Be shameless too!
Maybe you’d notice: my work is an ode to the biggest area of shame in our culture yet. At first, I didn’t dare mention it. In 1999 I’d started my new series on ‘floral wildlifes’. My question then was: Would it be possible to make erotic photographs with flowers? My work is an ode to the female sex. Those having a ‘dirty mind’ can easily detect this: enormously attractive and suckingly beautiful vaginas. But, of course, it may not be that at all. As to innocent children, not unlike me often, they are realities, landscapes to loose yourself in, to boat around on. It’s also possible to see holy shrines, churches or a mother’s womb. To get comforted in. What is it that gets covered by so many labia and pubic hair? Our deepest vulnerability is our strongest life force at the same time. The first work of my series of floral wildlifes got named ‘Gaia’ (2009). It’s on my website after a few clicks. I was told once to be a temptress, shame on me!
On the landing at the top of the stairs my father had hung a framed calligraphic quote: ‘Honi soit qui mal y pense’ (‘Shame on anyone who thinks evil of it’). I understood this to be his life’s motto. According to our daughter Lola Bezemer, an artist must be shameless at all times. She wrote this down in her artistic manifesto.
And yet ..... there are so many things I am ashamed of. Things I wouldn’t dare to describe here. Often they have to do with sexuality and reliance, with not be taken seriously, not being seen and with not daring to ask for it. Hey, look at me! Give me some attention! I matter too! I’m not just an artist and am human after all, feeling pathetic and weak sometimes, like withered flowers.
Questioning myself on what I’m ashamed of, I wrote down a complete list, realising I outgrew shame of a great number of those things. I’m not ashamed of them anymore. I could even feel embarrassed by my urge to beautify the world with my works. No more! Getting older diminishes feeling ashamed. I soften and that is so liberating.
Writing and talking about shame is helpful to me too. In psychoanalysis all your thoughts and feelings about being ashamed can be released, but also writing these words here, makes me feel quite relieved already. And I have to admit: next to shame comes pride. Proud of the many wonders that originated from my shame. That’s why I can salute you wholeheartedly and invite you to mail me your stories on having moved beyond shame. Or not. It’s up to you.
Margriet Smulders (email@example.com, www.margrietsmulders.nl)