The Flower Power paintings explore female conscience, identity and desire. Their intention is to remind women that it’s essential that we identify and honor our inherent power, the sustenance required to have successful relationships with ourselves, our community, and our world.
The faces and poses inspired by print ads were chosen to make a commentary on our lens, our perception of women, our experience of femininity, edited and curated by fashion.
This is the first painting to share during Women’s History Month. Each painting has a power, portrait and flower in its composition. The flower meanings are in part a nod to my British heritage and the Victorian garden. Flowers were once used to send messages between lovers. I worked these garden blooms into the paintings to achieve the same ends. The ballerina geranium (envy) in The Power of Envy, the rose (love) in The Power of Self Love, the tulip (fame) in the The Power of Fame, the sunflower (courage) in The Power of Courage, the snowdrop (hope) in the Power of Hope, the lotus flower (compassion) in the Power of Compassion.
I painted the work in acrylic on canvas to reflect challenges I have experienced in my own life and that I feel are a common experience for many women. I have loved and been forbidden from showing it, I have loved everyone first, but myself. I have been filled with self-hatred and had to learn compassion. I have taken the journey of forgiving my enemy to free myself from the burden of resentment.
Witnessing the Women’s March, watching women courageously speak their truth and take action this year inspired this series, “Flower Power.” I wanted to express all of the powers we possess as women. Some considered more uniquely a sign of feminine strength, like the power of compassion. Some negatively associated with the weakness of women in traditional environments, like the power of envy. I wanted to reflect on all of it and turn it on its head.
Merriam Webster defines courage as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear or difficulty.” This is what I really wanted to capture in the painting “The Power of Courage.” She has her own poem as well.
The Power of Courage
No matter what they did to me
I felt the presence of a power
So much greater than this moment
I saw, and felt, the whole universe.
Their sin was my greatest teacher.
For now I know I am the light.
Can you feel it?
I chose the sunflower because it is native to the Americas. I read that Native American women used to bake with sunflower seeds for their loved ones and warriors would bring them into battle for courage. Whether we are being beaten or feel beaten down, there is a moment in time, a moment of grace, like the sunflower seeds dancing above her head, that has the power to completely shift the outcome of the event. It is a deep sense of, “I can, I will, we shall, overcome.”
This painting took over six weeks so I had a lot of time to think about courage and the stories that had stayed with me. Oprah’s story in particular – overcoming abandonment, abuse, neglect, poverty, challenging circumstances. I was told by some art experts not to paint women of color because they wouldn’t be as popular with collectors. And I wasn’t going to bow down to that. No, I was going to celebrate women of color, everywhere. Who could more embody of state of courage?
So I saw a photo of Zoe Kravitz and she started as my model. I always start the paintings from the photo of a women in a magazine. That’s how we are used to seeing women, beautiful, but still manufactured and in a box. But now their identity takes on a whole new meaning.