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Why All of This Matters to Me:

I've always been an artist. I've created since I could hold a crayon. My art has always been a reflection of where I am a the moment I created it. My pieces serve as mile-markers or ticks on a timeline of my life. When I'm happy, it shows. When I'm particularly angsty, it shows. When I've been hanging on to the edge of a metaphorical cliff, that definitely shows.

Many times, I've turned to paint when I've been at rock bottom. I don't tend to discuss my work or my process or my motives a whole lot. It's very personal at times. I always hope my work means something to someone, but I never feel the need to assign meaning for someone else. I feel like it is important here, though. It's relevant to this work.

The following photo was taken in the attic studio of my old house. It's over a decade old now, so forgive the cell phone camera quality. My life was kind of a mess. I've never been able to fit the cookie cutter mold of who I am supposed to be as a woman in the south, and I never really wanted to. A debutante, I am not. So, I've remained a square peg in a room full of perfect cylinders my whole life.

This piece shows my frustration with some current events that were trending at the time along with some personal turmoil. We, as Americans, were at the end of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" reign. I never did "feel" the repeal. I still feel like that if you have an unpopular opinion, the easiest and safest thing to do down here is smile, nod, and keep your mouth tightly shut. I haven't always done that. More often than not, though, I've chosen the easier path for self-preservation. There have been times when I've felt torn between speaking up and shutting up. So, I generally strike a compromise among the parts of myself. I'm unashamedly myself everywhere I go, but I often keep quiet in public when I'd rather speak up. As illustrated in this painting, my heart wants to bleed all over topics at hand, and my brain interferes and tells my mouth to stay shut because safety still matters. When given the option, I almost always choose peace. That decision doesn't always make me proud. It can be aggravating, and that aggravation gets internalized.

The devil horns and halo juxtaposition is no accident. I know I'm a decent human being, but I've been painted as less by people before. Like I said, square peg, and sometimes people demonize what they don't understand. If they don't understand me, I must be bad, right?

The center of this painting is dark, as I wasn't feeling particularly light. I know, though, that I'm still in there. So, light still radiates at the edges. Colors still splatter the corners. I may be sad here, and misunderstood, and even demonized, but I'm still me. Even in a depressed state, I always put light spots in my work. There's always some degree of hope that slips in.

More times than I can count, I've painted through tears. The cool thing about tears, though, is even though they are the epitome of sadness, . . . they still reflect light. Cathartic refractions glimmer across the dark room where I'm working. Teardrops and paint drips fall for the same purpose for me. Release.

So, that's why this work is important to me. I have to wonder how many weirdos have found comfort and release and their voices in art. And, I still have to wonder if the art is a product of a rocky mental state or if creatives are more apt to travel rocky paths. Are the mentally ill, or mentally teetering, more likely to create or are artists more likely to teeter? Maybe mental instability isn't a precondition, but are we predisposed?


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