Many years ago, before I finished school, entered a career, had a family, I used to create an annual self-portrait. I wanted to watch myself grow and change in my artwork. It was cathartic and insightful, watching my artistic skills grow and my physical body change. Somewhere along the way I forgot this creative project and began to gain heavy titles in my life: mother, wife, engineer, responsible adult. Time spent being who I was, before the titles, began to recede to the background. But in my youth, my descriptions included many adjectives and not so many nouns. I was clumsy and awkward. I dreamed of impossible things and an impossible life. I moved and danced as if I was free. My birth marks were uniquely, beautiful to me. I didn’t mind my imperfections. I was simply a child of God and that was enough. Painting the scars on the image of myself reminded me of events I sometimes forget about. Some of them were painful. Some came with my own birth. Others were self-inflicted, but they all represent who I am.
I always felt a little awkward on my feet as a child. I used to fall a lot when I was playing outside, during dance classes or walking down the street for that matter. Maybe I had balance issues. Maybe it is attributed to my astrological sign. Whatever the case, I have plenty of scars on my limbs to show for it. Stitches on my knee, a broad scar from a skating accident, scrapes from athletic training when I thought I wanted to run track, surgery scars from a broken arm – most
of my scars are from when I was under 21 years old. But they remind me of my childhood, which was active and really not that bad. I still run into bumps in the road in life, but adult scars are more internal and are not apparent to the naked eye. The fish in the image represent my astrological sign and how, even into adulthood, I sometimes feel like a fish out of water as I try to find my purpose in the world.
Dancing was one of my favorite past times when I was a child. I took dance classes for a few years and though I was not the best, I have always enjoyed it. I choreographed routines in my bedroom and performed for my parents all the time. Being a dancer is one thing I wanted to be when I grew up, but it was intuitively understood from adults and dance teachers that that would not be my path. Hearing comments of being a “fly in buttermilk” during The Nutcracker rehearsals or being made aware that my hair, skin, build and economic standing was different than the other girls in my dance school made me “self-aware”. Reality eventually set in and I stopped dreaming that dream. But dancers and the fluidity of movement almost always show up in my artwork. The image of me is intended to be like that of a dancer. She is oddly designed in my favorite color. She is bald and stripped down to her essence. She is imperfect in many ways. But to me, this image of myself is beautiful, because it represents “self-acceptance”.
The plant growing from my right hand represents my personal creativity that manifests in many forms. I am an artist, a writer, a designer and a mother. I am a creator. At times my creativity has been fed and motivated by fear and sometimes from love.
I want all of my creativity to be rooted in love - not only for the result, but mostly for the process of creating.
To date, I only have two tattoos, but they are both Adinkra symbols. One is a Sankofa, representing the ability to go back and get what may have been forgotten in the past. The other is Nsoromma, meaning “Child of God”. The last symbol at the top, Ananse Ntontan, will be a future tattoo and represents creativity and wisdom. I wanted to include all three of these symbols to represent my creative journey in life. There have been times that I have felt the need to set my creativity aside in pursuit of things that will support my family, but it always remains in the background waiting for me. It is a part of who I am and cannot be discarded. Including all of these symbols in the artwork reminds me to honor my creator by using my personal gifts. Adulthood made me forget the essence of who I am: an artist. Now I am an artist in recovery trying to find balance in this life. This project has been beneficial to help me look at my physical self and to acknowledge and respect the pure essence of who I am.
TeMika Grooms Jarrett's love for art has been a constant in her life and she has continued to develop her skills, primarily as a self-taught artist, with much practice, study and observation. Her work focuses on the human figure as she strives to use its movement and physical expression of the face and body to create a sensation within the viewer. In the past, charcoals and pastels were her media of choice because of its tactile nature. Her more recent work has been in acrylic where she feels she can obtain a more vibrant use of color and texture while still being able to manipulate it with her hands.