36x36 Hi Flo Acrylic. Art Resin. Iridescent White, Canvas
Back then I imagined it like being a girl rocking in a wooden chair in a boring room and reading a bible in silence in Iowa for the rest of my life. I always thought of this club promoter's wife - she was beautiful and wore these spring moon boots in the cages she danced in at the club he ran. Everyone was all about her when they were married, but when she cleaned up and left him they’d whisper with a laugh and roll of the eyes how she “found God.” It felt like an earthquake - sitting on a porch with my friend and saying so like.. I’d have to stop drinking completely. What the fuck would I even do with my time? Neither of us had any idea.
To clean up was to die - to be rejected - because that masterfully constructed image - the chaos and insanity of my experiences - was the only part of myself (as the surviving victim) that I knew how to value.
All I knew was I didn’t want to be one of those fanatics wearing those triangle circle logo t-shirts, carrying that blue book and drinking bad coffee in an empty church. But for as much as I didn’t want that I also didn’t want to be hysterical in a bathtub at 7 am because I couldn’t keep up with the lifestyle as it ate everyone or who I thought they were alive. I didn’t want to feel my daughter - at 8 years old - turning to me to ask if I was going to wait 8 more years to see her again -on a loop for the rest of my life.
My life completely changed at that moment. I never thought “I want to get clean. I want to be happily married and travel the world and make art that people like lots of people actually buy. I want to be a good daughter and wife and friend and I want to live by the ocean and surf and teach yoga and have little dogs and cats that love me.” Certainly not. At that moment I wanted my daughter to know that her birth mother was someone that was worth having in her life. And I knew at that moment that would never happen if I kept living like I was living, and feeling like I felt. I looked into her eyes knowing I’d never be able to look into them again because getting high was more important.
So I ended up there -lost in an empty church with the people carrying blue books. Everyone looked completely different - people from all walks of life and all ages but each of them spoke out loud in a way that taught me what I was feeling. They started telling me to get there early to make the coffee, and after a few months of hating every second of being in that room, it was like suddenly I was a part of the room and it mattered to them if I was there. So consistently that it started to rub off on me and it kind of mattered to me if I was there or not too. In that room, it felt like what I said mattered. And that was the first place in my life I ever felt something like that. Like my experiences were worth something to someone besides just a hell of a story to ramble out at 4 am between shots of patron. All that experience wasted on just a story to tell.
Listening to them taught me that I too had a voice and that if I did the work, all of the experiences that I believed separated me from anyone else alive would be the thing that brought people together. The people in the circle in that room told stories of freedom. I never even knew what that was let alone how to consider it something to work towards. I wanted my stories to teach people about what they had felt too. I wanted wisdom and freedom, and to respect myself. I was so sick of being alive.
It was also a weird awakening when I split my face open because I drank too much at a bar and fell down the stairs. I had all these stitches in my face and every single person I came across would exclaim “You fell over in a bar!!!” before I could even tell the story. It started to paint a picture of what I really looked like to people.
I started painting 8x10 canvas boards at night using poster paint and dollar store brushes because I didn’t know how to do anything without drinking or getting high first. So I started with that. Trying to paint and hating every single thing I made was a way to pass the time and filter out the feelings of extreme anxiety, fear and resentment out onto something that wasn’t another person. They say when you get clean the best and worst aspect is the same and it’s feeling your feelings. This is a reality that I live every day. I used to always want to know “why” my life happened the way it did - but I know today it was so I could feel every single thing in every single extreme of absence and presence in order to channel it into art.
The magic of this painting to me is specifically in her simplicity. I’ve been staring at her for days just thinking “She looks so clean.” But actually - when you really look at her and find one figure - one angel or dinosaur or fairy or figure of a woman - you will find more, and more, and more, and more. Which is exactly what getting clean and living clean, for me, has been like.
Thinking I only wanted or could see one thing but receiving layer, after layer, after layer. Color, on color, on color. Life after life after life.