Defying Demons

DefyingDemonsMarch,1995
Acrylics on paper
24”x16”

I dance on the chair in reaction to my growing up culture and in service of community – tribe really, though I didn’t realize about the tribe part then.

The third painting of my painting rebirth, this was the first done at home on my own. It was also the first where the circle of dancers shows up – a way to symbolize community. I have always loved that dancing image – here around the fire, later around the Maypole and in the womb (Going Inside), finally on its own (Circle Dance). My longing for a sense of active community has long (always?) been a driving force in my life’s work.

But I didn’t start with that. I started out to explore the “demon” who had already appeared once before and who was to continue to be a mystery to me for some time. It’s hard now to see that figure on the left as a mystery. It is so inimitably Tom – drumming, fanciful, oddly costumed. He is so the Gemini Heyoka or Zia Clown of Native American cultures. Coyote – the one who does things backwards or upside down on purpose to shake things up and so that we can see things differently. Me included. Why did I think he wouldn’t want to play with me as I shook off my bra and high heeled shoes, the trappings of culture? He does it so marvelously and did it long before I did. But somehow then I disguised him even to myself and it was a long year – documented in some of these paintings – before I was sure we were doing it together. Dancing to a different drummer. Living out loud.

Over time I finally learned that the demons are society’s rules, my family’s rules – my fear of not being a Good Girl. Yet, I still must go back to this over and over. Inching my way forward to my true Self.

Journal 3/4/95: On Wednesday night making love with Tom I suddenly had the flash that the demon was my fear of losing self-control. That old demon noticed during childbirth. I always hear my midwife’s voice asking what I have to lose? With Tom the notion came as I struggled with my/our usual problem of letting go in love. My elusive search for dependable orgasm – especially with a partner. I do much better on my own – i.e. when I’m in control.

What do I have to lose? Who would care? What would I look like?

My brain prattles: “Society minds what I look like, what I do, what I say, how I fit in. I don’t have to conform (I was raised to scorn conforming), but I do have to fit in. I do need to be acceptable – different, creative, leader – ahead of – but still acceptable.” Approved of somehow.

But what if I let go??

3/18/95: A fire (volcano?) blooms next to the genie who insisted on beating a drum with his non-hands. A tall drum that could also be his body. He looks very stiff – quite confused about his role. Caretaker? Wild Man? Why is he so scary to me???

Then tra la! A naked me dancing on the chair – first standing on the back and then kind of hovering just behind the bars of the chair. She’s very pink and luminous. Full belly and breasts. Arms outstretched. Menstrual gash and blood dripping down. The drops in the ground sprouted vines which climbed up one leg of the chair. A rather out of order (uncontrolled) moon cycle. So she’s left her hypervigilance aside and is dancing with abandon. Down below I painted a tiny white glove (Sunday School), a bra with a pink bow, a bridal veil (which I never had), red high heel shoes (I love red shoes but I don’t even need them to dance naked in the moonlight!) and a pile of clothes.

10/95: I still love this painting. It felt glorious to do it – my first on my own without the group and one where I felt like I really declared my rebellion and emerging wildness.

He looks like a genie coming out of the orange teapot. If he is saying “don’t be wild,” then why is he drumming and looking so weird himself? When I showed these paintings formally during the summer I began to laugh at him a bit – who is he to worry about me being weird? And I began to get in touch with the possibility that at least one of his manifestations was as Tom – worrying husband. Would this painting thing get out of hand? Would Lane dance off away from him? Would I get too far out, usurping his role as the slightly weird/wild one? If I was going to flaunt my menstrual blood the way he flaunted his burps and farts, what would everyone think?! His safety net would be gone.

This demon showed up in several more paintings during that spring, but I think getting in touch with him as Tom began to lessen his impact and I don’t think he’s been around for a while. And indeed, Tom began to take more of an active role in changes for himself and a good deal of the rest of the journey has been in tandem.

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