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Strayed: Help Yourself First

Nest TattooTattoo EmbroideryHouse Dress DeathMandatory MotherhoodHelp Yourself FirstBindEve RedeemedSalmon Swim

For the past two years I worked to complete my MFA in Illustration at the University of Hartford, CT. For the final show I created these eight paintings.
The theme was inspired by the social conditionings that shape us as humans, and by the tattoos as permanent markings on our skin.

This thesis idea stemmed directly from two projects I worked on previously.   The first project began as I became fascinated with tattoos and started to draw portraits of people with tattoos about six years ago.  I was captivated with the idea that one can design an image and wrap it around the body like a three-dimensional canvas. The second influential project was the Dream Project that we developed sketches for during our first session at the University of Hartford MFA program.  My ideas revolved around the issues of women’s social conditioning and how it affects their lives.

Having had endless conversations on personal topics with women I met in my life, I can see that certain social issues women are battling with are largely universal.  There is tremendous pressure from society on women to have babies first before even considering a career path and establishing themselves in the workforce.  A pre-defined career path is to be a homemaker, a housewife.  This is widely considered to be a labor of love, without direct compensation, or respect from the society.  There is also pressure from family members to place the needs of others first and to take care of those to the detriment of oneself.  There is a certain stigma attached to women who are too ambitious, or who want to build a career instead of having a family.

Such social conditioning, as I see it, is a permanent mark on women’s behavior, psyche, and decisions.  Tattoos are permanent markings on the skin, and in this permanence, they are related to social conditioning.  In my series of paintings, tattoos are a physical manifestation of the women’s programming.

With this series of paintings, I hope to bring attention to how social expectations of family, religious institutions, and society create conditioning, which influences women’s lives. I want to increase this awareness among women in hopes that it may help them think and make decisions independently, especially to take care of themselves first.  An occasional good laugh at ourselves is a welcome bonus, too.