You’ve got to know yourself so you can at last be yourself. – D. H. Lawrence
« Nous naissons tous bisexués, du moins psychologiquement, » explains Marie Coupal in Le Guide du rêve et de ses symboles. In its mother’s womb, Coupal goes on to tell us, the fetus possesses for a certain time both the male and female sexual organs. Only later in its gestation does one develop to the detriment of the other.
Apply what Coupal says to J’ai tellement de choses à te dire with its frog-like creature and lily pads evoking the idea of the water of life, which is to say amniotic fluid, and we have before us a portrait of the artist as a fetus.
This fetus appears as two figures, a masculine one on the left in his blue hat, blue shirt, and brown pants, and a feminine one on the right in her coquettish red hat and fancy red dress. These figures once formed a single being, however. Their height and the way they stand with their arms crossed in front of their stomachs are identical; it’s as though they are looking into a mirror. There is also the yellow collar around the feminine figure’s neck. It comes from the masculine’s cape. This cape is attached to the stem of his lily pad, his umbilical cord if you will. The feminine has been severed from hers. We see the remnants of it in the protrusion at the bottom of her dress and the ledge on the stem. It is thus she who separates from the whole. It is she who leaves the safety of the womb, who grows physically outside her mother’s body: the human child, a little girl with a yellow collar around her neck in memory of the boy she could have been if God had willed it that way.
This little girl disappears into the closet of the bedroom she shares with two of her sisters. So long one time that everyone worries. They search the fields and the woods around the farm looking for her, they fear she may have drowned in the pond across the street. But she’s neither lost nor drowned; she’s just in the closet. Someone opens the door and finds her there, sitting on the floor. In the dark. Alone. It’s strange. So strange. But the child is strange. She’s not like the others. So they go back to their business; they don’t ask her what she was doing in there.
The question, however, begs to be asked: what exactly was she doing in there all alone in the dark? The answer to this question, I believe, is in the painting. The child was sitting in communion with herself, her full self. This answer would explain the space in which she chose to do this: a dark, warm closet. A womb, wouldn’t you agree? She must have been able to hear her own heartbeat in there; she must have been able to hear God.
But much like she left her mother’s womb, the child would grow and eventually abandon the closet. Outside of this closet, she would lose sight of her full self. She would no longer hear her own heartbeat. She would no longer hear God. No wonder the adult she became felt so lost; no wonder she felt so afraid.
A little over a year into my divorce, with Covid restrictions sending everyone into confinement, I would find myself alone for what would turn out to be months and months. Not in a dark closet, of course, but in the dark in terms of knowing how to navigate full days with no one to talk to but my own self. How does one talk to a self she does not know anymore, whom she hasn’t seen in decades and would not be able to pick out of a crowd?
Start by listening, art told her. To the little green frog. He has so many things to tell you.