rendering.
I have found invaluable inspiration in private conversations with other women in my circle of friends and the community at large, and been overwhelmed by the sheer emotion inspired in others by my personal concept for a series of portraits depicting the modern “Wild Woman” archetype. Over the last two years, I have staged and shot several photo shoots, both individual and group, to acquire a base portfolio of reference models for my initial concepts.
Each woman brings a distinct personality, unique beauty, and captivating story to the project that compliments the my vision for empowering women through the creation of goddess figures, warriors, muses, and entrepreneurs, whose life experiences inform countless additional stories and inspiration to come.
By sharing my personal art journals and sketchbooks I am revealing an openness to pull down the walls I have built to protect my fragile places and openly discuss ‘Where the Work Came From’.
It can often be difficult for a viewer to fully understand a piece of art, or embrace its rawness because they only have access to the completed piece of art. They have no concept of the artist’s life experiences, personal trauma, anguish, personal triumphs, or endless, obsessive hours spent trying to understand and convey a complex story through visual means. By reading the concept and inspiration journals shared here or perusing my sketchbooks, embellished with spontaneous ideas and marginalia describing specific technical executions for the artwork, the viewer receives a semi-private glimpse of the artist’s thought process. The viewer then has a sudden realization that hours were spent thinking about the meaning of the piece of artwork and the appropriate means of symbolizing complex ideas. One might then conceive of the countless additional hours spent researching symbolism, creating props and costumes for multiple models, soliciting the help of a photographer, or taking my own reference photos.
In the event that I am overcome with ideas, I face the additional challenge of weeding out bad ideas, separating out distractions, and making note of additional concepts that might prove useful for future works in a series. The challenge then becomes capturing enough of the new ideas to preserve them, without going down a rabbit hole into an entirely new concept and losing the beauty of the original idea. As in life, there must be balance.
Often times, I spend more energy refining and perfecting the story than executing the finished work of art. Many times, I over-think a concept or over-work a painting, in an obsessive effort to control every detail; ruining the beauty of the work. Then, I must start anew.
In this new body of Unconventional Women Portraits that has grown from the seed of concepts discovered searching for inspiration in poetry and quotes on philosophy and literature, I am examining both “What it Means to BE Woman” and my inner conviction that not only do we all have a meaningful impact on the world, we are all uniquely beautiful in ways that are independent of and transcendent from the societal and personal burdens of what is considered beautiful, a woman’s role in the world, and what constitutes a meaningful existence.
My intention is not to mire the viewer in the long history of inequities against women or to rail against the patriarchy. My intentions are born of a conviction that healing and triumph begin on a personal level. We are, in fact, independent from external influences and have the ability to take charge of our own self-image. We have the strength and fortitude in each of us to cultivate our own self-esteem. We possess the ability to invest in ourselves for our own sake AND the potential to shift the world in new and beautiful ways if we cultivate the self-confidence in ourselves and our daughters to stand in the face of criticism or rejection and proudly proclaim “I AM enough!”
I invite you to join me on this journey to discover what it means to be an ‘Unconventional Woman’ – for good or bad. More importantly, I’m drawing a line in the sand, proclaiming, there will be no judgement or ridicule cultivated here.
What it means to be a wild woman does not look the same for you as it does for me. Lets celebrate the beautiful diversity of our individual, spectacular lives, lift one another up, and create a brighter future for all women.
Frances Byrd, Frances Byrd Art