opening up

june jewell

June Russett

Growing up, I (almost) always loved my name. June Jewell. “Is that your real name?” “Let me guess. Were you born in June?” “Ooh, I like your name. You sound like a rockstar!” “Oh, that’s original!”

Turns Out it’s not, unfortunately. It is still an awesome name, but not original. I wasn’t even the only June Jewell living in Virginia. There’s a CPA & author living in Alexandria, I think. I’ve gotten her evites & eBay notifications to my email. There are others in the country, 8 total, I think. You have to scroll down a bit to find my website, a domain I’ve had for 15? years.

I’m not technically…legally June Jewell anymore. I’ll be married 4 years in June. I thought I’d keep the June Jewell for my art, but I’m June Russett now. What comes up when you google June Russett? A comment I wrote on a Chik-fil-a Facebook page about how they shouldn’t use styrofoam…to which they responded something about a lot of people liking them or some other nonsense. There’s not much else.

I’m hoping this blog post will show up, too.

Oh, & if you found this blog post trying to find money tips from a professional, you’ve come to the wrong place. While you’re here, though, take a look at my art. It’s pretty good. :)

I had to go back a little ways for a picture of me on my phone.

I had to go back a little ways for a picture of me on my phone.

mom life, june jewell

Mama model call

This blog post started out as a response to an email I received asking about a post I did on FB. Two days ago, on a whim, I decided to put a post asking for local WOC mamas that might be interested in having me paint them.

Over 50 women responded, some sent photos, some did not, some are white, most are not, all are beautiful.

I’m having a hard time deciding who to choose. I wish I would’ve had everyone send me photos beforehand, but was met with such overwhelming response that I have more than enough info to pick a few mamas. I am loving the outreach. I don’t usually get that big of a response from my posts, but love that this is the one that stood out to others.

All of the portrait paintings that I’ve done so far have been either of friends or women that I’ve found & asked permission from online. So many of the women that I’ve reached out to in the past were white, because that’s what seems to be the easiest to find. Instagram is where I have found most of my previous references when typing in relevant hashtags, such as #pregnantmama or #motherandchild I was seeing that a majority of the posts were white women. Fine, but I want to show more diversity in my work. So I started typing in more specific hashtags, such as #blackwomenbreastfeed or #latinamamas or #asianmother & was met with a bunch of memes or women that didn’t speak English or women that wouldn’t respond to my messages.

I live in a majority white community in Purcellville. Whenever we venture East, my son becomes curious about people’s skin tones, food, & culture. I want him to know more about the people of the world...people that don’t look like him.

My favorite subject right now to paint is mothers with their children in all their beauty. Painting strong women is one of the many ways I hope to expose my children to how I love & accept others. Historically , our society has portrayed women as the weaker sex & men in power in this country are often white. While everything has “worked out just fine” for many, I tend to think there’s a lot of improvement to be done.

I want to give “ordinary moms” an opportunity to feel special, while loving on their children. Some of my favorite captured moments are breastfeeding, baby wearing, pregnancy, & snuggles. I love when the image takes up the whole canvas, showing the closeness of the bond.

I wish I could paint everyone that reached out & might just do that over time. I posted in two groups & got over 50 responses, so that would take about a year, but would be a fun project.

Right now though I’m taking a few moms that are interested in purchasing, which will become priority & a few that have not suggested whether or not they would purchase, but that I feel will add to my portfolio in one way or another.

Ideally I’ll get to take pictures of a few moms on the same day, art direct them a bit & have some pictures to paint from. I am also interested in learning more about the women I choose & hope that they share a bit of their story to post along with the final piece.

One of the main reasons I’m doing this so that my art can be my own. I’m not using some stranger from the internet’s photo, potentially taken by another artist (photographer). I don’t want the images to be overly staged, just casual, candid images capturing the love between family. I feel like I’m finally at a place to take another step with my art, I’m excited that my community wants to support me in my climb.

Thank you to all who reached out. I will be contacting my choices on/by Sunday.

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mom life

DAISY LOLA IS HERE

Nearly two months ago, I had the distinct pleasure of welcoming my beautiful daughter into the world. She is a beam of light & love. Calvin is the absolute best big bro (minus his obsession with constantly booping her nose). He loves her, as we all do, so immensely.

My sweet “Star Gazer” was 10 lbs., 21.5 in. & I birthed her naturally. This birth was more painful than my first & became the most painful & powerful moment of my life so far. I’m so excited to watch her & her brother grow & learn together. She is already such a happy girl, smiling at family with her mouth, but also with her eyes.

She was such a strong creative muse to me during my pregnancy & still is now that she’s born. I’ve been super fortunate to have my mama here with us from New Mexico these first few months so that I’ve been able to heal & prepare for life as a mom of two while trying to maintain a creative practice.

Since Daisy was been born, I’ve been involved in 4 art exhibitions & probably 30 paintings! February was a big month for me. It was for me last year too, but I lost momentum when I got pregnant late March & then was brought down with serious morning (all day) sickness until about month 7. I know that it’s going to take a while to get things in line, balancing raising two beautiful children, keeping house, & continuing to grow my small business, but I’m excited about the challenge.

Photo by Micah Simmons Photography

Photo by Micah Simmons Photography

My work featured at Tryst Gallery in Leesburg. Photo by Kris Loya

My work featured at Tryst Gallery in Leesburg. Photo by Kris Loya

Me at a Meet the artist event. My work hangs from Feb. -March 2019.

Me at a Meet the artist event. My work hangs from Feb. -March 2019.

My sweet children.

My sweet children.

Me, Too.

me-too

Me, too. Where do I start?

It all started last night when I saw this post on Facebook

If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote "Me too." as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.

The first time I saw it, I considered posting, but hesitated. Why?

I then saw it again 3 times before I decided to post. Between posting & falling asleep, another 6 friends had posted & by morning at least 20 friends (my mom included), had posted.

This is not ok. This should not be normal. This is not normal. You know it's all around you. Sexual assault & harassment are happening all the time, right alongside racism, xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, disability discrimination, transphobia, ageism, sizeism, etc. 

I was not raped, but have had things happen that I am able to move on from, even some that I know I've suppressed, times when all I can remember is a dark cloud looming.

For me, this is in the past. Not to say that I am immune from it happening again, but that this is not currently something that I deal with. So many other human beings, girls, boys, women, men, transgender folks struggle with this on a daily basis.  I say humans first, because that’s what we are even though I am a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, I am a person & do not deserve to be treated as “less than.” 

My experiences started out with your typical cat calling & slow driver. I don't remember how old I was the first time, but I couldn't have been more than 12. When men followed me, as a pedestrian or slowly in their vehicles, which happened a lot throughout my life, I would tense up. There's not much you can do. Scream? Run? Pray? 

"Where are you off to? Need a ride?" 

"Uh, no thank you. " 

Luckily, that was always enough. They would either speed off, I would lose them by going into a space space, or they would lose interest.  Sometimes I would write down a license plate, sometimes I would go back home, sometimes go into a fast food restroom to rinse my face or have a good cry. I had men try to follow me home & I had to hang out a grocery store until I felt safe, but never speaking up. 

I may have told a security guard a time or two, but my concerns were always met with "you can hang out here for a bit" which is basically the equivalent to a shrug. 

I don't know what it exactly that makes you feel ashamed of being the victim of harassment. Maybe I thought that no one would believe me? Maybe I thought I was the only one? Maybe I thought that I had done something, had I dressed too provocatively? Was I walking a certain way? Should I not be where I am? What about me said “talk to me”?

Nothing. It was not about me, but took me years to figure that out.  

Watching my friends around me blossom was difficult, I was small-chested & made to feel inferior about it. I was told by a boy in middle school that no one would marry me unless I “growed boobies.” It’s laughable now, but really hurt then. It hurt when the world around me showed women as these curvy beings, the girls around me were buying& filling in bras, & all I had for the longest time was protruding nipples. 

The internet was a whole other world. It is so much easier to harass people that you cannot see. Strangers asking to see pictures of you nude, asking where you live, how old are you, what are you wearing, etc. They didn’t care that I was a minor, they wouldn’t have cared if I was ugly or had no boobs. They were just there, chatting away, jerking off over the slightest thing.  

I had just moved to CA from MN & was just trying to make new friends my age, but instead was having conversations with much older men that lied about being teenage girls so that they could meet up for a smoothie. I only know this because it happened twice! Once I was with another friend of mine & we were able to flee & another time I had a bad sense of things when I showed up & turned around. 

By 15, many of my friends were bragging about having sex. I was a "prude" & ok with that. 

In 10th grade, I wrote a poem in a school journal about being raped. I wasn’t raped, but felt like I knew how easy it was to be raped & no one would know or care. My English teacher, a woman, never commented, but did sign her initials next to the entry letting me know that she had either read it, or at least had checked that it was done. 

At 16, I had my first boyfriend. He was very sweet at first. Then, maybe 2 weeks in, he became a sex crazed, hormonal nightmare. He was always pressing me to do more than I felt comfortable & blamed me for his blue balls. I knew, though, that wasn’t right. I didn’t need that. I dumped him. He made sure to let me know a few days later that some other girl had "given it up" & was a much better kisser. Whatever. 

So many boys were pressuring to have sex or to do any sort of sexual act. 

Friendliness was very often mistaken for flirting. Smiling & laughing were basically seen as open invitations. Unwanted advances, kisses forced on closed lips, a groping or two pushed away. 

I can't tell you how many times I said "no." , "NO!" , or "Stop!" No, I wasn't asking for it. I was scared out of my mind. 

It seemed like everyone at school knew I was a virgin. I wasn't bothered by that, but it made me think of all of the girls that weren’t, they just went along with it all. Sure, some were in love & a few later got married, but mostly it was teenage lust, oozing. I wasn’t immune & was interested in it all myself, but I felt like things had to be “just right.”

Male friends that would, out of the kindness of their own hearts, offer a ride, always seemed to want something in return at the end. "Nope, but thanks for the ride." 

It seemed like anyone that did anything nice for you would have this unspoken agreement with you that you were supposed to give something in return & I became very defensive, stating my intentions before anything happened. 

"We're just friends. I'm not interested. "

"Whoa, conceded."

" You're jumping to conclusions."

" I don't even like you like that." 

"I heard you were a virgin."

There was something in the eyes, though, that said otherwise. 

Boys & men would become defensive when you turned them down, too.

"Fine, you're ugly anyway."

"Heh, whatever. You don't even have boobs." 

"You've got a bigger mustache than I do."

"I can do better than you." 

"I like my women with a little more meat on their bones anyway."

This was always funny to me. Oh, you don't want me now that I've turned you down? What if I were suddenly interested? Would you apologize & take me back? Oh, please? I want you so bad. 

I used to take public transportation a lot from 17-22. Having someone rub themselves into your hip or try to graze behind you was not unusual & I usually just rolled my eyes. Men would offer up seats next to them, I would decline. One time I sat on the bus, felt a tug of my hair & felt it pulled & heard it being sniffed. I grabbed my bag, & got off the bus. It was not my stop, but I knew where I was. 

"Muey buenita!" "Mamcita!" "Look at those legs" "Woo Wee!" "Wanna come home with me?"

These are supposed to be compliments, I'm sure, but made me feel so uncomfortable & insulted. I wondered if that ever worked. 

Many of my relationships started out as friendships & blossomed into more. Strangely enough, I had difficulties trusting men.

If I had any restoration in the male sex, it was because of my stepdad. I saw how he treated my mom & I knew that I, too, deserved to be respected & loved like that. I don’t remember talking to my mom about any of this. I don’t really think I spoke to anyone. Things happened, I might have a cry, but then I’d try to forget. Not normal. She was as safe of a space as I could’ve had & still didn’t talk about it. I think that is typical, though. Girls & women just grin & bear it, like it’s supposed to happen. It’s not. 

Most of the things mentioned & so much more happened between the ages of 15-22. I lived in Burbank & Los Angeles. The funny thing is that I always look back at my time there so fondly. I think about the good things. I think about the friends that I had that protected me from so much, but not the fact that they also put me in uncomfortable situations in which these things happened. 

I think about going to FIDM, but not the times that I quickly scurried away from from a predatory male for the 2 blocks from the metro to where the security guards at the school were within sight. 

I think about the art scene, but not the times where I had to take 2 boxes of my paintings on a bus only to have my ass smacked by a man while exiting the bus. 

I think about the beach, but not the lewd comments received while walking down the boardwalk in my bikini. 

I think about the 4 years I spent doing extra work, but not of the comments made by fellow extras or a p.a. or a craft service guy, or whoever the heck that guy was. 

I think about the amazing house I lived in with a multitude of roommates, but not the one time that one got drunk & forced his tongue down my throat. 

Overall, my views of California are good ones. I felt scared at times, but because nothing "major" had happened, I felt lucky. The sex was always consensual, I was not physically injured, I never got an STD. I got away unscathed. 

Oh, but one other thing I hated about LA, & I feel as though this should be considered as sexual abuse of another kind, is the non-exclusivity of relationships, the serial dating, stringing girls along with no intention of being faithful. Having come from the Midwest at 14 & having an idea of what healthy relationships looked like, this always boggled my mind. No one wanted to be with me more than just sexually.

Of all of the things that happened to me, this was by far, what hurt me the most. I had two (what I would consider) boyfriends in my early 20s. One for 9 months, another on & off for 2 years. Neither one of them wanted to use titles. I was not their “girlfriend” & they were not my boyfriend...to them. I had considered both of them to be boyfriends, not really talking about the whole logistics of the relationship. We had "the talk" about being exclusive much too late in the relationship. 

Both relationships I did not suspect a thing. We spent pretty much all non-working hours together, I hung out with both of their friends, they never got texts or phone calls while with me, but to them, I wasn't enough. They "cared" about me, but I wasn't enough. 

With the nine month guy, we were laying in bed when he brought up his girlfriend. Wait. What? What the actual fuck? What a lovely way to tell me that you've started to date someone else & more seriously, even though that is all I've wanted from you was that stupid title. 

With the two year guy, he was never really vocal about his affections, but that was ok with me. We had a good thing going & cared about each other. After a year, I assumed that he would at least refer to me as his girlfriend. Wrong. Nope, I wasn't going to meet his parents & in fact they didn't even know I existed. We broke up. He missed me, apologized, insisted things would change, etc., but after a year of him having good days & bad, I broke up with him. He tried to get me back, but ultimately I knew I had to be strong. 

I knew I deserved better, someone that would be proud to call me his. 

I moved back to Virginia & shortly after moving here, I met my husband. We started as friends but before I had really even considered it, he was calling himself my boyfriend. He couldn't imagine not having that with me & that was all I needed. It was so easy to be loved by him & to love him back. We've been together 9 years & I have always felt respected & loved by him. 

Society doesn’t help women feel safe about coming forward, because women do come forward & nothing happens. Their voice isn’t heard, so it is quieted. Certain things are just so ingrained into our world, that they feel normal, but shouldn’t. Someone in your life needs to tell you what is acceptable vs. what is complete bullshit. 

One time, I visited my dad in Virginia while I was living in LA. I was maybe 21 & was wearing blue eye shadow. My dad picked me up from the airport & the first thing he said was “Wow, blue eye shadow? I didn’t know I raised a whore.” I was furious & we didn’t talk for the car ride from the airport to my grandparent’s house. I was so used to his comments that I debated in the ride whether I should actually be mad. Maybe I shouldn’t have worn blue eye shadow? No, fuck that.  There were so many things that man has said in my life that I fear have only made me more comfortable with abuse. 

He is an alcoholic. He has said inappropriate things about me or my friends that he often forgets that he’s said & sometimes even later repeats. He recently owned up to his asshole behavior, stating that it amuses him, so that’s where he stands. I guess that’s where they all stand. It amuses them, so they continue until someone tells them it’s not ok. Most continue beyond that, until it no longer amuses them. 

It is all a power trip. These men feel as though they are owed something. I have been verbally harassed by mainly white, black, & hispanic men. I'm sure most of them were in relationships, had kids, respectable jobs, etc. None of that stopped them from doing what they did. Nothing in their mind said, "Hey, wait a sec. This isn't right." The straight up audacity it takes to yell something at someone or to touch someone without not only their consent, but knowledge it's going to happen is beyond me. I cannot fathom being so brazen, so unapologetic about such harmful behavior. 

I defended this "me, too." movement today when a woman claimed she was going to start a #notme movement to run right along side, because at "60+" she has not been assaulted or "seriously harassed" & she called #metoo the "women as a victim" movement.  These are the same peope spouting "all lives matter" to me. These are the people that think only about what is happening to them, right now. If it doesn't affect me, it doesn't matter & it's a freaking plague. 

I am proud of who I am today. I could never condone sexual abuse of any kind, but what happened to me is part of my history & who I am. The thing is, though, womenwill become who they are meant to be without that shit, too. If it weren't for that shit happening, I wouldn't be who I am, but someone else just as great. I carry my stories & voice my past, to help others find theirs.  

I feel I have to be conscious of so much more now that I am a mom. I want to be open about my experiences, so that my children will have empathy for those around them. This world needs more kind-heartedness, more straight up love. This world does not need more rape.