“I’ve always enjoyed the ‘kitsch’ of pirates, their costumes and such,” says Albuquerque artist Juliana Coles, whose show of mixed media paintings “Pirate Queen; Piracy is a Feminist Act” opens at the Jean Cocteau Cinema Gallery at 5:30 p.m. on October 4.
Female pirates are the subject of Coles’s show. To date, Coles has found the names of close to five dozen women pirates who have lived in countries around the world throughout history.
Coles’s interest in pirates began a decade ago during a retreat she led in Florida.
“We made pirate journals with art work in them,” she recalls. “My mom attended the retreat and died two months later. The pirate journals, which continued for a while, became an expression of grief for me. A number of family and friends died within two years of that retreat.”
Pirate journals are one type of journal that Coles creates as part of an active meditation technique and spiritual practice she developed called “Visual Journaling,” which accesses archetypal signs and symbols from the unconscious.
Coles started Visual Journaling as a way of developing new pathways in the brain after her epileptic seizures. She teaches this technique, which is used by art therapists, teachers artists around the world, at workshops and online.
When Coles was presented with the opportunity to show her art at the Jean Cocteau, she thought it would a good time to revisit her pirate journals and create a body of pirate-inspired work.
Colorful, densely-packed mixed media pieces with collage elements are featured in the exhibit. Images range from pirate scars, eye patches and ships to skulls and skeletons. Words and letters are usually incorporated into the work. Phrases such as “fierce warriors,” “fighting hard” and “I am what I believe” are in her recent pieces.
“Throughout history, there have been women who didn’t want to marry at the age of 14 and wanted to do something else with their lives,” Coles explains. “A few of them went down to the docks and ended up on a pirate ship. Some pirates were actually sanctioned by their countries. They were serving their countries.”
“I’m telling their stories, good or bad,” she adds.