In San Antonio, Texas there is an urban legend of a woman who was disfigured in a fire. Her skin melted so that her face elongated into something grotesquely resembling a donkey and when she screamed it sounded like an anguished bray. Anguished because of the pain from her disfigurement and because her children/family was lost in that same fire. She was said to haunt less traveled areas waiting to terrorize unsuspecting strangers and hoping to chase down naughty children.
The Donkey Lady like La Llorona is connected to the myth of the cihuateteo, a malevolent Aztec spirit said to be women who died in childbirth that haunted crossroads and rivers and were considered supernatural beings to be avoided. All three share a common origin of women transformed by grief and pain, into the ultimate anti-maternal spirit. Rather than be cultivators or givers of life, they became monsters that harmed and brought death.
I have often wondered if these stories were created as a response to legitimize the grief and anger of women. By making the expressions of lost dangerous these stories were not warnings against women feeling these emotions but seen as the natural consequence, something that explained the divergence from the expected nature of women. I wondered too why there were never stories told of healing these ghosts, why there was never a solution to give them rest or justice. What was it that made them implacable?
My donkey lady drawings are ruminations in which I want to explore this idea of dark motherhood. In some of these pieces I have included children and other symbols of family that have become corrupted or ersatz versions of the themselves, as an allusion to how memory functions within the context of trauma and guilt. I use images from family fashion magazines to contrast the idealized commercial family with the informal dark folk narrative.