I have arrived at a point where I have learned the need to unlearn. Unlearning Western tropes of what it means to be; i. to be beautiful, ii. to be a woman, and iii. to be an artist. Western pop culture and its tropes have infiltrated my subconscious my entire life, regardless of the fact that I have only ever lived in the Middle East and Asia before moving to America 3 years ago. It put me at constant war with myself, mentally and physically, to uproot anything and everything to conform. My identity is entrenched by Western definitions of beauty, womanhood, and what it means to be an artist. There is a thin veil between these 3 narratives, yet they are distinct.
My current body of work done in acrylic focuses specifically on perspectives surrounding body hair, or lack thereof. I observed the minutiae of my learned habits and thought patterns and made drawings and paintings in an attempt to unlearn. This work fits aptly under the title- A Balancing Act. It speaks to the curious dichotomy between the hair on my body that I nurture, nourish, and comb versus those I pluck, thread, and wax. So deeply ingrained is this duality that I don’t even stop to question the conflicting actions– one of tenderness, the other of eradication, of the same hair growing on the same body. It feels surgical, the treatment of the hair that I uproot. Unlearning hasn’t meant a reversal of action. Instead, the gaze with which I examine my hair has softened, even towards the hairs I consider deplorable that grow on my legs or upper lip.
I haven’t stopped these acts as a form of protest. Instead, I present a matter-of-fact narrative that reflects these daily actions in an attempt to unveil these acts otherwise muffled into secrecy. It is only through the act of painting, not merely looking at someone else’s creation, that I can genuinely unlearn.
And there is so much unlearning to be done.