48x60 Las Vegas, Nevada
It was the second time I had painted a canvas this big. I thought resin would be easy. I had moved into a new house in Summerlin and had an entire garage to paint in. A year prior my best friend and I had a terrible breakup after she relapsed and I lost my mind. In the garage I was burning so much sage in an abalone shell all around this canvas. I loved the iridescent gleam of those shells and wanted to put it into a piece of art. Losing my best friend like that, it taught me that no matter where I think I’m at in my recovery, I’d better be working on my recovery as the moment that loss and pain outside of my control happens it’s like I’m back to day one.
I loved this painting and it will be a symbol of trial and error without studying for years to come. As it happens you can’t mix acrylic paint with resin. It won’t set. I didn’t know that, let alone what “won’t set” would even entail. I remember with total clarity the moment that canvas was finished. I did a full circle of sage around it, and started to clean up the space. At that moment my ex best friend sent me a text message. We hadn’t spoken in a long, painful year. She asked if we could talk. She had come back to recovery and was fighting to get and stay clean. We both apologized. It was one of the most important, healing moments of my life and recovery. She is still my best friend and most trusted confidante to this day, five years later.
As I looked down at the shell of sage smudge and the painting, in shocked joy and disbelief at the message I had just received, I named the painting The Sage. The Sage has a sister named The Angel, a 48x48 orb that lives also in Las Vegas with Melanie Beck. The Sage felt like melting gummy to me so with The Angel I didn’t mix any paint into the resin and that dried okay.
At the time I was practicing yoga at a very fancy, spa like yoga studio on Fort Apache & Sahara, Power Yoga. The studio was so hot you couldn’t see the mirror during class and I had a great respect for the teachers talent and passion. In conversation and wanting to be liked I spoke with the manager and the owner about how I have two really beautiful pieces of art that I would like to donate to the studio. They were so excited. All for it.I couldn’t believe my art was beautiful enough to go in this yoga studio, which looked like Mariah Carey’s bathroom or something. My friend lent me her truck & I brought them to the studio. I had never sold art before or given anybody something I was so proud of. It was the ultimate joy.
That night I went and took class. I stood in the lobby listening to a dozen people talk with great enthusiasm, being so impressed with the art and talking amongst themselves who on earth made the paintings as they studied them together. I will never, for the rest of this life and after forget that moment. Standing there. My husband said “It was her. She painted them.” And a dozen people turned at me to stare, beaming.I wanted to start sobbing. Or run and hide. But they just started all talking at once. A few of them just hugged me. Yoga studios in Las Vegas, especially the fancy ones - people aren’t really like that. The joy of that validation stays with me. It healed me. Like sage. A cleansing of all of the negative and seeing first hand what could be possible.
The next day I got an urgent call from Jami, the studio manager. She was extremely upset saying “You need to come get these things they are melting all over my studio.”
I was so mortified. Every single shitty thing about myself as an artist that my head had ever told me was so true and loud in those moments. I had to re- borrow my friend's truck, go pick up both canvases as she stared at me with hostility with her arms folded, and bring them back home. I felt so humiliated and worthless. I never practiced at that studio again, and I was certainly not good enough to try to sell art. I couldn’t even give it away for free.
I laugh at that memory today. Laugh because I had some expectation of myself to be a self taught artist that never makes a mistake. I laugh because The Sage chose her forever home and was having no part of being in a yoga studio that I would never return to again anyway.
I always wanted to be Valerie's friend but I never felt good enough. The very first time I was in her house, easily one of the best balances of comfort, spirit and opulence in one environment I have ever known, I remember staring at the giant lizard on the giant wall. “I want my art in this house, with Val and Doug.” I remember thinking so clearly.
But Val was always surrounded by people. It seemed like she already had enough love in her life, enough friends. Ironically the smell of sage is something I will always trace back to her, the times in the lodge gripping onto the sage for dear life as she poured water over the stones. A miracle happened though. She asked me to teach her yoga. We became friends. We got to know each other. Her grounded power, strength and perseverance was beyond what I even thought. She wasn’t afraid to walk through the fear to heal herself. Three years later she has repaired her body and mental health lifetimes from where she started.
I still didn’t think my art was good enough to hang in her house though. If you saw the house you’d understand. Right before I moved to California, to my astonishment, she asked me for a painting. And I had to give her The Sage. Because of how I have always thought of her and my friends becoming my friends again, whether it be through drama in this lifetime or a return from past lifetimes.
In my heart, it is a miracle that The Sage hangs as a centerpiece in Valerie, Dough and Mia’s home in North Las Vegas. I did re coat it with resin correctly so it wouldn’t melt. Every time I go there I stand in the foyer, in front of the mirror and cry to myself. Tears of the resilience of growth that Valarie is such an example of to me in her life.
I sold myself short trying to put my art in that yoga studio with people I wasn’t connected to so that my ego would fit in. The paintings will always dictate their true forever home. I beat myself up terribly for making a mistake. I shamed myself. And I healed from it. Every time I see that painting hanging in her rightful, perfect home I am reminded once again - reminded of what my real goals are. Reminded of what real love and connection is. Reminded of forgiveness and gratitude. Reminded that I am talented, and the right people see that talent.
Val, Doug and Mia, thank you for giving my soul, in all of her imperfections, fear and joy, the perfect place to live.