Women’s month was a welcoming no holds barred display of the power of women right now. And yet, I remain haunted by one particular lady who departed a long time ago. Not just because she was a spiritualist and channeled her art, she also stipulated it be shown twenty years after her death because “men didn’t take women artists seriously” and they “wouldn’t understand it.”
(The exhibit is Paintings for The Future by Hilma af Klint and is at the Guggenheim until April 23rd. It has happened 50 years after her death in 1944.)
Hilma wasn’t a delusional freak, she was right. At the time, it was unimaginable that a woman could be a groundbreaking artist, but she proved to be ahead of Kandinsky and Mondrian, starting to paint in 1907. Turns out there was a woman doing modern art before any else and kept it hidden. Hilma instinctually knew the importance of her work, regardless of the recognition it would bring, and valued the intimate relationship with her creative force, above all.
Today, the world is a bragging-rights free for all. Women, especially, prop themselves up with everything they can—singular looks, clever ways by which to live and seemingly unforeseen thought bubbles that must be shared immediately should they combust. It means delivering our secrets in bite size form, fast-tracking what motivates us, and touting our self-worth as more valuable than guarding our privacy. Our public worthy persona needs time to incubate, why should we constantly be exposing ourselves with inner world porn?
I am not above this social media frenzy. I pucker up and plan, eschewing my purpose in well thought out messages any chance I get. Otherwise, god forbid, I may disappear! I dance with the anxiety that nobody is watching in spite of just reading a meme about dancing like nobody is watching. The pressure is killing me. So much so that I am no longer flowing with the music but hearing the tick-tock of my last post as it fades.
In spite of it being imperative to be seen (as the creator of marketing videos I am well aware that this is the new paradigm) the real work is still being done by women behind the scenes. It has always been this way: covert, selfless and “soft” undertakings like water slowly eroding rocks, relentless and infinitely powerful.
The women featured in the stories I directed for EBY (Empowered by You) for their women’s month social media campaign, for example, know all about working nose down and unseen. Founded by Sofía Vergara and Renata Black, EBY gives 10% of the profits from their “panties with a purpose” to providing microloans for women across the world. Recipients like Blanca, Shirley and Odette give us an unassuming snapshot of what it means to be resilient in the face of poverty and hardships like life-threatening domestic violence. They have no time to ponder, gloat nor figure out how to promote the wisdom they have accrued along the way to becoming whole. They now stand on their own two feet. They have saved their kids and their community. Their hearts are full by knowing how far they’ve come. And God, she’s watching! Isn’t that enough?
It is not a matter of feeling ashamed at my first world problems. Though it does seem trite to compare myself with my seemingly thriving sisters on Instagram while I panic, well fed in my pajamas, as to what to say next. What grounds me is to work on developing a clear vision for my limited time on this planet, and not be blind-sighted by flash in the pan thinking. I need time to map out a true legacy for myself, and not shoot from the hip from a place of vanity fueled by triumphalism. I simply don’t want to put a hashtag on it. I want to stash away some of my divine inspiration only to be revealed in the future (even if it is just for me!) a la Hilma af Klint. If that means talking to myself secretly in tongues while the unstoppable discourse of social media churns into the future without me, so be it.