I have lived in the city for nearly the past decade in the city, spending the most years in Philadelphia when I worked on my Ph.D. in the History of Art. There was a year-long interlude in Rome, where I researched my dissertation as a Fulbright scholar. And for the last three years, New York City has been my home.
There are many things to love about the city, and when I moved to Philly, I was enamored. I remained so for my time there. Rome had its ups and downs; the downside of being a foreigner and a woman in a masculine society was strong, but it was outweighed by the beauty of the city, the hum of the vespas and the scented cigarette coffee air, the nearly constant blue sky and sun, and the hidden delights of art and thousands of years of architectural masterworks, their crumbling dust blackening my feet by the end of each day. This morning, in Queens, as the sun baked off the fog of the night before, I remembered Rome. Somehow, though, as I've marked my tenth year in concrete, I miss the black, moist earth. I miss the cool scent of green, the feel of dappled sunlight on my cheeks, and the beauty of stars in a place where the light of the city does not hide them from sight. In Queens, I can see Jupiter. I can see the moon, and a handful of other stars, but I can't see them all. I can't read their temperature by their color or make out the constellations that tell me the stories of gods of old.
There are stories of Selkies, the seal women of the northern seas, who shed their skin and can become trapped on land if their skins are hidden. They long for the water like a hunger, and if their silver seal skin is recovered, they will escape again into the water, leaving behind lovers and children. I understand how they feel.
This picture went through many concepts before settling here. I wanted to show the comfort of nature more than my longing for it. I thought a winter picture of hibernation would be best, but I did not want it to feel cold. There is something of me in the girl, a hint of myself. She reads the Brothers Grimm to a bear, a fox, and a kid, all animals that appear in those tales. The land above is cold but lit by stars. It makes me warm.