BIRDS OF PARADISE
In Birds of Paradise Sara questions the symbolism of conventional oil portraiture through a lens of eco-feminism by depicting traditionally oppressed bodies with dignity and grace.
In classical early modern portraiture, affluent women were traditionally presented as modestly posed, lavishly dressed, embellished with jewelry, but exhibited shallow expressionless faces that revealed no psychological depth. The woman’s body served to display men’s accumulation of wealth, power, and status. When women of colour made an appearance, they appeared exclusively as servants and exotic curiosities demonstrating the imperial reach of the aristocrat’s power and wealth. This series is about liberating not just the subject from the patriarchal grasp, but liberating the form, techniques and materials from their historical usage and symbolism. The tropes and images of the traditional canon become resignified. These women, like their avian companions, are uncaged and unashamed and the gold leaf serves an aesthetic function rather than a display of affluence. The tropical setting represents women’s traditional connection to the earth, while also alluding to the colonial history of oppression.
The women of these pieces are inspired by a pantheon of goddesses. In Greek architecture, columns were sometimes cut in the shapes of women called Caryatids. These columns are female figures who bear the weight of the entablature with grace and dignity, much like how women are expected to bear the weight of the world with quiet sufferance. Yet the Caryatid still stands erect and proud. Each piece has been given a zoological binomial nomenclature inspired by Greek goddesses to tie the classical themes of the series to the ornithological motif. Sara accompanies each woman with a bird to symbolize the individual uniqueness of how women experience oppression in varying configurations and degrees of intensity, while still sharing a common experience. The lavish colours, like the rainbow of the Pride flag, therefore come to symbolize strength through adversity, celebration of diversity and fortitude of spirit.