Mitochondrial Descent – a series of paintings by Jane Nicol
(* Mitochondrial DNA is passed down from mother to daughter)
Behind each of us male or female, integral in forming the ground of perception on which we stand, is a lineage of women. Our mothers, their mothers and theirs before them, breathed, kissed, nurtured, chastised their truths, struggles, attitudes, and beliefs, their habits and traditions into our deepest unconscious.
These are so entwined in our deepest experiences of infancy that as we grow to individuation and reject the obvious and the uncomfortable, unknowingly we hold the most insidious “truths” of our mothers to be as self evident as the DNA they gave us and the ground we walk on.
In this series of paintings I am searching for the deeper and more stepped back awareness that portraiture requires. In which I seek to see more clearly who these women were and what their legacy is within me, and onward in my children. Painting them against a black ground the environment of their period is removed in an effort to show each only in the context of what is held within them and in their relationship to each other.
I knew them all and am growing to know them more as I descend more deeply into awareness of their presence within my psyche.
My great grandmother Minnie (Mitochondrial Descent No.1) was an imposing living legend in my childhood, until her death when I was 8. Her life had been an exotic legend. No more than 5 foot high, with a baby stashed in a traveling chest behind her she faced down a man-eating tiger with her husband’s gun and could kill a snake with a hatpin at 20 yards. She stands in my memory a fearless and frightening, old lady, imposingly straight, autocratic, elegant and fiercely loving.
Her eldest daughter, Eileen Constance (Mitochondrial Descent No.2) was my much loved mother-grandmother. Her sweet gentle presence and support is always with me. Her martyrdom to those she loved is a trait I have spent much of my life trying to renounce.
My mother Alison Hope Margarett (Mitochondrial Descent No.3) was a part of a generation of women who went to war. Her generation went from sheltered childhood into an enduring reality of sudden traumatic death and destruction. It shaped who she became. Experiences too appalling to be metabolized were shut down, locked away, and papered over with a romantic ideal of reality.
The story and series continues….