A friend of mine once commented that my feminism is evident from the moment you step into my house. In reference to all the female images around my house, she noted that my space reflected a different way of being in the world. I had never thought of it actually, it was not a specifically conscious choice I made to be woman-centered in the books and artwork I displayed, I simply put up what I loved. But once she pointed that out to me, I appreciated the point it raised about what we surround ourselves with and what it reflects about the world we want to live in and help create. What do our spaces evoke for us? for others? Do they help spark the imagination, and if so, what toward?
While I have always been very conscious about how I create my home space, it has not been in the way my friend noted. I am hyper-organized at home. I am one of those people who love the expression “a place for everything and everything in its place.” It can be a difficult characteristic to live with let me tell you, as I tend not to be able to feel at home until things are all “in their place,” which I admit has made for a hard transition in these last few months! I always thought that organization was the most important part of what made a ‘home’ for me – that and having a guest room ready for welcoming visitors. But this last week, as I got a little time to organize my house a bit more, the importance of my artwork came front and center in a new way.
Although I had organized most of the basics, including my newly constructed office space, I did not actually experience the distinct sense of being “at home” until the artwork was up on the walls of my new place. There was a palpable change in the space and a renewed sense of belonging once my artwork was up. And it was not until I reflected on that moment and recalled by friend’s comment that I realized the critical role artwork plays in my life and how it makes all the difference to my being able to claim the space as home.
It also happens that all my artwork is of women, created by women. As one first walks into my house, one is greeted by the image of Frida Kahlo’s face, a lithograph of a painting based off a photograph of her. The wall of my office space is filled with Cathy Ashworth’s art – the middle one being an original piece of hers. “Soul Searching” is the only original painting I own; all the others are prints of some kind, including prints by Pinche Michi and Alma Lopez – who have created some especially beautiful prints of Mary and Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Frida Kahlo wrote, “I paint my own reality.” She made the statement in reference to being categorized a surrealist artist, but I like to think about it more constructively – that she was painting the reality she wanted to create, one in which her experiences and perspective could be known and appreciated in all its complexity and rawness. She was very intentional, or perhaps not intentional, but unique, in the environment she created around her, from her house, to her studio, to her dress, to her willingness to bring herself to the center of her artwork when the art world around her preferred to center their attention on the artist Diego Rivera, the man she married. She expressed her life and shared her experiences through her activism, her paintings, and the very unique way she had of dressing. She wasn’t afraid to take up space in the world and she did so with flair.
Frida Kahlo has always been an inspiration for me, a reflection of someone willing to live their own way and create a world different than how it currently exists. And she, like my friend, reminds me of the power of claiming one’s space and creating one’s own reality. I surround myself with woman-centered art and books; it is good and necessary to my psyche, my well-being, and my sense of home. In a world that fails to recognize women as fully and divinely human, I need a space that re-centers women and celebrates them. And while the practice of centering women in the art, language, and symbols of religion is sorely lacking and greatly needed in most expressions of Christianity (that will be the topic of my next post), it is something I have (un)intentionally created in my own home – a space where women can take up space!
I don’t think I had consciously realized this about my home space until very recently, but as I do it makes me think of the importance of space and what we surround ourselves with in the places we call home. Are our home spaces intentional creations of the reality we’d like to see in the world? Are they outgrowths of who we already are? What do others see about our homes that we don’t see ourselves? What is given space and what takes up space in our homes?
As I start this new year – which I am hopeful will be much more sane and balanced than the last – I want to be more conscientious about the reality I paint for myself and the reality I paint and share with others on a daily basis. Do the realities we paint spark our imaginations and ignite our spirit and energies toward the good we want to see and bring into the world? How can we do this more fully?
What do your spaces reflect and spark in you? What would you like your home spaces to be able to inspire in you for the new year? I’d love to hear!
Many bright blessings to us all and a toast to lots of good change in 2016!
Xochitl Alvizo, loves all things feminist, womanist, and mujerista! She often finds herself on the boundary of different social and cultural contexts, and works hard to develop her voice and to hear and encourage the voice of others. Her work is inspired by the conviction that all people are inextricably connected and what we do, down to the smallest thing, matters; it makes a difference for good or for ill. She teaches in the area of Women and Religion, and the Philosophy of Sex, Gender, and Sexuality, at California State University, Northridge.