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*The Injury Series is now for sale in book form:

The book includes Part I & Part II of the series.


These paintings are not intended to be a glorification of pain, gore, violence or abuse. They are meant to be a voiced narrative for buried emotional pain.

We are so quick to validate, feel deeply, and respond to physical pain, both our own and when others experience it. That which we can see (or is accepted by medical science as a manifestation of authentic physical illness), devours our sympathy. Why then are we so terrified to feel and to validate something more ambiguous and intangible as emotional pain? We feel discomfort and maybe start to sweat and squirm and become ill at ease. We don’t like to confront this feeling that comes so naturally and yet is conditioned out of us as we are instructed and disciplined by our shame. Ironically, this discomfort we feel is an authentic physiological response and is our  bodies alarm signal, warning us that there is something we must contend with in order to heal, grow and evolve. And yet the thread of our social consciousness deems emotion an irrelevant, unimportant element of being human, dismissing its authenticity, and thereby dismissing the identity of our authentic Selves.

Men and women both experience this inner turmoil, though women at least are given permission to express emotion. Allowance. Women are ‘allowed’ to define themselves as the vessels of irrationality and weakness. We carry this crown of shame perfectly, never taken seriously when we express how we are truly feeling. For there is no rationality in emotion, and we are tendered the ‘weaker sex’ for a frailty in succumbing to that which is not deemed logical.

Men don’t have it any better despite their default status as the stronger gender. They are expected to never flinch or waver in an emotional situation. And we as women have supported this rule of a paradigm that is failing both genders. How many women would expect to see a man in tears? In fact, when was the last time you saw a man cry? Most women expect to see a stoic man, who doesn’t falter with tears and sentiment. And we have approved and given credence to this by not expecting otherwise.

So this ominous failure to naturally allow and nurture our emotions is hurting both genders. The female body has a rich story to tell about imposed restrictions. I utilize it as a sort of landscape and map to voice these questionable notions, as it is the body I live in and can relate to the most. I feel as a woman, connected with a collective unconscious, a burden and pain that we have carried for many hundreds of years.

Jeff Brown is one man who is challenging the limitations of gender constructions and is reshaping his own ideas of what this means for himself as a man, and for us all. His attempts have been challenged by a deeply-rooted social conditioning:

…… I embarked on a 15 year long de-armoring process, attempting to clear the emotional debris that obstructed my lens, and excavate my authentic self from below. This process was at the heart of my Soulshaping journey- de-armoring the conditioned male warrior.…

I remember that I frequently berated myself for trying to open my heart. Every step I made toward feeling the textures of my vulnerability was met with an almost equal degree of resistance: “What kind of a man tries to open his heart?

…….How do we craft a world where both genders meet on a bridge that is inclusive of all aspects of the human experience, where men and women feel equally comfortable with all archetypal ways of being, where heartfelt self-expression is encouraged….

An awakening is happening in our social consciousness, but we haven’t quite moved beyond those barriers restricting us. What we need to realise, is that it is our choices that are limiting us. We choose not to see; we choose not to feel. What would happen if we allowed ourselves to feel and work our way through those emotions we so adamantly bury and dismiss?

If we worked the emotional soil into the landscape of our psyche; we would create maps and plant seeds that would invite reconnection with our Selves. Pain and the residual bruising becomes something to integrate and transcend that would eventually produce flourishing gardens that exonerate our Authentic Selves.


Secret Garden

Earthly Delights

Descending the Mountain

Weight of the World

Still Waters

Global Garden

*The Injury Series is now for sale in book form:

The book includes Part I & Part II of the series. See Part I here:

13 Comments leave one →
  1. May 10, 2010 3:48 pm

    I think it was “Still Waters” that I first saw, and was quite taken by it. They are all beautiful. Your words remind me of something my little six year old boy said to me last night. His father fell in the bathroom because he slipped on water that had escaped the tub from the boy’s bath. We were in the other room, already in bed. His dad cursed a blue streak about it as his reaction. He didn’t cry, though I didn’t even notice that as he never does. Though he wasn’t really directly cursing at us, it still made us both very uncomfortable. For some reason, in the midst of this short upheaval, Harrison looked up at me with his big brown wide eyes and asked very earnestly: “Mom, why is it that grown up men don’t cry, but grown up woman don’t?” (I liked how he said woman and not women for some reason.) I told him that was a very good question and that everyone was different about how they expressed their emotions. I also told him that if he was ever hurt, whether it was his feelings or his body, it was most certainly alright for him to cry, and that it would probably make him feel better.

    • May 11, 2010 12:50 am

      It truly is interesting that we are completely in the habit of feeling like it is the most natural thing in the world that men don’t cry. Children observe everything and tell it like it is! It’s amazing what children can see until they are fully shaped by the environment around them. This should be a red alert for us! If we listen to what our children have to say, we may learn something.

      Thank you for sharing your story, Miriam.

  2. May 10, 2010 4:05 pm

    I am really intrigued as well as repulsed by these paintings – repulsed by the implied violence and the bruising but intrigued that in places they also look almost beautiful because of your use of color. I can see that they are metaphors for a whole body of emotional pain as well as physical, and your composition doesn’t let our eye put the bruises in context, slip away: it pushes us to remain looking at the pain.
    I am intrigued by your focus on the breast as a source of pain; it’d be great if you could comment on this?

    It reminds me of an exhibit by Stephanie Sinclair at the Whitney Biennial in which her photos show the aftermath of the self-immolation by Afghanistan’s women, who are driven to a final, desperate protest. In some of her photos they women have died, but in some they sit naked with their pain evident in their scarred skin.

    Really great work, Caroline.

    • May 11, 2010 12:41 am

      Thank you for your comments Alison.

      The breast seems to be the most ideal form of imagery for this series. It is what nurtures us and provides us nutrients to grow. It represents the feminine and maternal which speaks to me of Mother Nature, round and full mirroring the Earth. Finally, when I think of the subject of emotional avoidance, I recall the injury of our social consciousness because of this avoidance and the damage it is doing to us all globally.

      Looking at all emotions and accepting them is parallel to planting seeds in the soil. It is an act of radical nurturing and self-love. If we don’t plant seeds what do we have? If we chance planting a seed, though we may need to toil and wait and feel discomfort and remain with the pain, what comes of this act is a garden. Our bodies express whether we have tended to our gardens, they become the landscapes and the maps which ultimately tell our stories.

  3. May 10, 2010 5:04 pm

    I found the emotional double standard in the business world, where, as a woman, if I shut off all emotions in an attempt to become more “manly,” I was then seen as “bitch.”

    Of course, if I cried when experiencing extreme anger or frustration…well you know how THAT works out.

    • May 11, 2010 12:54 am

      Yeah, good ole’ lose-lose situation for the secondary sex? These gender-constructed roles are failing both men and women enormously.

  4. May 11, 2010 1:18 am

    Response from @heniadis

  5. May 11, 2010 3:19 am

    An amazing series,Caroline. Painful and moving ~ I understand the use of the breasts ~ they represent the feminine, the nurturer, the sacred ~ the place which covers out heart. Your commentary is enlightening.

    • May 11, 2010 4:31 am

      Thank you Miriam, I’m glad you like it. Thank you for your never-ending support, dear friend. XX

  6. Julia permalink
    July 30, 2010 5:35 am

    Caroline, these images are very powerful. Their staying power is incredible. I looked at them when you posted a link on Twitter and have been thinking of them off and on since then. They fascinated me visually yet made me uncomfortable BUT I could not get them out of my mind. So here I am again. I read the explanation of the bruises symbolizing buried emotional pain, and that knowledge really helped me understand them better. You are an amazing artist. Thanks for sharing!

    • July 30, 2010 2:17 pm

      Julia, I really appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts with me. It’s always nice to know how others are interpreting my creations. I am so pleased to hear that it has staying power! I always toy with the idea of producing these on a large scale, and this gives me further encouragement to do so. Many thanks!

  7. September 23, 2010 3:23 am

    You know how powerful I find this work as well as the rest. Wanted to show it in another way. 🙂

  8. April 19, 2012 4:07 pm

    Shocking, powerful and the mostt amazing use of colour I have seen in a long time.

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