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Affirmational Art and Body Positivity: An interview with Jenn Seeley (Guest post)

One of our bloggers has recently opened an online store offering Affirmational Art on cute things. The offerings are a little different than what you may have seen before so Sam thought it would be cool to highlight the site on the blog. Here is my interview with Jenn Seeley.

So Jenn, this is quite the store you’ve put together. It’s filled with familiar objects that have slightly unusual messaging. What was the need you saw for these kinds of objects and art?
I guess some might consider it unusual – radical even – to want to be bothered with speaking positively to and of yourself. It’s a tricky area for many people. For starters, speaking and believing affirmations require a person to know what to say, know what they want to say, and believe they have the right to say it. That’s the kicker. The believing it part. I guess that’s where I saw the need. People give so much of themselves, pouring out all that they have, that it’s easy to forget to fuel up and remind ourselves of truths that get us through. Affirmations are simply a way to assert the right to make bold declarations of anything from intentions and desires to important reminders of our own worth and value. With so much direct messaging and marketing trying to tell us who to be, and define for us how to measure our worth, we have quite the battle to win in staking our claim over own own attitudes towards ourselves. Oh, and the funny objects? It’s just nice to have something to look at that’s not the stereotypical motivational misty forest and mirror top lake. I just chose things that I liked, and went with what felt ‘right’ for lack of a better description. Don’t worry though, I really like trees. I’ll probably have to include them somewhere just because.

Do you see yourself as filling this need or trying to create a desire to display these kinds of messages?

Do a Google image search for affirmations, or for a particular mantra you like to live by, and several people may have put those same words on images of some sort. I don’t expect my art to be everyone’s first choice or for everyone to get what I do and why, but in my own circle of super cool people, many of my friends and framily (that’s not a typo) share these declarations by way of Facebook posts of cute images with words, or via text messages as reminders in solidarity to friends dealing with something hard. I have to imagine that in the privacy of their own space and solitude, they also sometimes pull from memory the words that help ground them and hold them steady in tricky times. I know I do that, so surely others do too. What I’m doing with Sunny Braveheart isn’t unique entirely, but it is my heart and I hope that it is ultimately my heart that’s heard.

This is original art done by you, correct? What inspired these pieces?

Yeah. They’re my original images. And it’s still pretty mind-blowing for me to say that out loud, but I’m doing it! I can’t really put a finger on the actual inspiration for the current collection overall. There’s kind of a mix of a few things going on. By far my favourites are the uniquely shaped people. I like their general look and feel simply for the quiet calm they represent. At least, that’s how I see them and hope they are seen as calm for others, too. My intention was to create these ‘people’ in ways that they feel oddly familiar despite being unlike anything I’ve seen or drawn before. I paired quiet images with strong statements. It’s not always necessary to shout and punch to feel the feels!

Ultimately, I felt an urge to create and I wanted to create things that reminded me of things that I know are true for me. Things I try already to live and breathe, and things I love to see and hear shared.

Do you have a favourite?

You mean they’re not all my favourite? Ok. So if I have to pick just one? I have big feelings. That’s my cat Percy and the truest statement I can make about myself. I feel BIG when I feel and stopped apologizing for that a long time ago. I say this out loud a lot. That was a big hurdle jumped. If I was allowed to pick more than one, I would say that I Will Be Gentle With Myself and Sometimes Bravery Means Trying Again Tomorrow would tie for second!

These images are either body or emotion positive. Can you elaborate on the importance of emphasizing those two things in your affirmations?

Oh, this was and is super important. Thank you for noticing! There are all kinds of affirmations out there that speak to success – like careers & finances – and that isn’t the intention of Sunny Braveheart. Too often, (because: patriarchy) having emotions and feelings is considered weak and undesirable. Talking about feelings is hard! Especially if you fear ridicule or being misunderstood. And where to start on body positivity? Thanks to so many crummy social constructs that attempt to dictate what a ‘good body’ is and so few people (mainly women) who can’t begin to live up to standards that shouldn’t exist in the first place, people’s self-image and ideals take a brutal hit.

Think about this: so far, forever, we have been told all kinds of gross things about how our bodies must look. We have been told many conflicting messages about how to parent and how not to parent. We read thousands of words in fear every night on multiple web pages just trying to determine if we’re a good partner to our lovers. We are called weak for crying. We are put into boxes and labeled based on the colour of our skin and our spiritual practices. We are told from within the communities we belong to that even on the inside there are people who do-the-things-that-we-do better/faster/stronger/longer/smarter than we do.

Whether directly or indirectly, we get these messages at an alarming rate. Every. Single. Day.

What if instead of that I told you: You are enough. You are exactly enough. Your body is good. You are strong. Bravery doesn’t look the same for you and that’s okay – you’re still brave. Your feelings are valid, important, beautiful, and real. YOU are valid, important, beautiful, and real. Your body can tell you things that the internet can’t, so go ahead and listen to it. Give yourself permission to filter out the ideals of the world, and join a collective that wishes to change the narrative.

If I could flip the bird to patriarchy and the very oppressive standards that were created to keep me wanting to jump through hoops in order to be something that I’m not, I would. But I’m not alone in that desire, am I?

Do you hope to add art to the selection? How often? What themes or images might we look forward to?

Expect to see more ‘people’ and more animals for sure. And I’m working on a few ‘active’ themed images. But I’m going to be very clear about what those images will represent. You will still expect body positive and emotions/feeling positive words to accompany anything that appears athletic by design. Simply put: There will never be an ‘affirmation’ found at Sunny Braveheart that shames you, guilts you, pushes you to perform in ways that cross your boundaries, or anything at all similar to what’s her face – the woman whose name I won’t mention who wants to know what your excuse is while posing with her family. Nope. There will be no shame.

Why Sunny Braveheart? Where’d the name come from?

I guess the sunny part is harder to answer. Maybe because I get read as having a ‘sunny disposition’ all too often – especially among people who don’t know me well. My closest circle has the blessing of seeing my raw self – melt downs and all! Despite the range of feelings, I do see the sunny side of life when I can, all while giving myself permission to experience and navigate the less sunny moments. That’s important, too! I want all of the feelings with no apologies.

Braveheart comes from my personal journey involving lions, but you can read that here. Further to the brave bit, it was actually a really scary thing to just allow myself to create emotion driven art versus strive to be perfect. Yeah, I’ll say it. My art isn’t perfect. It’s art. And as much as it’s also scary to say this out loud? I’m the artist. It’s mine. So yeah. Bravery is a theme to my project because I know that, as a person who struggled her whole life to see herself as good enough in many areas, I’m displaying a giant piece of me and can definitely expect to be critiqued and/or mocked and/or ridiculed. Fun!

Bravery is also in the name for you. It’s a brave step forward to allow yourself permission to change the way you speak to yourself.
You can see for yourself what Jenn is up to at Sunny Braveheart. 

What kind of Big Feelings might you have? Let us know.

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