©Lynn Nafey. "You Play The Girl". Mixed media on dura-lar, plexiglass, wood panel. 13" x 16.5"


It's something we all long for, whether it be to family, friends, society, or ourselves.

Making art is also a way to connect. There is a rich symbiosis that occurs, especially when working on a piece over a long period of time, much like a relationship where the longer you know someone, and the more experiences you have with them, the deeper the connection becomes.

I started “You Play The Girl” in 2016 and completed it over two years later. Certainly, a portion of the time was spent actively working on it, but much of the time was spent observing, reflecting, and asking questions, not only regarding technical and compositional issues but more importantly, those delving into the meaning of the work.

Part of that involves paying close attention to my gut reaction when I walk in the room. It's that nearly imperceptible millisecond that whispers a telling “yes”, “no”, or “maybe”, and serves as a launching pad for further explorations.

Coaxing out what a piece wants to say is a slow intuitive process and a test of patience. It's all too easy to muddy the waters and lose the pulse by overworking or overthinking.

When “aha” moments arrive, I feel duly rewarded. Over time, and given enough fodder, my subconscious offers up new associations that continue to energize the work and add meaning.

"You Play The Girl" - Early on in developing the concept

The starting point for "You Play The Girl" was a particular combination of ink drawings; a paper doll-like figure and some ropes. The two juxtaposed gave me that resonating “zing” – a sense that the elements belong together – even if I don't have the slightest clue why at the time.

As the figure evolved, her story began to take shape. There she was, staring out at me in a tutu-like skirt, tippytoed as if in a performance, half dissolving off the page, and caught up in the ropes. What would she say if she could speak?

©Lynn Nafey. "You Play The Girl" (detail)

To me, she seemed caught in a moment of decision, strategizing her next move while weighing the consequences and potential dangers.

The X's and O's where one of the last elements I added. I was particularly drawn to them given the multiple ways they can be interpreted. There is a suggestion of a tic tac toe board, but the possible meanings stretch beyond that.

Preparing a transfer of the X's and O's.

What moved the narrative along even further was finding an old to-do list of my mother's. She had recently moved into memory care and I was spending long hours going through her belongings. The list reads: “To Be Done: 1. Clean Bathroom, 2. Wash Towels, 3. Wash Clothes, 4. Remove Stains Clothes”...(you get the idea).  I decided to embed this on a deeper layer where it is just barely visible beneath her legs.

Sublayer detail of a todo list made by my mother long ago.

While my to-do lists are – thankfully – very different, I am still haunted by the ghosts of this inherited legacy as to what a woman's role should be. Yes, things have changed, but in many ways, they persist. I often struggle to make conscious choices and not fall into behaviors long ago wired into my psyche. There are many times when I yearn to break free of the limitations that I impose on myself, or are imposed, still, on a cultural level.

In addition to my personal associations, many political and cultural happenings added fuel to this piece. First, there was the 2016 election with Hillary Clinton coming so close to being elected as our first female president, and then the burgeoning of the #MeToo Movement with women giving voice to their experiences around sexual harassment.

©Lynn Nafey. "You Play The Girl". Layers disassembled.

The building of meaning that occurs over time is so gratifying and one of the ways I measure the success of a work. Not only do I gain a deeper understanding of my inner landscape, but also of the culture and my place in it.

In the end, the connection I develop to each piece makes it that much harder to let go when the time comes, but as with human relationships, each leaves an indelible mark that I carry with me as I continue to create.

You can view a larger photo of this piece in the Portfolio section.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. I welcome any questions or comments you may have.
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Ina Lipkowitz

First off, so many congratulations on being included in the Fitchburg Art Museum exhibit! You have every right to be proud of such an accomplishment.

Your work is powerful & resonant on so many levels. Like you, I'm often struck by the roles we women feel we're supposed to play (the academics call this "performativity") & you capture so many of their trappings: the super-feminine clothes, the tippy-toed shoes, the silly pocketbook that keeps your hands from actually doing anything, the ropes that bind women into certain positions. And then the to-do lists that go through every woman's head. The Xs and Os——tic tac toe or femininely effusive "Hugs and kisses"?

Thanks for the art & for the blog.

Congratulations again!


Lynn Nafey

Thanks, Ina! I appreciate your thoughtful comments. Getting feedback like yours really brings the creative process full circle. I love hearing what others see in a piece and how they relate to it. Also happy to learn a new word (which I will google soon to find out more).

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