Self-Portrait in Yellow Room (2019)
"I wrote these three pieces as I worked through the re-emergence of deep traumas. Even as an artist, I have the tendency to repress pain. During this period of time, I was committed to digging deeper, well aware that in ignoring these deeper feelings I was finding myself in unhealthy cycles. Each day I woke up with the same desire to be free. Each day I woke up with a new sensation, a new blockage to explore, or a new part of myself released. Someone once told me that healing happens non-linearly, that it comes in waves, unexpectedly. The arc of the three poems touches on these cycles, as I aim to come to terms with the perpetual process of growth, learning, and healing that is life."
I don’t need
I don’t need you. Mom. Him. Lover. Family. Friend. Object. Space. I don’t need any of it. I just need to love me. Be good with me, Reva, sweet one, baby girl, darling.
Its times like these that I most want to run away. Freedom is the ability to run without consequence. So maybe there is no such thing as freedom.
How will I ruin my children with this urge to fly? Will they beg me to stay? Please Mama, just one more night in this place called home, before we continue on our quest for nothing.
There, there darling. I will say. Home is an internal place. It is a feeling you carry. If you can find it there, no one will ever be able to take it from you.
And then they will run from me.
I want to feel free.
I do not feel free.
I am always searching for freedom.
I search for the fullness
I search for the life I want
I sift through the fears
I practice preparedness
I distract myself with love
I fight the need for perfection
I crack open my heart again
I plan I plan I plan
I lose something
I find the unexpected
I come to terms with the unimaginable
I remember something that I have forgotten
I remember something that I have forgotten to do
I experience something bigger than myself
I question my place in all of this
I question why I try at all
I dig myself into a small hole
I lose my mind to an idea
I convince myself that the fear is true
I seek help, despite the impulse to disappear
I discover gratitude.
I remove the shade from my heart.
I feel the sun for a moment.
I realize that my skin has grown pale.
I remove my body from the hole.
I feel the sun for a moment.
I forget when my last breath was.
I visit the ocean, to learn to breathe again.
I sing a tune on my guitar.
I begin to read again. Six books at once. The hunger grows.
I become insatiable.
I want to live in the notes of a song, in the lines of a page.
I want to live there.
A story comes.
I write it down. Another comes.
I scratch the first, write down the new one.
I put down my pen and I dance.
There is something stuck in me, so I dance.
Just a little leftover sadness. I dance.
Just a couple heart beats too fast, I dance
I sing, I dance, I feel the blood flush pink to my face
I tell myself that I can always have this joy, so that I won’t forget
I inevitably always forget
I forget so that one day I might remember.
So that I might know that sweet sensation
of finding what was once lost
To come home again.
To fall in love with myself again.
To remember that I am everything
that everything is me
that perhaps nothing is ever really lost.
and a new morning arrives. calm. filled with emptiness, a possibility for something new. a new feeling, a new approach, perhaps even a new life.
i believe that this is the process of becoming—stripping away all the fear, by way of facing it, emptying yourself of emotion-by way of tears, becoming hollow hollow hollow so that the world may fill you up with everything unexpected and beautiful.
okay life, i accept. you know best. i’m not going to fight anymore. i recognize this feeling, this moment feels like… disarmed.
i tend to wield my energy like a sword, not today. today i lay my weapons down. i surrender.
instead i will simply just be, me. here. with a bit of window sunshine on my face. not even the most productive, or most glistening, or most shiny self. just me. with all the stank breath and confusion, morning crust in my eyes.
Santo's connection to her global heritage is the basis for much of her artistic inquiry. Her layered background instilled in her a profound awareness of globalized inequality based on race, gender, sexuality, and citizenship. As such, she aims to create art that engages these issues by addressing the underlying energetic and historical legacies that sustain them.
As a child of Afro-Brazilian and Jewish immigrants, much of her work has sought that which gets lost in the in-between. In transit, across oceans, throughout time, many of her ancestral stories lie in the shadows waiting to be heard and interpreted. This is what she listens for. Santo researches and delves deeper into those unseen spaces and seeks similarities and intersections across the diaspora. In the past, this has included work in Trinidad, Cuba, Brazil, and Ecuador, all of which are connected, but distinct.
Santo's creative practice began with visual art and writing and has evolved to centralize film and media. Her art-making practice is a constant ritual of unearthing, listening, and interpreting. As her practice evolves, the artist finds herself increasingly drawn to places of discomfort. As she draws deeper into her own fear, and into ancestral and intimate traumas, she also finds more space for healing. Art is the vehicle through which Santo is best able to do so—for herself, for her family, for her communities. With each layer uncovered, she finds more depth and complexity. Santo feels consistently challenged by what comes and is deeply committed to this practice which she feels goes far beyond her own life or her own ego.
Can you describe yourself or your personal identity with a five-word story? Why did you choose those words?
Artist, fluid—always in motion.
I am complex and ever changing. The only constant to my identity (other than the legacies that I come from) is the need to always be creating, learning, moving and growing.
How does this series, as a whole, or each piece individually, represent the idea, embody, or visualize the essence of identity for you?
This series hones in on the ongoing process of self-discovery. I feel that my identity is in constant flux, so I wanted to capture this energy. To capture the duality of my desire to hang onto solid ground, and simultaneously remain unattached, and free from all identifications.
Cracked Open, Reva Santo, (Greece, 2018)
How do you think home and family, or the idea of them, and identity development, coexist or inform each other?
Home and family might be the first sense of belonging or lack-there-of. The idea of the two create a base for part of life’s work—figuring out who we are exactly in relation to where we came from and those who came before us. There are parts that might be in harmony, and parts that might be incredibly isolating and painful. Regardless, so much knowledge comes from understanding how we relate to them.
Why do you create?
I create because I have to. I create because I know that art is an incredibly powerful tool. I create for my own survival. I create to continue the legacy of all who came before me.
Who do you create for?
I create for my communities, for my ancestors, for myself, for future generations.
How has your locale informed your identity?
I am a child of immigrants, and connected to two lineages of diaspora. The sensation of being removed from home is deeply embedded in me. I have never felt like I fully belong anywhere, and find that I am constantly searching for home in new environments. This constant quest has encouraged me to find home within myself, and through spiritual grounding.