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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Baker, MA

The Origin of Tiger Woman


In the summer of 2012 I had just graduated with my Master’s in Art Therapy and could not find a job. 3 years of hard work, introspection and experientials to find that no one thought I was qualified to do the work. So I went to the art store, bought a large, beautiful blank canvas and went home to paint. I did not begin with a sketch or an idea, just yellow paint and movements that felt right.

After awhile a face started to form and I went along with defining the features. I added some shading and highlighting to her face and worked the eyes a little; then I sat down, wondering about this woman. Who was she? What did she want? She gazed forward, into the future but she was boring and plain to me. I asked myself, “what is the point of creating a mediocre painting of a woman?”

Some nights later I had the most terrifying dream of a tiger. I woke up petrified and spoke with my therapist about the dream, searching for meaning. We explored the tiger as a creature: hunter, stalks it prey, ferocious, unrivaled, gets what it wants and then lays around enjoying itself. I considered the possibility that I was a tiger, ferocious and dangerous, hunting what I want until I’m satisfied. What is the point of living life in mediocrity? Perhaps I needed to be a “tiger woman”!

I went back to the painting of the woman and began to contemplate if and how she could become a tiger woman. This was a big risk in the painting because if you put black stripes all over a face and decide you don’t like them, there’s really no coming back from that.

I sat with my own fear that I might ruin the canvas trying to do something weird and crazy. The risk in the painting paralleled the risk in my real life; if I decide to be a tiger woman, ferocious and unrivaled, there’s no coming back from that. I will have to take whatever comes with being this fierce and this much of something. be continued

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