... women's lives across the globe.
I came to Casablanca as a 31-year-old university trained artist with two small children aged five and six. My husband at the time, Jacques Barchilon, was a French professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder (having emigrated to the U. S. from Morocco). All of us were going to see the cultures and cities he had grown up in and visit his large family. I never got around to drawing them or the exotic surroundings, as the veiled women spurred my imagination. The wealthy, modern women I met at the Arabic/French school my children attended told me, "No one wears the veil anymore." Yet, walking in the crowded streets of Casablanca, I saw a veritable sea of colored veils and djellabas worn with style and flair. There was a class differential to the veiling in westernized Morocco; educated, upper class women did not wear veils, but the "domestiques" I drew always came and went veiled. This was my first experience of a multi-ethnic household, and a country with a polyglot of customs and languages. At the time, I spoke English and only a smattering of French.
As an artist, I often depicted nudes and even posed nude as an art student. I found myself working against a fundamentalist tradition of covering, hiding and protecting that allowed only the eyes of a woman to be seen in public. I never reconciled the issues of individuality and freedom so prized by me as a Western woman with the collective anonymity and control that governed these women's lives. Yet each time I sketched my most frequent subjects, Sadia and Fatima, I felt their strong resolve and vibrant beauty. Language kept us from conversing with one another, but somehow we communicated who we were and I carried them back in the form of my art.
In 1973, my marriage ended and I never returned to Morocco. During the break-up, I had moved head long into the Women's Movement. Seeing the blatant confinement of women in Islamic culture heightened my awareness of the inequities inherent in all patriarchal cultures, including the U. S. Pattern-filled canvases, often depicting American women in their hippie clothing, continued for years afterwards and collage images of Moroccan women became part of my first feminist series: Perspectives on Women in 1975.
Looking back at the 1971 Moroccan series, while posting selections to this website in 2011, I see this art as a way towards cultural understanding. More observational than political, but with a keen eye for dichotomy, I recorded my fascination with the women, color and patterns of Morocco. At the time, I was forming my own identity as an American artist, raising children and absorbing all I could of this dynamic culture that forever inluenced my art. Back