The Helping Hands
The foundation of this work was built through the process of bonding. The bond that we have together is not only because we share common experiences but because of how we care for one another and the solidarity that we show. We are not afraid to share our truths with one another and it keeps me safe. Black women have raised me through their words of wisdom and had held me through my happiest and worst moments in life. This circle of love that we share keeps us going and with those women I know that I don’t have to fear abandonment because I trust that they will hold me.
by Monica Blain
In conversation with Monica Blain pertaining to The Women That Raise Us:
The Women that Raise Us aims to exemplify the variations of women that raise and influence us, directly and indirectly, acknowledging every connection, whether ancestral or distant. Who are the women that have shaped you or raised you? Who are the women that continue to do so?
Directly, my mother and my sister were the ones influencing me. My mother always taught me to not be defeated when events in life were getting rough because there was always a lesson to learn from that. My sister taught me compassion and caring, she was the one who could understand me without putting judgment. But there's one writer that I was able to identify with in terms of experience and it was Bell Hooks. Reading her books I could actually find someone who was vocal about how she felt in being in similar situations that I was in. She was able
to provide me insight on how I could approach certain aspects of my life and be assertive about it. They’re still impacting me very much.
In what ways can we release the stereotypical negative perspectives and ideas of women of color and their roles? How can we transcend these constructs and deepen the interpersonal/intrapersonal relationships with women of color?
It is important to question why we are believing these stereotypes, even within our own community there's a lot of ignorance projected toward black women and we keep feeding them. We can start by actually listening intently to what they have to say and practice compassion. We have to be aware of our own thinking and how it's affecting us and those surrounding us.
"We have to be aware of our own thinking and how it's affecting us and those surrounding us."
Do you consider "negative" and "positive" relationships and experiences with women as a contribution to your growth? Do you consider friends, inspirations, fallen relationships or even the everyday encounters as a contribution to your current self?
I used to find myself being held by the fear of being abandoned every time a relationship ended with a friend. This is mainly because my environment was never stable and I'm often emotionally detached. I have realized that if I'm not putting the effort to face it, it's going to take time for me to move forward with being emotionally available to my surroundings. I've learned that the friends who had set their true intentions with building something with me, were allowing me to remind me that it was okay to be available to myself and that I could create my own stability. I have learned that if it is reciprocated, I can find safety.
What are your thoughts on women of color being hyper-visible yet invisible in society and/or within their own communities?
This same hyper-visibility and invisibility are always putting us in a constant state of reaffirming ourselves and our safety. It is this invisibility that pushes the society or the community to talk over us and disrespect us. It's brought up to the daylight and everybody is still participating in dehumanizing us. How long can we keep staying on our guard? I see this as if we always have to catch our breath, the exhaustion of not being able to rest because of the amount of emotional and physical labour that's always being put upon us. We are being excluded from a conversation that's talking about us because our feelings are being invalidated and not heard with intentions. We're being seen by people of who want to stay blind to the system that continues to support racist practices towards us. That is why we have to be twice as hard and assertive when we approach those issues that are controlling our narratives. Let's not forget the struggle attached to being both a woman and black.
Where were you mentally, physically, emotionally, when the piece was created?
Each piece carries their own emotions. The helping hands represent the feeling of being held and not fearing of being abandon. Knowing safety when you're in the arms of those who feel like home. Being able to rely on who feel familiar and unfamiliar because of the shared experiences. Believing also that there's no loneliness when you're surrounded by those who understand you. I was intentional with myself and with why I was creating. Very vulnerable, I let my guard down because I was feeling safe knowing who I was putting on my canvas. My body was heavy with emotions but they were the right emotions that I needed to feel to create.
Monica Blain is a designer and a visual artist based in Montreal. Her work is rooted in the conception of identity, the ideas of time and space and feminine exploration. Her means to create is through storytelling. In her work, she uses a lot of shapes to embody emotions and the colours she used to have a direct impact on how she moves in her art. With this position, she hopes to spark a dialogue on how we can create our own ways to liberate ourselves in our art.
Sentiments: I would love to think that my work is a canvas that I paint for growing but also to open a door to the things unsaid. I hope that my work can help people find safety.