I began this painting as a comment on how family culture can turn us into a reflection having no connection to who we are. The original title was, “You Can’t Turn Me Into a Perfect Little Lady”. I was thinking of my years in Memphis, Tn. where I regularly saw Cotillion Schools churning out perfect Southern belles.
Halfway through this painting, I realized my inspiration was the denial in my family. That’s when the title became, It’s Not as Perfect as You Pretend.
My mother was the mistress of outward perfection. She presented herself as a carefree and joyful woman living in a beautifully designed and spotless home. Her best performance was Christmas. Presents so beautifully wrapped that it seemed criminal to open them. The tree a work of art. Lights balanced, beautiful ornaments and one tinsel at a time on each branch. One year my sister and I had an argument under the tree. We disagreed on how to water it. Consequently, the tree crashed to the floor. We both thought this was hilarious. For a few seconds the facade was disrupted.
There is a lot of symbolic imagery in this painting. The young girl has been groomed to have a lovely tea party, yet she is the picture of rebellion. Her party dress is not quite pink, but streaked with black, her hat is pulled over her eyes, her hair is dyed black, blue and purple. The perfect tea party is a mess. The tea set misshapen and mismatched in color, the cupcakes in black holders and decorated with dirty looking frosting,the vase holds black flowers. Just like the birds, the girl is leaving the scene to redefine who she is.
PS. I dearly loved my mother. She was an eat, drink and be merry person. Years later, I realized that she was a complicated and often flawed person. Aren’t we all?