|I was walking through the jardin, gazing up in admiration at the Parroquia, when I looked down and the image in this painting stopped me in my tracks. There, on the stones before my feet was a perfect lace-circlet of shadows cast by the freshly sculpted trees. I snapped photos, promising to find the right painting to showcase this San Miguel secret.
At the time I was working on my Ladies of the Night exhibition, inspired by the history of San Miguel de Allende’s Casa de la Noche BnB. It was once a high-class establishment until public houses of prositution were made illegal in 1961.
I found Antonia’s picture among the aged photographs of the girls, class of 1936, which hang in the entranceway to Casa de la Noche. The photos were taken from the girls’ health certifications, which licensed them to work. Although she looked almost flirtatious in her photograph, my initial painting of her came out steaming, oversaturated with red…she looked angry.
I paint with a series of layers to build up depth of color and it was time for the next glaze to change the tone. Still, I felt she needed something deeper than a glaze of naples yellow.
Looking into the eyes I was painting, I sensed her energy coming across the canvas in waves of enmity. Touching fingertips to the canvas, I sensed the same fury that would be seen in the eyes of a jaguar in a zoo. She had also been caged, trapped her situation. Intuition told me that this woman had yearned for nature, that she resented cities and their trappings for failing her, for letting her fall through the cracks to end up where she was.
I love to create stories through my portraiture through collaging images that speak to the life of the subject. I chose to place Antonia’s image over the hills of the high desert visible from Umaran street, a bar dotted street she would have been sure to walk down on her way through the jardin.
Perhaps my story of Antonia is simply a conglomeration of my own feelings after researching the lives of women like her world over. But whether it was a whisper from the painting itself or inspiration from within, I knew that the laced leaves from the Parroquia’s trees were for her, like an olive branch offered in peace.