Before Charles Perrault, Hans Christian Anderson, and the Grimm brothers, there existed stories that we read and heard which were told through oral tradition. Later on, they were adapted by these authors into written form and reinterpreted into a version pertinent to their respective eras. Like these authors, I have re-envisioned the folktales included in this volume for contemporary times. By addressing the anxieties of this moment, these included versions are rendered more relevant for modern lives and their concerns. As folklore historian Maria Tatar has said, fairy tales were designed to address the “great existential mysteries”.
In 2009, I worked on an art show inspired by a collection of Latin American paintings from the 17th and 18th century. These painting were referred to as “Monjas Coronadas”, or the Crowned Nuns. During this era, Spanish families of New Spain set up arranged marriages for their daughters to be paired with “good catches”, lest they be sent to the convent to marry the Lord. The crowns worn by these nuns (who turned down their earthly suitors) represented their social status within the community.
The portraits of these women inspired my investigation and consequent interviews of contemporary women who came from this same culture, and who demonstrated a relationship to these stories.
Once my paintings of these women were finished, I went to Mexico to offer the work toward an exhibition at El Claustro de Sor Juana, a University for the Humanities.
After this incredible experience I knew I needed to continue exploring this theme. This was the moment I began my work on Carmela: the story of a girl who felt that she was different from her siblings, and more so from her entire family. Carmela, whose destiny was to be enclosed in a convent by her parents, discovers her imagination and ultimately her freedom.
This story is dedicated to anyone who founds freedom in a place where it may seem impossible to find.