le batard

I laid on the floor in my Ayurvedic practitioner’s office as she instructed me to breathe deep into my abdomen. “It’s like you’ve been punched in the gut, you’ve lost your breath.” Tears, inability to breathe deep and her instructions to feel the Earth supporting me. It began here four long years ago, this journey to self-preservation. I had just graduated college, moved back to Michigan from Seattle for an internship at a well known ad agency, and I had ended a seven year relationship diving into the next one with someone who wanted me to remain a…. secret. I lost my breath. I lost my grip. There wasn’t any traction. Dramatic? Yes. It was all drama. I needed help.

I remember that day I stopped and then the day I started again. Stopped having clarity. Started having my artistic visions again. I had become clouded. Overwhelmed. I reached out to Molly Beauregard, my former teacher from the College for Creative Studies (CCS), as a touchstone to who I used to be. Where had I gone?

Molly was in the process of incorporating TM Meditation into the curriculum at CCS. I was starting yoga. Between the gift of learning TM and the meditation at the end of yoga, Savassana, my visions started coming back to me. It started when I reconnected to my body again in the quiet, silent beautiful space within.  I remember my first vision… it was of myself from above, glowing white. Body parts, white. Beautiful. Me. I wanted to paint it. Compositions and yoga poses. Quiet. A glowing body of work came to me.

It was a process – took me a year of meditation, before I could make art again. During this year I was having something of a creative orgasm…yet couldn’t quite make anything. Long story short, I would like to tell of this opening up to amazing possibilities within. I start with the conclusion of a rebirth.

La Batarde, an olive branch tattoo, and resolution…

 

It is so odd that an image where it all began closed the visual circle for me. While attending the University of Washington in 2005, I saw this book in a used bookstore. The image grabbed me. A woman’s beautiful back, sitting upright, perfect. “La Batarde” across her back. The phrase struck me. Beautiful, in French so it was digestible. I was a bastard, an illegitimate child, myself. Abandoned. This started me down a path where I explored how this truly, truly affected me in society, in solitude, and also in my identity.

 

 

One December evening I was driving home from work and I had an arresting vision to resolve this sculpture I could not resolve for five years. La Batarde, a self-portrait soapstone that drips forward, over the edge, off kilter and twisting itself down and then back up.

I drilled the heck out of the back creating voids, holes that had infected bulbous masses surrounding each delicate opening. It’s how I felt. No pedestal was appropriate. My teacher argued about the appropriate spaciousness of said pedestal. Pedestal pedestal pedestal. I drilled a hole in the base and glued in a piece of metal awaiting the prefect pedestal. Furniture began having holes and I would pace back and forth looking at it. In awe of how it even stood up. I was transfixed by this piece. It seemed appropriate to place it at head level, hanging. But from where?

I carried this thing around on my back all over – in airports here and there working and working yet not able to make it “done”. It fit perfectly into the curve of my lower spine. Had it been any other shape, coincidentally, it would have been beyond painful to carry as I trudged my luggage in one hand and cat carrier in the other through security. Airports. The places it’s been, always fitting into nooks and curves of my body. I worked on it with my mentor at a master-carving workshop. She placed her hands on it and smiled at me… (you can do it). My friend had it for months facing East in the morning sun in her meditation room, and the emeralds she purchased just for this piece were placed in the holes. Air plants were ordered and planted in those holes. Her cat graced it. Heal this piece! Bedside tables as a pedestal. Good God! Nothing was right. I had become the pedestal of this self-portrait that was twisted up and falling over. And nothing was going to resolve it. Except me. But I could not do it.

The Olive Branch is something I’ve carried with me since childhood. I remember a bible story about a bird bringing the olive branch to those on the arc signifying dry land. Hope.

It also signifies that inner voice I’ve always had. It’s in each of us. I need to listen more carefully to it, and no longer find so much influence from the outside world. It can knock you down, if you don’t have a proper foundation. All that noise.

When I realized that I needed to forgive myself, and others, and that I could choose happiness when I looked through the eyes of my compassionate self I found beauty in the breakdown. What once terrified me needed healing. Pain and abandonment needed healing. I found the tattoo I had been seeking, the one thing I wanted to see every day for the rest of my life. An Olive Branch stemming from my brain. This isn’t just decoration to me. I carry myself, by the grace of those who have lifted me. They want me to, anyways.

A year of meditation. Yoga, trusting. Going to my edge. Falling. Getting back up.  Bubbling up from just beneath the surface I manifested too much pain. It was time for grace.

Carrying around a stone for five years on my back. The resolution of this piece is the photography, the arresting image that came to me as I drove home one evening. Just. Like. That. In one second. I even envisioned the redness of my skin set against white snow. I saw it perfectly, called a friend set up the shoot and at 4 am on the morning of the shoot, strung up those holes with my leather shoelaces and carried it on my back with kickboxing wraps. Two locations. The Russell Industrial where I carved it in the first place and started to fall over… and the woods in Ortonville, Michigan where I grew up. It’s all in the way we do things, our intentions. It seems crazy, or elaborate, but in ritual we can find transformation. Seeking sacredness, even in the rubble.

La Batarde is now in a gallery in Detroit. My first show. And I’ve decided to put it up for sale. It’s time to let this piece go. Though it may come back to me. The curator placed it hanging from the ceiling upside-down. I had never imagined it upside-down. How perfect. And the metal for the nonexistent pedestal is painted yellow. To take it out would break the piece.

La Batarde. Olive Branch. Self. What a journey. And these were just words.

 

 

Taressa Owens
Student, College for Creative Studies
Detroit, MI