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Self in 4 Directions: IC Portrait

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

It me :3

I’ve been taking the astrology-and-self-portrait workshop, Self in 4 Directions from Embodied Astrology, because I’d like to have more photos of myself I love, plus I’m an astrology nerd! The prompt for this image was the “IC” in an astro birth chart, or as it was explained in the workshop, something that compels you from within. For me that’s my childhood backyard!

I grew up in Parkland, Florida in the 90's, when that area was dominated by pine flatwoods. Our yard was mostly pine trees and saw palmettos, and rich in biodiversity. Each summer the pollen from the trees would coat everything yellow, cicadas would hum, and large pinecones were something to be avoided with bare feet. My siblings and I spent our time making potions out of wild plants, climbing the large banyan tree (before it blew over in a hurricane), catching tadpoles in the ditch out back, and groaning when we had to trim and remove the dead palm fronds. My favorite place in the yard was the back corner that had been left totally wild. Woody plants crowded between the palms and the pines, concealing box turtles, rabbits and foxes. In a cleared area covered in sand and pine needles was our fire pit. We would sit around the fire on cool winter days on logs and homemade rickety stools.

I was very attached to the nature in the yard, but every so often I would come home from school to find that my parents had removed another random patch of saw palmettos. It was always a surprise and I was always upset and vocal about it. Looking back, it was more than just grief for the loss of the plants, but a fear that I wasn't being heard or could not be understood. In general I was a very shy child and my voice very quiet. My imagination and creativity was both a skill I enjoyed and a way I escaped from uncomfortable circumstances. Most often I'd either fail to speak up, or resort to over-explaining. When I encountered someone who either couldn't understand me or didn't want to, I took that as a personal failing and would try harder rather than let it lie. I don't know how much of my upbringing or biology was to blame (probably a little of both).

For my fellow astrology nerds, the birth chart placement I'm looking at while I tell this story is the IC conjunct the wounded Chiron in the nostalgic and sensitive sign of Cancer (in the 3rd house, circled in green).

I loved the symbolism of the IC being something that moves you toward your MC, or your conscious, outward, visible expression or societal contribution. I feel like this particular childhood experience certainly moved me toward what I do now. After graduating with my degree in painting I wondered what I'd like to do as a professional. I asked myself "what feels deeply important" and the memory of my childhood backyard came up. The big feelings I had around the removal of these plants mirrored the fast-paced environmental destruction in the larger South Florida region. My struggle to convince my parents to protect the yard turned into a quest to convince the region to protect local habitats and species.

This is the original photo I took of myself in front of that once wild corner, with an image of a similar habitat for reference.

In my art practice I again experienced a struggle to feel heard and understood, especially at the beginning. Visual art is inherently very "quiet", so I was already working with a challenging medium in that regard. My early heart-felt laments for the decline of species, in pieces such as Family Portraits (featuring bird portraits in frames, some blotted out) and Erased Drawings (a performance involving the erasing of animal drawings to reveal empty silhouettes) felt like shouting into a void. Part of this was probably due to the fact that I was an emerging artist, but I thought it meant primarily that my delivery was flawed. Subsequent experiments, like the monthly Pine Rockland Zine (a tiny magazine), seemed to reach a wider audience, but still felt very quiet to me. I also quickly burnt out trying to be both artist, writer and editor (in a similar way that I experience burn out when I'm trying to over-explain myself to someone).

I've really enjoyed thinking about my life and career through this psychological lens, using the language of astrology. It's helped me to make greater sense and meaning out of this aspect of myself, and continue to explore it. My current hypothesis as to why this feeling of being "unheard" keeps cropping up is that sometimes it's due to subconscious limiting beliefs, other times it really is due to delivery, and yet other times it's from seeking understanding from people who just can't or who aren't interested.

Despite the quietness of my chosen medium, my work certainly does seem to it's own way. Maybe it's partially due to my evergreen longing to "be heard" leading to my continued advocacy for it. Maybe it's due to some inherent property of art. But the times when my work has seemed the loudest is when I'm collaborating with people and groups, on things like trail signs, field guides or other educational materials. Those have felt like "greater than the sum of it's parts" experiences, and I've enjoyed focusing my energy solely on the painting aspect, which is what I feel like I do best anyways. (I might explore this in a future post)

Some of the paintings used in the creation of this piece!:

Check out the other angle portraits from this series:

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