"Claire de Lune" | watercolor painting by Courtney Khail
Art and Womanhood
It's been hard this past week to create. The country is harboring such a sense of sadness, fear, and hatred, that at times it can make painting seem trivial. And writing about painting? Even harder. I looked at this blank screen for what seemed like hours before deciding what I wanted to say.
You may have never read my artist statement- what exactly my paintings represent (or at least what I strive to make them represent) but I think it's incredibly important to what I'm saying and how a lot of us are feeling right now, so I'll share it again:
"Influenced by my Southern upbringing, my work explores the complexities of femininity as expressed through nature.
Combining traditional subject matter with contemporary compositions and techniques, I strive to display a balance among dualities– creating paintings that are at once both delicate and fragile, while simultaneously brazen and bold.
From afar, my works appear to consist simply of vibrantly painted botanicals. Upon closer look though, their true depth is fully revealed. Utilizing dynamic linework, I encourage the viewer's gaze to slow – guiding them throughout the painting so they may fully experience the nuances and complexities that first impressions (both in art and in life) so often miss."
I was raised to be strong. Not a strong woman, just strong in general. Strong and good. (And by good, I mean that in the sense that I was to be kind, compassionate, and open minded. That my character mattered most, and that I was to always stand by my word. A very literal interpretation of "say what you mean and mean what you say.") I was taught to protect the weak, the disenfranchised, the misunderstood, and to listen closely to the words of others (for those words are what let you see into a person's heart. You can tell a lot about a person just by listening to what they "fill the silence with" so to speak.)
It wasn't until I was much older (and no longer living under my parents' roof) that I felt the weight of "womanhood" and the contradictory spectrum a lot of society would like women to reside within. (i.e. smart, but not too smart; witty, but not too witty, etc.) Instead of being defeated by those contradictions though, I celebrate them in my paintings. Women don't fit easily into a box (nor do I think we should.) We can be strong, opinionated, and smart, while still being nurturing, compassionate, and accommodating. As much as people may try to make women an "either/or," I think women are best at being an "and." Strong and compassionate. Smart and humble. Ambitious and fulfilled. The "and" is why I try to keep my paintings from only being "one thing." They are bright, colorful, and modern, while still being soft, delicate, and calming. They're meant for you to reflect and explore. To really focus and notice the subtle color variations, the varying line work, and the abstraction of reality. They're meant to mirror each of us- complicated and pretty and messy and hard to describe in one word. But in the end, all of those dualities and contradictions combine into something that works- something truly beautiful.