Gail Martin; drawings and paintings
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Superwoman Transcendent

Superwoman Transcendent
2009 Acrylic
48" x 24"

"The Liberation of Superwoman"

"This series began with a drawing that I call "don't stop kicking". During a difficult period I set out to create an intuitive image of my interior state. A tortured semi-nude woman, blindfolded and partially bound, with extra digits and one swim-flipper struggles in a dark watery place with sharks circling her head and what seems to be Captain America's shield covering her abdomen as part of her binding. Huh.

It seemed there was something there worth investigating. As I began to envision this series, my first working title was "Psycho-Drama-Queen". But as I started to work the title kept changing. First to "The Death of Superwoman", but I found I didn't really want to murder her. Then, to "The Demise of Superwoman", but I realized that even 'demise' was too strong. Finally, "The Liberation of Superwoman" became the title that stuck.

I seem to have a core belief that there is something wrong with me. I doubt that I'm alone in this. It's not the whole picture, but a nagging part of me is just never satisfied. Whatever I do or accomplish is never quite enough for her, never quite good enough. If one person raises an objection, makes a criticism or simply fails to respond in the way I had hoped, doubt can arise. Is this (am I) good enough? Can I be something, someone better? What am I missing? How can I get it? Do I work hard enough? Am I too distracted from the single-minded pursuit of excellence in one area? The questions itch and proliferate, keeping me in constant pursuit of some ineffable something.

Questions like these are ultimately unanswerable and irrelevant, however the habit of constantly measuring my self is deeply embedded and difficult to ignore. It can steal the joy from my work and deaden my life. When I imagine freeing my self of this part of me, I'm not denigrating competence, strength or the satisfaction of achievement. She has strength and will, and when it is actually useful, self-reflection is the better side of her nature. But imagine the liberation that would ensue if I could learn to relinquish the habit of self-judgment and comparison let go of the insidious and often unconscious expectation that I should always be "better" than I am - that I should be able to fulfill not only all of my expectations and hopes, but everyone else's as well, and that anything less is failure! Who can? Who could? Only a superwoman.

And so I came to see that this superwoman must be taken care of. In Buddhist thought, everything in the material world consists of combinations of the 4 elements: earth, air, fire and water. To liberate her thoroughly, I began this series of drawings using myself as the figure model. The settings in the drawings continue the use of my home as a metaphor for self, which I began to explore over a decade ago. As this current series progressed, I was surprised to find that the drawings were sort of funny. Maybe just my odd sense of humor, but there is lightness in them - perhaps a glimpse of the lightness of liberation.

To conclude the series, I wanted to express direction: east/west, up/down, inner/outer but how? The question resolved as I was walking in the beautiful Olmstead-designed Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge one day. I was struck by the proximity of two features. On the highest hill in this park-like setting, a stone tower juts into the sky. You can climb it and see for miles. Less than 100 yards away is an area called the Dell, a wooded depression sunk deep in leafy shade with a small pond at its bottom. It struck me that I could hardly find two features that better symbolized the archetypical masculine and feminine, and the aspects of the sacred that Ken Wilber has referred to as the transcendent and the immanent. These were the dichotomies I wanted to contemplate the ones that felt capable of continuing the journey of my dear and troublesome superwoman toward freedom."