Overwhelming - when it comes to attending a live event with 60,000 other people. I did that twice in Las Vegas last week and I am almost hyperventilating just imagining it.
That event being a concert of the lyrics that represented my most true inner dialogue and emotional relation to the planet was well-intense. I could go through every single song of the 44 songs, 3 hours 13 minute set (or hell the entire discography if I’m being honest) as who, where, and what I was when I heard each track for the first time. I could try to explain the exact places or memories in my life when I learned an artist's entire catalog of music word for word but words wouldn’t bring any sense to that kind of alchemy. So much of her work represents to me an awakening - both lyrically and musically - the art that tells the story of the time of my life between first hearing each song and memorizing every word for the last 17 years. It is a period of my life that I look back on and consider a huge pivot in making art and healing my life. Deciding what I did and did not want and becoming brave enough to make different choices, learning just how crazy I still was (and am) as well as a change in what I would tolerate, and having the courage to let go of so many damaging beliefs about myself and the false lies I internalized as the truth go. My Bestie Michelle and I share an incredible bond of growing up together loving every single one of these songs. Songs that make being lost, crazy, and powerful ok and relatable - they give a structure to what pain and rejection and growing and eventually making it in a career feel like.
Taylor's music is the dialogue of my mind experiencing life, except it is a kind, gentle, empathetic, and safe voice. Not the voice of my own critical thinking, fear, trauma, loss, and comparison. It is the voice that sings to me well into the night lost in a painting. Making art to the art made.
Decades ago I was in a relationship where I tried to take my then-boyfriend's experience of making music + the business of that and make it into my own identity. It ate me alive really. Basically, you end up surrounded by people that are unhinged at best and consider themselves unique, apathetic, and drastically important. In the end, I couldn’t keep up. That relationship was one of the times in my life when I was really close to my Dad. He was so proud of me because he loved my boyfriend like a Son. My best memories of my Dad are from those years. Smoking Marlboros at the kitchen table all night with him bitching about the headlines as he gripped the Chicago Tribune. But trying to keep up with going to concerts and using every day and pretending I could be everything to everybody was too much. I couldn’t do it, and that relationship ended. My Dad didn’t bitch about the headlines with me much anymore after that. He just told me to get another job and get to work. It felt like because my boyfriend was gone, that version of me - the version he liked the most - was too. And maybe I’m wrong about that. I’m sure he’d make his dismissive noise and tell me to get it together with my imagination. But it always felt that way.
So I have always harbored a special resentment for any kind of live music. For the most part, I simply refuse. Or I have panic attacks at venues - the body memory kind in the once in a year I will go. Either way, I’d rather be in the emergency room than at a concert. But this year I met my friend Tony - who is probably the most brilliant guitar player I have ever met in real life. We have a lot of conversations and in knowing him I have re-learned that music is an art form that just like my art is a higher form of language and expression. I could see clearly that seeing music live would add to the frequency of my paintings. So my bestie and I decided to try our luck at getting Eras tour tickets. I finally felt brave enough to try to go. And scored tickets.
I will never unsee the level of sparkle on Taylor Swift in the middle of a 60,000-person arena as she was performing. For me when I make art so many people tell me that it is magic. When it really isn’t as much magic as it is really hard work, consistency, a little talent, the grace of my husband busting his ass for a steady paycheck, and the people I am lucky enough to receive love, attention, and enthusiasm from in regards to what I paint and write. The whole experience of being lucky enough to make and sell art worldwide is literally a radiating mirrorball of alchemy. All I am is a light that casts a reflection.
This painting is the frequency of getting to know myself through all of those lyrics and the beauty of every Era of Taylor's music put into one full picture. I needed the level of movement and bejeweled shine worthy of having the very best concert experience of my life with my very best friend. Singing every single word to a 44-song, 3-hour 13 minute set with 60,000 people is a transcendental experience I will never forget. That level of connection will never stop showing up in my art.I believe deeply that experience will propel my career and give me the stamina for what I will be making this year. For the very first time in my life feeling safe and seen in my own big brightness. I get to rewrite the story of each spell I have cast on myself because of an ancient past. There is so much more power in the unknown of the future than thinking I know what will happen because of the past. I really have to remind myself of that.
Michelle (who was also my Dad's favorite) and I had to take a lot of deep breaths walking into that stadium together. But that experience added so much light, magic, and knowledge into my own being. I wanted to paint it right away, and this art - rare as a glimmer of a comet in the sky - is the portrait of that ecstatic moment of being so alive and connected that nothing else matters. Not that past. Not why. Not who. Not where. Just power. This art is that power of reflection and knowing - not just believing - that anything is possible.