The Fool (2020)
Jess Antonini (She/Her)
Acrylic on Canvas - 24" x 36"
Welcome to the first piece of art in the Mortise & Tenon Fundraising Gallery. We commissioned this stunning painting from local artist Jessica Antonini and we’re absolutely in love. Her story and inspiration is all we could have hoped for and more. Every piece in The Fundraising Gallery is for sale, with all profits of the piece plus $100 extra from us going to the charity of the artists' choice. This piece will be raising money for Monarch Mental Health in Regina supporting LGBTQ2S+ youth in our city. Thank you, Jessica!
*For purchases made out of Regina, crating and shipping fees will be the responsibility of the buyer.
Continue reading for Jessica’s full bio and explanation of “The Fool”.
***Special thanks to my dear friend Katie Anne Wilson for modeling my vision, and for her precious pup Sunni playing along
What would it mean to live without shame? What would happen to our bodies, our minds, our relationships? What needs to happen socially and structurally in order for us to live without shame? What is shame to you, what does it feel like, how does it taste, does it make you motionless as it does for me? Does it feel like gasping for air? What causes you shame?
The Fool card is the first card in the deck, the jumping off, the wonder before reality hits us as we fall of the cliff. This card is a mirror of our shameless selves before we are faced with the enabling and constraining structures and practices of everyday life. It is the zero card-a shameless fledgling ready for the experience of life. The tarot is often referred to as The Fool’s Journey, because we are The Fool that makes our way through all of the other cards during our life. Our life is then representative of all the numbered cards, which is comprised of 21 other major arcana, and 56 minor arcana divided into 4 suits. The major arcana represents the major inevitable themes or “mysteries” of life, these include: death, change, chance, compassion, mystery, wisdom, desire, and inner strength and the minor arcana represent moments and actions, like having a new idea, being physically comfortable, making a difficult decision, enjoying friendship, and grief. The Fool then moves through all of these moments and themes in a non-linear fashion. The tarot is often mistaken for fortune-telling, but the tarot only acts as a mirror for the now, it is for contemplation and reflection, therefore you get what you put in.
This spring I made arrangements with the wonderful people at Mortise and Tenon to make a piece for pride where the proceeds would be donated to an organization of my choice. I was given free reign and asked to make something to illustrate what pride meant for me. I was excited and nervous to get started because pride is a new feeling and concept in my life. I have never had a formal coming out, and never really felt it personally necessary, and I still don’t. But I am thankful this opportunity has really allowed me the time and energy to explore what pride means for me.
Pride is new for me because I did not realize I was (in the words of Comedian Hannah Gadsby) “a little bit lesbian” till I was 20. When my good friend was conducting a survey for a social research methods class and asked me my sexuality, which was just procedure for the topic she was covering, I found myself stunned by my own “I don’t really know” answer. I’d like to tell you it was a miraculous moment where I met myself and had no problem flying a rainbow flag, but it wasn’t. I was filled with fear and dread, a familiar feeling whenever the topic of dating, boys, and sexuality came up. I’d like to tell you it was relieving, but I can’t lie to you it was confusing, painful, and caused me much anxiety. This is because my relation to my sexuality was one of shame, not pride. And this shame was so thick and intense that I literally blocked my own feelings from myself. Whenever the topic would come up I pushed it down. In grade 12 an irresponsible teacher posed to his class this question for debate: was homosexuality a choice? I didn’t attend the class, but I remember feeling so confidently it was a choice, because I couldn’t face my own feelings, I couldn’t admit my obvious attraction to women was out of my control.
When I reflect on healing this in myself I am reminded of The Fool, the shameless human, as they are about to walk off the cliff. Generally, the little white dog is supposed to be a representation of our “domesticated’ or socially cultured mind trying to warn us or stop us from going over the cliff. This reminder is complicated, because we are constrained by our social world and our mind with in it, it keeps us in check. But that does not mean we shouldn’t risk the inevitable push back -or fall in The Fools case- that we will go through if we ignore the overthinking mind and take a chance. The Fool exists in that critical moment, choosing not to overthink life and take an adventurous chance.
I have decided to represent The Fool through my experience with my sexuality, so in this instance The Fool decides to rest before she leaps, indulging in an apple, and acknowledging the dog, because I could never ignore it. In the end I can’t personally heal all my shame, I am sure it will always be there in a way, but I can make peace with it. This is because my shame around sexuality is not just my own, it is a cultural and social one, therefore, it requires a public solution.
In the interim, we deal with shame when we discuss what makes us ashamed. We need to talk about it openly. And I am certainly not alone, my story is not unique, but I figure I owe it to other queer people to start facing the shame. Even now I am afraid to share this, usually I would depersonalize my artist statement, break it down make it simple. But in this case I will jump!
(I am inspired by the work of Andrew Salgado (a world renowned painter from Regina, who is also gay and has discussed it in his work).