In this piece - and calm down, it's not a self-portrait - I wanted to bring to light what it was like living in Florence. While I'm not very tall (5'3"/160cm), I often feel like I'm stared at in public like I'm some nude giant straddling Ponte Vecchio, the historic bridge seen in this gouache painting.
Being observed and treated like an exotic creature in a place where you don't quite fit in can be both uncomfortable and disorienting. It's like being in a zoo, on display for everyone's curiosity and amusement, your uniqueness mistaken for oddity. The stares are unwelcome intrusions, and the whispers, however well-intentioned, turn into a cacophony of alienation.
However, within this disconcerting experience, there are silver linings to be found. As the proverbial fish out of water, you quickly learn to find strength in your individuality. You learn to take pride in your uniqueness, to cherish the very characteristics that set you apart. Gradually, it becomes clear that these differences do not alienate you, but make you a captivating piece in the mosaic of human diversity.
The bridge of Ponte Vecchio, in this sense, is not merely an architectural marvel, but a metaphor for the bridge between one's individuality and the broader society. You're not just straddling a physical structure, but the divide between self and other that is inherent in the human experience.
While the negative encounters I've experienced have been referred to as varying circles of Inferno or Purgatorio, the only way to Paradiso is to keep treading on.
To reach those higher realms, I draw courage from the fact that my uniqueness is a gift - a bridge between me and everyone else. And it's this connection that makes life beautiful.