Maleficent

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“We were very conscious, the writer and I, that [the scene where Stefan cuts her wings off] was a metaphor for rape.” – Angelina Jolie

Maleficent here is not hunched over, vulnerable and hurt, but openly accepting what has been done to her – and confidently. She looks at you haughtily, daring you to keep looking, to judge her, to say it’s her fault. And you know that the essence of her is more than just her wings, and more than what she’s lost.

This is you. Not a crushed petal with crossed bones and pained looks – but a dragon, a force majeure, with a dancer’s arms open –

you, scarred,
but not broken.

Maleficent is the tenth and final piece in my Disney Women Series.

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Tiana

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“You know how long it took me to save that money?”
“Exactly! Which is why a little woman of your background would have had her hands full, trying to run a big business like that. No, you’re better off where you’re at.”

What Tiana has taught me, quite sadly (and probably what Disney didn’t really intend) was that hard work wasn’t good enough to overcome systemic racism. Tiana got a feel good ending, but I feel like her story has been told many times in real life without a happy ending. There are people who work extremely hard, but never being able to catch up due to the color of their skin.

So here is Tiana, muscles tense with labor, tired and contemplative, and struggling against the system that prevents her success.

This is probably the most symbolic of all the Disney paintings I’ve done so far – the verticality of the walls, the position of her shadow looming over the segregation signs, Tiana sitting right between the divide, and the nearly imperceptible lean of her body to the right.

Tiana is the ninth in my Disney Woman Series.

Buy a print here.

Esmeralda

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“You speak of justice, yet you are cruel to those most in need of your help.”
“Silence!”
“Justice!”

It’s difficult to put into words how important this scene is to me. The bystander effect is an extremely real phenomenon that occurs far too often, and in other times when you see your fellow man speaking out against an injustice, you shrink away and hope the trouble he attracts doesn’t follow you.

Ever since I was a child I caused trouble for speaking out for what I believed in, and I have been silenced, and I have lost more battles than I won. I thankfully never got backlash from my parents for that. I think it’s also partly my dad got into his own type of trouble for doing what he believed in, and he was a firm believer in speaking out for what was right and just.

Don’t stay silent. Speak out.

Esmeralda is the eighth in my Disney Women Series.

Buy a print here.

Rapunzel

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Should I?
No.
Here I go.

I remember thinking that Rapunzel was the most identifiable character for people in abusive relationships – a person who was emotionally abused but also completely dependent by the only person she ever knew and loved.

I thought this scene extremely symbolic for those who were trying to get out of those types of relationships – most victims of abuse become isolated through the manipulations of their abuser, and become completely dependent on them to provide their way of living. Most of the time they have no money, no friends, and the abuse makes them believe they’re not worth anything to anyone. To take that first step, to run away into a world with nothing, takes immeasurable amounts of courage. It’s frightening.

So here’s Rapunzel, fearful and hesitant, but taking that first step into the light.

I hope this piece is a small voice of sympathy to those who have weathered that storm.

Rapunzel is the seventh in my Disney Women Series.

Buy a print here.

Mulan

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“I know my place. It is time you learned yours.”

I always found it rather odd that Mulan’s merchandise always revolved around her in the matchmaker’s dress. She sang a whole song about not fitting into society’s expectations of her, and that dress was one such symbol. In an ironic twist, we use that dress to market her today because of what we expect young girls should buy into, despite the fact that Mulan’s character is the complete opposite of what that dress represents.

So here is Mulan, finding her place as a soldier, riding with Khan into battle.

Mulan is the fifth female in my Disney Women series.

(Also much thanks to my friend Archer for taking the time to find some Han Dynasty armor reference for me!)

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Ariel

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What would I give to live where you are
What would I pay to stay here beside you…

When I was 20, I moved to the US. I had expected my assimilation to be an easy one – English was my first language and every almost material thing I consumed was American. I had a great deal of difficulty adjusting, with people making fun of my last name, and the strange obsession at how “other” I was. I was angry, I resisted change, but eventually I adapted.

My interpretation of Ariel’s story has changed as I’ve grown. I now greatly admire her courage to leave the world she knows behind and to explore a new one, without resistance or anger, but with curiosity and wonder.

In the original fairy tale, the little mermaid has her tongue cut out, constantly feels as if she’s walking on sharp knives, and her toes are bleeding. I also imagined that the splitting of her tail would have resulted in a scar on her inner thigh. It is quite a testament to her strength that she endures this pain while arriving into a world she knows little about. She did this alone.

If I were given that choice, I would not be as brave.

Ariel is the fourth in my Disney Women series.

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Elsa

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I am one with the wind and sky.

Here’s Elsa, in full control of her powers, turning summer into winter.

I made some really minor changes to her costume, because I love slashed sleeves and I’m 92% sure my previous life was a Renaissance lady-in-waiting.

Elsa is the third female character in my Disney Women series. Hope you enjoy looking!

Buy a print here.