Performance Art: The Crown Cycle
This piece titled The Crown Cycle was completed during the week that contained summer solstice, transition to Cancer season, Capricorn full moon. The energy is full of considerations of the masculine, feminine, emotions and permission to express, connections to patriarchy, the old identity structure that makes a woman’s identity only visible through a male’s gaze—his terms, his shapes, his boundaries.
This piece addresses my desire to redraw boundaries between for feminine energy. Often, those boundaries are drawn through what isn’t able to be expressed. We exist in constricted shapes created by heavy emotional burden. I need a ritual to honor the cycle of a woman’s experience—as a child full of vivaciousness, a woman full of vitality, a crone full of wisdom—in it’s pure unadulterated state.
As a young girl, I spent hours planning what I would wear. Time was forever and planning outfits was the most important thing because I wanted to make sure to express who I was through the way I dressed. My mom drew pictures of my clothes on small cards so I could have an inventory. She was incredibly creative and had a talent for art and drawing. This is a cherished memory of mother-daughter bonding. But vivaciousness turned into internal turmoil. There painful memories reflect that the household in I grew up in was unstable. I didn’t receive the emotional nurture I needed. My dad implied her problems were all in her head. She was never really seen by her husband, my dad.
I’m named after my maternal grandmother Anastasia. I seen pictures of her from her early twenties, wearing fashionable clothing and hanging out in Branch Brook Park in Newark and posing in photo shoots at a studio on Newark Avenue in Jersey City. With those images, I conjure up a zest-filled woman. These are cherished imaginations. But my mom didn’t know her mom like that. The vitality of womanhood was snuffed into depression–my mom remembers her as a fearful woman who wouldn’t leave the house. Anastasia lived in the shadow of my grandfather’s mercurial moods and bursts of rage. It was best not to be seen. She grew old, never learning to drive and being allowed to manage her money. The potential for wisdom from a life well-lived became a subtle bitterness.
Anastasia died in her early 60s; my mom was mid thirties. I was 7. Child, woman, crone.
When do we change from the carefree child to women with too much burden? When does my grandmother’s problem not be my mom’s problem, and when does my mom’s problem not be mine? We pass them along to each other in body and mind. The crone came to the woman and the child before her time.
When I was in my mid thirties, I recognized a pattern. I dated men from hetero culture who had expectations of who I was supposed to be. The inability to express myself, or, the lack of permission that they set up, was a huge burden to me. So, I set up strong boundaries. I ended or didn’t pursue relationships based on what I needed to feel seen and be expressive. I found myself more often single than in partnership. It was the lived experience of just how strongly the patriarchy has a hold on how women are seen—women’s identities are seen through men’s reflection, that is, what they see as permittable and valid.
I created the piece “The Crown Cycle” to honor the cycle of child-woman-crone, the stages of a female experience. Who we are (and were), how available we were to each other, how we took care of ourselves and beyond that, each other. The transition of child-woman-crone has not been straightforward. I wanted to see us clearly.
I just entered my woman full-moon, mid-life stage. My mom has entered her crone stage. I have watched her heal, and become young again in her older age. I have healed and grown up into a woman that I am proud to be: happy, healthy, and free from thinking that I should be anybody but myself.
My mom and I worked on this project as an exploration of healing across generations. Mom painted the paper-mâché heads, and I attached flowers that are reminiscent of spring, summer, fall/winter, symbolic of child, mother, crone. Anastasia, my grandmother, was always with her rosary. I added one, plus 3 silver-painted quartz shards to evoke a cemetery-stone image, at the end of life. The eyes are absent from the skull heads but are present. Anastasia is absent in form, but always watching; I as a child was always watching the adults; my mom is always watching memory. And we are all women who had different levels of visibility. I at times want to be unseen, like my mom, and Anastasia, through her agoraphobia, was literally unseen—a far cry from the smiling face of her youth that was always posing for cameras.
The candle is reflected in the mirror; it is lighting the way to transformation.
I asked my mom why she made skulls with half hair, half skeletal attributes. She said the “the skull is the vessel of the brain, the part of us that perceives and translates the exterior stimuli. Hair is so visible and SO much an exterior judgement factor.”
The performance was done in front of a mirror as I wore the child-mother-crone crown and reflect. I reflected on the image in the mirror and also memories of me, my mom, and my grandmother. I recited “I am me, I am she, I am her” and rotated the heads, passing through the stage of child, woman, crone.
My mom and I are not in current geographical proximity, so I offered the performance to her online. I share it now with you. The performance is a healing transmission across my matrilineage and honors the cycle for all women who constellate the seen/unseen child-mother-crone.