“I Feel Like Frida” by Madeleine Petti, acrylic on canvas

Remember how Kanye West had that “I feel like Pablo” merch? It kind of confused me. I assume he was implying Pablo Picasso, as Kayne calls himself “the greatest artist of all time,” or whatever. I don’t think Kanye nor Picasso is/was the greatest artist that ever existed, but I digress. I painted this painting of Frida Kahlo when I had a painting party with my friends. We cracked open a couple bottles of wine and tracked paint all over my apartment, and it was the most fun night ever, despite me not being able to remember a lot of it. But I painted this painting then, and titled it “I Feel Like Frida” because that’s more fun. Also because she is one of my biggest role models, overcoming her disability and using her art to give women a voice.

I want my art to be a part of my mission, but it’s hard for me to incorporate all my ideas into a consistent, cohesive look. I’ve been talking with my dad about exactly what it means to be an artist and have periods of growth and change and creative exploration of new techniques versus an artist that only paints one way and one style for their entire life. I struggle a lot with how to brand myself as an artist while still giving myself room for growth and change. I like the idea of painting what I value, but I don’t paint in the style of a lot of feminist artists. Like I don’t have whimsical gouache illustrations, for example. I like using mixed media and lots of color, especially pink and glitter. I guess the best way for me to go about all of this is to stay true to myself as a person and an artist, just like Frida, and that will define me, instead of trying to fit in or worrying about whether my art is “good” enough. I’m making it for me!

One of my favorite stories to tell people is when I was in AP art class in high school, I’d forgotten to have a thesis ready for the first day of class. I wanted to paint myself that day, so I told my teacher my theme was just going to be self portraits (yes, I know that’s slightly narcissistic). I spent the first couple of weeks drawing and painting and collaging and adding glitter to everything. Well, the time rolls around when we have to start thinking about the AP art exam, and what other pieces we need to make to have a “diverse portfolio.” Mrs. D (my art teacher) pulls me aside and asks me what my next piece is going to look like. I spiel off something about another collage with mixed media and she tells me the judges aren’t going to take my art seriously and that if I want to pass the test, I need to stop collaging and using glitter.

The actual nerve of her. Here she was telling me that my art was childish or whatever, meanwhile she was losing her shit over a classmate of mine whose entire theme was watercoloring cell structures. Science textbook illustrations have been done before. What I was doing was uniquely Madeleine, but clearly art class is about impressing others and having a stick up our ass instead of being creative and expressing ourselves while learning new techniques. You want me to stop collaging and using glitter? Fine. I’ll stop. So I quit.

Long story short, that’s why I’m not in art school. Because I can’t give up glitter and happy pictures. But frankly, I feel like my art has gotten so much better since then since no one is telling me what to do with it without having something constructive to say. Additionally, my attitude has improved. Art no longer is a chore that I labor over, hoping to impress faceless snobs that don’t know or care about my artistic journey. It’s uniquely mine. I’m still growing as an artist, learning new tips and tricks and theories, this time from YouTube and Bob Ross. And my mixed media mistakes are now happy accidents.

“I Feel Like Frida” by Madeleine Petti, acrylic on canvas


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