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  • Writer's pictureliliahg

Objects with a Story: Cursi Brooches

Updated: Mar 31, 2021

Colorful, layered, shiny and a bit tawdry. When I first started making these brooches I didn’t know what they were going to become. They were started in a time when I was wanting to let loose and not think about something so serious. Something that would release me from stress and link me to silliness and experimentation. As I was making them, I felt my inner tomgirl come out. The tomgirl that was able to use the bandsaw, dremel tool and torch, but also got to play with rhinestones, pretty colors and shiny papers. I felt carefree and willing to experiment, no matter the outcome.

At the age of fourteen, as my mom and I planned for my quinceanera, I didn't want anything too girly or overly sentimental. “Nada cursi!”, I used to say. I didn’t want anything pink or sparkly, no balloons, no butterflies or doll-like images on my invitations. I didn’t want any chambelanes, choreographed dances, traditional last doll, high heels or even an elaborate dress. There was a lot of compromising with my mom, but at the end, my quinceanera ended up being a pretty great celebration. But this wasn’t always the case. When did I stop liking the girly stuff, the sparkly, the cute, the dress-up, the glitz and glamour?

I can’t help but to think about children’s stunting of self-expression. I honestly think I stopped liking the girly stuff when I realized I had legs, boobs, and an ass. I realized this, not from myself but from others. When the male gaze dominated my expectations and not my own. When I was asked to stop playing with water balloons and water-guns at my little brother’s birthday party because I had a wet shirt. In fact, others insisted that I change shirts and act like a lady. When I was asked to stop kissing the compadres on the cheek because it might look bad, even though that's how I was raised to greet everyone.

I was raised with phrases like, “beauty is pain” and “if it looks bad on a man, it looks worse on a woman”. These phrases mixed with diet culture and a whole lot of gender roles and expectations stunted my self expression. I rejected the cursi, not because I didn’t like it, but because it represented being seen by the male gaze, being objectified or sexualized even as a child, only because I was developed. Though I wasn’t able to put words to it then, I was very much in-tune with what it was.

Though I cannot change the past, I can change my present. Though I won’t start wearing make-up on a daily basis or trade my sneakers in for stilettos (because at this point, it’s just not me), I can do the work to embrace my inner cursi. A cursi that liberates and praises my inner child.

As I was making these brooches, I felt a freedom and playfulness. I often lose my train of thought when working with my hands and I felt like my best girly self making these. Layering the wood with decorative papers, pink latex balloon pieces, bejeweled, and covered with a shimmer of resin I laugh at the thought that this isn't something I would normally make. After a long hiatus from the studio, it was hard to think about what I wanted to make.

After experiencing anxiety, stress, and ethical questioning during the past year, I feel like my best cursi self is a perfect mindset to be in. My best cusi self has nothing to do with heels, make-up or girly things. My best cursi self is confident, colorful and outspoken. It’s embracing the sentimental and embracing my true likes. It’s remembering the comfort with feeling strong, brave and beautiful. And celebrating curiosity, playfulness and freedom within myself without centering the gaze of others.

I hope you’re reminded to live your life with the thought of freedom than with the thought of gazes. I hope you celebrate your existence with love, beauty and boldness.

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