Dark blue, light blue, white blue, glitter blue, aqua blue, all the blue. 24x36 with a view. An imploding storm of life change and resilience. Resin-coated rip tide magic.
For a moment in time, I was a floor manager at a fine dining restaurant located in a 10 million dollar glass box overlooking the San Diego harbor. I moved from Las Vegas to San Diego to take that job and I think, in my overall obsession to overcompensate for not feeling good enough, I spent about $8,000 on a new wardrobe of suits so I would look the part.
At first, I could barely walk, sit or drive in those clothes. I went from dressing like a cocktail waitress in Las Vegas for 8 years, fishnets, boots, mini skirt - to full-on suits. I remember how exhausting it was to look like I knew how to wear clothes like that. “I feel like an Oompa Loompa” I’d say, stiffly reaching over the table to pick up the salt. In the near future, I will wear those suits for so many hours of so many days that it will be like I become them. I will almost lose everything in the process of trying to fit into that ten-million-dollar glass box.
When my colleague and I found out the color design palette of the building in the architecture bid we had gotten our hands-on, I made a decision that I would get some blue clothes to match. The very first thing that company ever taught me was how to glide, as I stumbled over and over to follow my trainer on my first day as a server in Las Vegas while he barked “You need to keep up, and make it look easy.” For every step, he took I had to take five. He was a spitting image of a violent man from my past and the whole staff called him “The King.” A decade later though I can prep 300 wedge salads in under 11 minutes, and plate 540 pieces of shrimp in 7 minutes and my trainees better keep up because I am not trying to slow down and baby people.
The smell of lettuce and shrimp still gets me all fucked up about where I’m at though. “I’ll never forget the first few days we worked together, you holding your breath and talking about having flashbacks of private dining parties making you dizzy when the smell of the shrimp came out. I thought it was so funny, but I understand now.” My colleague Peggy will say.
8 years later I thought it was my high-waisted, wide leg cropped blazer blue suit that finally taught me to glide like I knew how to run the building. I could write six movies about the drama, the love, the gratitude, the pain of that year and a half of my life. Our team always laughed at me that something important was happening if I showed up in my “don’t fuck with me” suit.
In the end, I saw some people die on the freeway in a pile-up on my way home from work at 2 am and by seconds and inches, I wasn’t one of them. I had spent all day getting a manicure and then working and serving the previous owner of the company, who took a culture that I loved, destroyed it, and sold the pieces. That would have been my last opportunity to live a day with my husband, be with my animals in the sun. That was it for me.
Recently I went through all of my trunks of suits that haven’t been touched in a year. It was like visiting a ghost of who I had hoped to be when unhealed parts of my mind were trying to fill in the blanks. It felt like going through someone's clothes after they died. For a moment I missed her. I felt her absence. I donated mostly everything to a rehab center for women that will need job interview clothes. But kept my blue suit and a few others.
This painting is a visual guide, a storm of trying to put my being into something that I am not imploding, and the courage (and exhaustion for that matter) it took to walk away from everything I thought I had worked for and wanted. In the portrait is the magic, the pain, the movement, the hope, the defeat, the lesson. “Swept Away.” The glitter is the team that grew into a family. So many people I will love for the rest of my life. The rest is the rest and represented in the indents, the claw marks, of what I will always consider valuable lessons of what to never tolerate, accept or think I deserve. If you see something in this painting it is because you identify with an experience like that in your own life.
I've learned that I can’t just keep the glitter and torch the parts that sucked from my brain. It has to balance. This painting is that balance. The miracle of that experience is that it taught me how hard I can work, the magnitude of my resilience, how to keep records to run a business, how to manage people, and how to be the damn boss and still have the humility to be wrong. Through it all, I did become a leader. No article of clothing will ever define that knowledge and power. My art, however, will.
Any way I can calm the fuck down about being sad about not wearing the nice suit I got called to federal jury duty this week. Which is God's way of getting my hermit recluse brain out of the house and downtown with free garage parking. Grounded in my suit as me for real, not an ideal that will get swept away.