The Women is a series of paintings that are currently in progress in my studio. The series will feature 20 watercolor paintings of flowers that represent strong female characters from classic literature. Although the flowers are painted realistically in their natural postures, each botanical subject holds a personified resemblance to its human subject. Check this page periodically to follow along as the series grows.
The Women Series #16
Florentino's Little Birds
Love in the Time of Cholera (El Amor en los Tiempos del Cólera) by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, is an unusual and beautiful novel about unrequited love. Florentino Ariza, the protagonist, is a character who vows his love to one woman, Fermina Daza. Yet, when he cannot have Fermina, he spends years in and out of 622 affairs with just as many women. He watches for these women, who he calls his little birds, on the streets, buses, and throughout the town. Florentino is not altogether a bad character, but he uses and discards women as a salve for his lovesickness for Fermina. These women, not knowing better, give him their love and attention. Sometimes the result of this is tragic for the women. I have painted this Eucharis amazonica, with its rain covered leaves in honor of such women.
The Women Series #13
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, is as poignant today as it was in 1850 when it was first published. Hester Prynne, is judged and maligned as an adulterer by her Puritan community. She is shunned by her neighbors, haunted by her estranged husband and abandoned by her lover. Hester’s sexuality is controlled and punished by the men around her. The scarlet letter A that she wears to mark her transgressions, prevents her from living a fulfilling life among her neighbors. It's important to remember this Puritanical history. You can still see the long shadows that such a judgmental history casts on present day thinking about feminine equality.
The Women Series #10
Tess of the D'Urbervilles
I'm still sad for Thomas Hardy's Tess. She had the potential for developing into a strong and generous woman, but was slowly reduced to nothing. She could have been her family's saving grace if they had not aided in her ruin. I wanted to reach out and save Tess throughout reading the novel. Unfortunately, she was doomed by her own family, her naivety, terrible men and the cycle of destitute poverty. Instead of saving her, I painted this tearful rose in her honor. And its also in honor of all of the real women who are reduced to nothing by a careless society. Sadly, the struggles that Tess endured could easily take place in our times.
The Women Series #7
The Lady of the Lake
No one really knows the name of the mystical Lady of the Lake. This painting of an iris is dedicated to that legendary woman from Le Morte d'Arthur. We know her as the woman who raises Arthur and gives him the power of the sword. Much of her appeal resides in her magical, elusive nature. The subject for this painting is a wild iris. I was intrigued by the way these irises grow wild along the lakes in the northern US. They are native to Europe. Each bloom seems to have a commanding presence, rising up from the muddy banks of lakes. And when the light is just right, their colors are magical. I imagine that The Lady would have a similar appearance: both strong and ethereal.
The Women Series #4
We often visualize the Virgin Mary as a young mother. She is depicted that way throughout much of art history. But it is the art that depicts Mary at a later age that is most striking to me. Particularly, I am moved by Dieric the Elder's Mater Dolorosa (1480-1500). This canna seemed to hold the same sorrowful, heavy pose. You might know the song Ave Maria from memorial services. It is a song that seems to bring hope to many people. I love hearing it sung by Luciano Pavarotti. While painting this piece, I listened to many variations of Ave Maria. I can still hear the music when I see the painting.
The Women Series #1
Calypso: Fearless Nymphea
This half-sheet painting of a floating lily began an exploration of how portraits of flowers might represent strong feminine heroes from myth, legend and modern literature. Her open posture radiates with bravery like the famous nymph, Calypso, of Homer's Odyssey who offered Odysseus immortality. In myth, Calypso used her seductive beauty powerfully. In reality, this Nymphaea oderata, as it is scientifically named, yields a similar, seductive power to captivate.
The Women Series #15
Everything for My Beloved (Sethe)
Toni Morrison’s novel, Beloved, is a beautiful portrait of a mother’s love. Sethe, the main character, is forced to choose between allowing her children to be taken into the violent world of slavery or to take their lives herself. She endures a harrowing escape from slavery while pregnant to be reunited with her other children. Morrison describes the hesitancy that slaves had about becoming attached to their children. However Sethe, is ruled by her enduring love for her family. She demonstrates the often futile struggle for freedom, safety and closeness to one’s family. The okra plant sustained slaves as it could be easily grown and cooked into stews. It is native to Africa and was brought to the United States by slaves. In many ways, it represents Sethe's love for her family.
The Women Series #12
Willa Cather's most memorable character, Antoniá Shimerda, made a great impact on me as a young adult. She taught me to appreciate the the little things and to always find the joy in tough situations. Antoniá led a difficult pioneer life as if it were a great adventure. She found enjoyment in everything from small bugs to town dances. Antoniá had a wonderful way of being grateful for small kindnesses and for noticing the beauty in things others might find mundane. I really admire Cather's ability to describe the friendship of Antoniá and Jim without injecting romance. The strong sunflower, native to the American prairie seems a fitting flower for Antoniá.
The Women Series #9
The Dread Persephone
The spider lily is a fall blooming flower. In mythology, Persephone was thought to control the seasons in alignment with her annual descent into the underworld. She brought death to all vegetation in the winter and life in the spring when she reemerged. Now that's some serious power! The spider lily is a common funereal flower in some cultures. It is also called the hurricane flower, as it blooms at the peak of hurricane season in the US.. Probably because of its appearance in the fall, it is known as a harbinger of ill events. Like Persephone, it is beautiful and deadly at once.
The Women Series #6
Zora's Janie Mae
Janie Mae Crawford is a vibrant and brave woman who looks adversity straight on and chooses her own path. From Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie is an inspiring character. She sees her girlhood dreams vanish but never gives up on her quest to find beauty and love. She holds tight to hope in miserable and adverse situations. When the opportunity presents itself, she seizes it to move closer to her vision for her life. I'm inspired by Zora Neale Hurston, who wrote this novel in the shadow of her own gender, racial and financial struggle. This dahlia struck me as similar to Janie in the way it shone beautifully on a dreary, cloud covered afternoon.
The Women Series #3
Many people think they know the story of Pandora and her box. But did you know that it was actually a jar from which she unleashed greed, envy, hatred, pain, disease, hunger, poverty, war, and death? And did you know that she wept afterwards? This watercolor of a coral vine feels like the way it may have looked when beautiful Pandora wept over the release of miseries into the world. How unfortunate that in many myths it is the women who bring misery.
The Women Series #14
At first glance, Virginia Woolf's character, Clarissa Dalloway, is not the most likeable woman. In the novel, Mrs. Dalloway, Clarissa is simply an upper-class woman hosting a party. However, Woolf takes the reader deep into Clarissa’s regrets and fears. Even with a past that she would rather re-do, Clarissa comprehends the futility of regret. She plows forward with life with punctual endurance. She is an excellent example of how the strongest women are sometimes the most ordinary. They thrive within their roles and push aside desires that have no use in their lives. These white roses represent her well, not overly dramatic, but filled with life in the moment.
The Women Series #11
The Countess Olenska
The mysterious and beautiful Ellen Olenska had the power to have anything she wanted: wealth, society, and any man she chose. In ‘The Age of Innocence’ Edith Wharton brought to life a character of substance and strength in an age and society of pretention. Her beauty outshone every woman around and her passion for life made her the envy of many. I love her ultimate decision to give up her lover in order to save another woman’s honor and friendship. It was a heartbreaking decision and left her alone in life. This opulent yellow rose represents her many layered character. It also represents her ability to honor friendship instead of a romantic affair.
The Women Series #8
As a teen, I was supposed to read Jane Eyre for a school essay. I picked through the novel reading bits and pieces. Like most kids, I also read the Cliff Notes but not the actual book. As an adult, I couldn't put the book down! Jane is an interesting character and very likable. She is hope-filled, caring and curious. More importantly, Jane doesn't compromise. She sets her will to have a simple, peaceful life and perseveres until it is accomplished. Another endearing thing about Jane is her ability to find beauty in simple things like drawing, reading and conversation. This rose represents her in its mildness and simplicity.
The Women Series #5
I first read Tolstoy's Anna Karenina in 2005. At the time, I interpreted her character as weak because she self-destructed over a man. Upon recently rereading the novel, something new appeared to me about Anna. Tolstoy may not have intended her to be a literal character at all. Instead, she seems more of a symbol for an outdated bourgeois culture. She is the antithesis of the workers in the field, the members of society who toil so that the wealthy may play. Whatever the case, I have painted her here in her extravagant beauty. A velvety black bloom that will surely wilt in summer's heat.
The Women Series #2
"Cleopatra" is a full sheet watercolor painting. Its subject is a canna that is commonly called the "Cleopatra Lily". She stands among a throng of leaves that seem to bow to her majesty. This flower is actually quite tall in real life and gives a queenly vibe. However, it's obvious that the weight of her glorious petals will eventually pull her down in their heaviness, like the famous ruler Cleopatra VII, whose sadness became her death.