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, her life-long love. 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.
14 thoughts on “Painting Our Own Realities in the New Year by Xochitl Alvizo”
I love this post. I too have created my own female and Goddess space in my home. Years ago one of my friends said my whole house was an altar.
I do believe that now that your home-sanctuary is completed you will feel more grounded in your work and your life in the new year. Blessed be!
And one of my friends said my home was a goddess temple. I was SO pleased.
Another wonderful post! I loved seeing photos of your new home and your art, which is beautiful and moving. Because I share my house with other people, only my study is really a reflection of my inner life, but it, too, is filled with images of women and goddesses from many times and places. So, most of my real space to be myself in is my garden, which is filled with healing herbs, native plants, and flowers of many kinds. Many of the plants have a connection to women, whether because they are named for women or heal health issues specific to women. I also find that the plants that just start growing without being planted or that spread easily and come back each year are the ones associated with women or that have healing properties I especially need at the time they appear. It tends to be wild place, partly out of choice and partly because I have little time to tend to it, so I am always concerned that my neighbors, who tend to have gardens that are much more cultivated and orderly, are bothered by it. But I had an interesting experience a couple of weeks ago at a neighborhood get-together. I kept finding myself being introduced by women to other women as “the woman with the amazing garden”! So, even though I didn’t intend for it to be, maybe it’s becoming an outdoor woman-nurturing space the way your and Carol’s homes are nurturing indoor spaces.
May your new year in your new home be healthy, happy and filled with peace and joy.
Carolyn, Your garden sounds like a magical place of healing and love. How wonderful!
Thank you for sharing the beauty of your home–and yourself! Happy New Year!
Great photos! I’m with ya–I’m not truly at home till my walls are up. I have a collection of goddesses on the central large shelf of my book wall and witches on nearly every horizontal surface, plus art mostly by women on all the walls. (If I get any more art, I’ll need a mezzanine.) And innumerable books (I’ve never counted them) and DVDs. Like you, I have “painted” my own feminist reality.
Happy New Year, and may Gaia bless us, everyone.
Thanks XochitI, I also think we have to accept that reality paints us as much as we paint reality. I would like to be 21 years old again and just starting out, but that’s not my reality and I can’t make it so. Nevertheless, there are all sorts of challenges, and people I love dearly, who are in my life right now, and I am joyously grateful for them and the gifts they bring.
Happy New Year!!
Sarah, I’m surprised you would like to be 21 years old again. I would never go back to that time of confusion, self-definition, ambition, and craziness. Of course, if I knew what I know today, I’d LOVE to be 21.
Thanks for your comment, Nancy!! My life wisdom is not all that helpful, though, except that I’ve made enough of my own mistakes so that I can’t judge too much, and that does make things easier :-)
Xochitl, your post really resonated with me too. (Not the “everything in its place part”, the other part – lol). As we speak I am moving into my new home. My “stuff” is here, but my pictures and special things aren’t on the walls yet, so it doesn’t feel like home. And I’ve commissioned a local artist to create a sculpture of Brigid that can be mounted by my front door to welcome everyone, so I suspect when the blessing ceremony is held for my Brigid, I will really be “home”. It is strange how a piece of wood or metal can mean so much to us when a much more dear sofa doesn’t mean a whit. “Home” is such a lovely word.
Thank you, Xochitl, for this wonderful post. “In a world that fails to recognize women as fully and divinely human, I need a space that re-centers women and celebrates them.” Me, too.
My home is very important to me as well, since it’s both my living space and my working space. Since I became a feminist in the 1960s, my walls have been lined with feminist art. But the walls in my most recent home are dedicated to one particular feminist artist: my daughter, Linnea Vedder. In my study, I’ve hung her Maiden, Mother, Crone triptych, which she painted as a present for me when she was 19 (now she’s 34). There’s one hallway that I call the Linnea Vedder gallery, since it has many of her paintings. Over our piano, there is a painting entitled “Eclipse.” It depicts a lunar eclipse within a rectangle in the center of the painting, which in turn eclipses a performer on a stage, so that all you see around that central rectangle is the footlights and their reflections on the stage. I LOVE this painting, because it keeps me humble when I’m about to perform. But perhaps my favorite piece of hers is a fabric painting I’ve hung in my living room. She painted several dozen (not always recognizable) hand prints on the cloth she used, cut it up into triangles, sewed it back together and then used it as a beach towel with her friends one summer. It has so many layers of meaning for me: the hand prints — that we now know are women’s — in the many early cave paintings, link the piece to the female origins of art; the fabric of the piece implies women’s work with fabric through the centuries; and the woman friendships that were experienced on this “beach towel” round out the significance of women in our lives. In the near future, Linnea’s art will also grace my book _The World Is Your Oracle_, and the book will have a prominent place in my study as well.
Ah yes, so important to our health I think that our home reflects our self-claimed and proclaimed identity. I love your home Xochitl. Thank you so much for sharing.
Thank you for sharing your home as well as the Frida Kahlo home & studio. Very beautiful!
I live with a lot of books. A LOT OF BOOKS. Every room in the house has at least one ‘working’ (meaning the shelves are completely loaded and bending with books) bookshelf- except for the bathroom. No reading material whatsoever in the bathrooms. The walls are hung with art made by my children, my friends, or myself. A few sentimental family heirlooms, too. The artwork tends to change and rotate, as new paintings are produced, new seasons, etc. I have to have a window over my kitchen sink or I go crazy. Currently, the window looks out onto a bird feeder and I am reasonably sane. My gardening style is ala Carolyn Lee Boyd- I aim for pesticide-free biodiversity. I tell people my garden is designed for the birds and insects. Recently, I was rather surprised when one of my neighbors with a well manicured garden told me, “When you first moved here I thought you were crazy. Now I think you are a genius.” Somehow I manage to stay under the radar of the home owners association!
I think it is vital to one’s creative life to mark out territory. Whether this is a room of one’s own, a space on the couch of one’s own, or the lower half of the dining room table closest to the window of one’s own. Marking the space makes me acknowledge the worthiness of my creative risk-taking. I wish I had the studio space of Frida Kahlo (look at all those wonderful windows!) but I don’t, and that’s ok, I make due with what I have (basement in the winter, garage in the summer).
In the coming year I would like my home spaces to inspire me with courage.
Xochitl, this post made me look around again! People say this is a place of peace but I think there is more to it. Many of my pictures are of special friends, or photos I’ve taken myself, or pictures that make me laugh (often with myself) two are by Larson and from a whole magazine of the Far Side. One is a penguin standing tall in a colony of penguins and singing: “I Gotta Be Me”. The other is a group of lemmings heading toward the cliff edge and one is looking out at the viewer, and smiling. That one is wearing a life preserver. Some of the things hanging on my wall were given to me by friends.
I think the main ingredient is that they all have meaning for me. Thank you for inspiring me to take another look about just now, and for your photos. I love the colours, and the Mary of Guadalupe with attitude and flowers.