Beyond the acrylic paints, pastels, and ink is a woman who uses her artistic talents to redefine her childhood memories. For years, she was held hostage by her fears and self-doubts, until a single brush stroke against a blank wooden canvass saved her.
Salkis Re grew up in Queens, N.Y. in the 1970s, where bloc parties and summer days at the pool were the norm in her neighborhood. Her father was a construction worker and her mother was a housewife. Together they had four children, three girls and a boy. Re was the oldest, but she was practically invisible. Her “nappy hair and dark skin” as she recalled, was seen as a taboo amongst her peers. Soon enough, feelings of loneliness and acquiescence became far too familiar to her, but that didn’t last for long.
When she was 18-years-old, she moved to Brooklyn to face spirituality dead in the eye. Her fascination with death, heaven and hell, preoccupied her mind with questions that staying at home could not answer. During her journey to self-discovery, she was married at 19-years-old and gave birth to her first child shortly after.
“Leaving home was a bittersweet experience, but it was something that I had to do,” Re said.
“I was trying to find myself and during that time, I learned not to be fearful of pursuing things,” Re continued.
After she earned a license in cosmetology, Re often worked from 9 am to 10 pm at various salons while her mother took care of her daughter. Re’s hectic work schedule, however, did not keep her from realizing that she was better off working as her own boss.
Re decided to move to Georgia with her baby and left her husband behind. By that time, her marriage ended, but her love for art prevailed. She opened her own salon called “Nu Image,” but as much as she tried to build herself up from the fragile girl she used to be, society continued to reiterate the fact that she was different.
It all happened at Sephora. Re was looking for make up brushes to use for her next art project when she happened to come across a display of foundations. When she asked one of the make up artists to help her pick a shade that would be appropriate for her skin tone, the make up artist replied, “well, I think this shade would be best for you,” pointing to the darkest one.
“Not to say that you’re this dark, but I think this would fit you the best,” the makeup artist said.
At that moment, Re asked herself, “what’s wrong if I were that dark?” in her head, but sat quietly as the make up artist applied foundation to her face.
After having a second child and moving to three different states, she finally landed in San Fernando Valley, C.A. and found her voice through the girls that she painted.
“You can’t heal from where you are now. That is why I go back to the little girl in all of us,” said the 41-year-old self-taught artist.
“You have to go back to the infancy to tell that little girl that she’s beautiful,” Re added.