World Childless Week 2018 “Childlessness and The Arts”
About the work:
Some vivid dreams rattle you to the core and stay with you for a lifetime. About 15 years ago, I had such a dream and it resurfaced surreptitiously in this painting, which I created to celebrate World Childless Week 2018.
I had that dream in my mid-30s, around the time my ex-husband and I had just become engaged and were talking seriously about the children we were going to have, what they’d look like, what they’d be like. I truly wanted to have children, so it’s no surprise that I was terribly upset for some time after waking from this dream. I dreamt that I had been sitting inside a comfortable dark cave with cushioned red walls. I was waiting for something, but then the walls started to fall off in large chunks. I began to cry, screaming ‘no! no!’ as I grasped the large pieces in a futile effort to keep them from falling off the walls all around me. I woke up crying because my period started that morning.
Les pleurs de Sophie / Sophie’s tears addresses that dream as well as my childlessness not by choice. I chose this title as a reference to ‘[ma tante] Sophie’, a common Québécois euphemism for having your period. As this painting evolved and as I became more and more aware of how sad I still am at not having children of my own, I thought of my family and friends and wondered how they would react to this painting. It went from ‘ew! gross!’ to ‘don’t talk about that in public, what are people going to think?’ So, I kept painting.
As an artist, my mantra is to trust the process and, ironically in this case, to go with the flow. Creating this work was incredibly freeing – cathartic to say the least – especially since I had no idea what the brushes and colours were going to reveal when I sat down to paint; all I knew was that I would be using red to represent blood. Perhaps the fact that I was having my period at the time also had something to do with it.
I chose gouache because it’s a fragile medium (just like life itself), and because it dries quickly. When I applied the colour on the surface, I found it too thick, so I diluted it with water and instantly turned the work into, well, a bloody mess. Rather than quit and start over, I decided to soak up the water using a panty liner – for a painting on menstrual blood, well, why not? – instead of a paper towel. To my surprise and delight, the unexpected result was that the tiny daisy pattern on the liner transferred onto the painted surface as it blotted up the water and pigment: those different nuances of red were reminiscent of the shedded menstrual blood, endometrial cells, and clots I’d become so familiar with over the years.
The more I blotted, the more the painting became a monochromatic wash of red with a garden of flowers springing up everywhere on the surface: tiny, delicate, perfect and imperfect daisies representing the concept of having children, the perfectly human children with all their talents and faults, physical or otherwise, each one outlined with gold, symbolizing triumph and success.
Upside down, the flowers make even more poignant the symbolism of a non-pregnancy, of abandoning the deep-seated dream of having children, of the leaves representing a child’s arms reaching up to a parent that is not there. Only one flower, at the bottom of the painting, is not outlined in gold: it represents the deep-seated dream of having children that never goes away.
Further confirming a non-pregnancy are the very dark red spots throughout the surface, representing blood clots, as well as a golden shape, in the bottom right corner, reminiscent of sperms trying unsuccessfully to penetrate an egg.