Illustration by Nicki Newell
I have been sitting with the piece for a while and shared it with my patrons and ko-fi supporters recently. This piece is titled "Un-Masking" and is pretty personal to me. It came about from me thinking through my own neurodiversity and how I have in the past and continue to mask it. The more time I spend learning about parenting and how to better help my kids name and process their emotions the more I learn about how I (either directly or indirectly) was taught to bottle and suppress my own emotions and deep parts of myself.
In the illustration, you can see a person or woman that I drew to vaguely represent myself. She is slowly pulling off a clown mask that is partially her own face. The mask contains a soft pleasant smile to reveal a buzz of different things and elements pouring out of her head. This simple mask for me feels like the fake smile I often put on to seem more pleasant and approachable, the response to the comments like "You should smile more" or "You're prettier when you smile" that I and so many other women got while growing up. Below the neck, the figure starts to unravel into a long ribbon. This is a call back to some earlier illustrations I have done as well as a symbol of the unraveling feeling that sometimes comes with removing a mask you've worn all your life. I added the smaller figures around the larger one to represent different people or entities in my life that have different reactions to my unmasking and choosing to present myself more authentically.
One figure turns it's back on the woman, one figure whispers negative thoughts in her ear, another tries to pull the mask back on, and the last climbs up her right shoulder. The floating islands and the elements spilling from the woman's head represent lots of different things to me, time, guidance, motherhood, growth, etc.