The palette sat on the table, its many children crawling to play with each other. I dip my brush into the palette, squidge it into the deepest shade of blue until the bristles get covered in blue up to their belly. Moving my stool closer to the canvas, I raised my hand and drew a line across the canvas with my brush. Strokes of blue were drawn until the whites of the paper ceased from my vision.
I got up and took a few steps back to look at what my hands did. Frustration seeped through every ounce of me.I’ve sat every night in my balcony for 4 months trying to capture everything the night sky gave us. My hands worked meticulously on par with my eyes. I knew all the colours were right, I painted everything my eyes could find and I still managed to ruin my painting.
Mama and Papa say I’m very critical of myself. They say my paintings are exquisite and that I should be more appreciative of what I do. Even Miguel, who’s constantly pulling my leg said my paintings were the only thing that I’ve ever done right in my entire life. And yet, I wasn’t content. I wanted more than what was in front of my eyes. Though I didn’t know what I wanted, I knew this wasn’t it.
I take a look around my room, filled with paintings and portraits that didn’t speak to me. The marriage of colours was beautiful, sure, but they sat there as colours unmoving, unbothered, and unexpressive. I managed to shift my eyes from the array of artwork on the floor. I looked around my cluttered room. It reeked of paints and barring my bed, the whole room was filled with torn canvas sheets and paints and brushes and broken wood of my previous easel.
My room has been this way since I started painting, now making me wonder if my room has something to do with my painting. They say a clean workspace works wonders, so that’s possibly why my paintings have been going wrong. I made a mental note to clean my room the next day. I made my way to my bed, trying not to stand on the wood and the brushes. As I lay down on the bed, weariness did its job the moment my head hit the covers of my pillow. My eyes drooped, forcing me to fall asleep. But not before they caught the flame of the candle on the table- flickering, distorted and off, not before I bizarrely thought that flame mirrored the dreams of a young girl I knew. And with that final thought, I got sucked into oblivion.
The sun shone down on us as we walked through the market. I was surrounded by hawkers yelling out prices, the ground below me reflecting the many hues of the umbrellas over their heads. We walked from stall to stall, catching the whiff of mangoes and apples, bargaining with the peddlers, and sneaking a bite of apples from the bag without Miguel noticing. We walked around the market like we owned it, we made up stories about the people in the market, Miguel made fun of the way few of the vegetables were shaped but forewarned me to not tell mama about it.
Stepping out of the house really did my mind some good. Papa forced me out of the house to take a break from the mess I’ve gotten myself into. Coming to the market was mine and Miguel’s favourite affair. As a little girl, we raced straight to the market every day after school, met Uncle Juan who ran the local enchilada stand, and ate till our tummies could take no more. After we were done, we walked a long walk home, indulging each other in our conversations. Our exchanges were varied. Right from talking about our day, to Marx’s philosophies, we conversed about everything under the sun.
As doltish as Miguel was, he sure did know a lot about the political ideologies of our time. And as nonchalant as I acted, I looked forward to this particular time of the day, because I was intrigued by them. And not only was I interested, but I also knew artists of our time that sketched from the aggression and the passion they got out from these ideologies. I fancied being one of them.
I ripped the page off the canvas for the third time tonight. Out of a part of my mind, I envisaged and drew a painting of workers in a factory, being forced to work. I tried to bring capitalism to life in my paintings the way the others did. As hard as I tried, this wasn’t working too. Recreating the beauty of the world around me didn’t, and neither did the agony of my fellow beings. Mama’s words about my marriage were continuously being played in my head like a broken record, so I picked up a pencil and furiously started scribbling on my paper.
The riots out there on the street declared an unceasing curfew. I sat in my room with only my thoughts giving me company. The Market called out to me, tempting me to step out of my house. I thought of the girl who spent her evenings with her brother and her uncle, gobbling on their enchiladas, joking about life, and simply pouring out each other’s selves. I wouldn’t hesitate in saying that they along with mama and papa made me be the person I am today, they shaped me and made me whole. And with a jolt in my heart, I realized that this was what went amiss in my paintings. A piece of myself.
I walked through the gallery, hand in hand with my husband responding to people’s remarks about my paintings. I laughed with them and listened to them muse over my paintings. They talked highly about them. I heard a girl say she hadn’t seen anything so raw, yet so tender in any other painting. As humbled as I was taking in their lauding, I couldn’t help but think about a little girl from Iztacalco. Playing with the game of life, she strived for perfection. And that young girl discerned that her hands had nothing to do with her art, but her heart did.
Inspired by the movie ‘Frida’.