By ELIZABETH BRIEL
Only while riding a train, taking a ferry, or boarding a plane do I feel free.
One recent morning I woke with a gasp as a motorboat buzzed past my room on a Thai canal. Tears streaming from my lashes, I’d been dreaming of being imprisoned. Blinking, the walls of latticed wood and patterned glass of the teak house where I’d slept came into focus and could breathe again. I was free.
Freedom means something different to everyone, and those who appreciate it most seem to be people who’ve been denied it. I’m not comparing any of my thirty-odd years to those who’ve suffered much more.
For my first nineteen years I was locked in a metaphorical box — first by others, and later by myself – unable to see an alternative to what surrounded me.
To escape, I painted and turned to books and pictures of other worlds, other times. I saw no inspiration in the present, and you can still sense this influence in the archaic photo processes I use and nostalgic imagery.
Eventually I designed a study abroad program and experienced the addictive high of taking a train with little idea of what – or who – waited at the end of it. Walked into museums with famous paintings whose colors were those of the landscape out the window. Learned how to turn men down in three languages.
I began to taste the world for the first time. How many smells and colors, artworks and parasites and smiles it had to offer. This was the life I wanted. Perhaps once I’ve matched those boxed years with nineteen of freedom my hunger will be sated.
Has the wider world lured you out of a box?
Elizabeth Briel is an artist and nomad, based in Sydney and Bangkok; she paints sharp-witted women in different languages, and prints blue photos of disappearing places. Here are her favorite links for international creatives.