Velazquez’s Las Meninas and Mis Meninas — My Letter to Danielle

by JoAnne McFarland in Artist Statements

Hi Danielle, 


I’ve been fascinated by the painting Las Meninas since I was a little girl. The Infanta is such a magnetic figure. Everything in the painting seems to turn around her. She is perfectly placed—secure in her own brilliance. 


The reason why I chose to re-paint Velazquez‘s Las Meninas was to put myself at the center of the story, in the center of my own life. To, in a sense say—”See world, I  too am worthy of this attention. Who I am and what I do matters.” Not in a vain way, more as a way of both absorbing and radiating the life force, gaining strength to act according to my own rules. I think this task is still one many women have trouble with. As a  feminist, I am interested in the reasons why women continue to meet so many roadblocks when they question the status quo and invent their own narratives.  


Beauty for women is a double-edged sword. In one sense, being seen as beautiful, magnetic, a prize (or princess) allows a woman to move through life with a certain kind  of assertiveness; she doesn’t have to struggle to be seen, and some choices are easier.  In another sense, being objectified in this way robs a woman of her chance to live life on her own terms, re-acting to forces outside herself, rather than acting from her own internal motivations. 


Black women in particular struggle to be powerful on every front—as lovers, as heroines in their own tales, as doctors, bakers, bankers, and on and on. Every woman has to figure out how to navigate between her inborn, genetically programmed magnetism and a desire for erotic freedom. 


As an artist I’ve chosen to forge my own path through an uncertain world in which I feel my best interests are constantly under siege. I must place myself at the moral center of this journey. I must be the sun in my own universe. Mis Meninas symbolizes the fact that I recognize this challenge and work to meet it every day. 


From a technical standpoint, I wanted to attempt a large scale painting that would be difficult, one that would viscerally show the hand of the artist. I believe we are in the  process of losing the tactile delight of materials, how that delight augments the  connection between creator and viewer. I choose to paint in oils as a way of healing myself through the meditative process of mark-making, and to make a spiritual connection with people who see my work.  


I hope this answers your questions,