In all of my attempts at recovery, I've done it all the same.
I danced the usual dance of -
"I do not need help. I can do this on my own."
"No one has to know."
"People don't need to listen to me complain."
"I will write about it after I'm 'recovered'."
It has now been 12 years of this. And I can honestly say, without a shadow of a doubt.. this modality is NOT working...
I never really thought about writing a blog until recently.
I realized that maybe my biggest block to recovery - the commonality between ALL of my failed (yes, failed... but that's a topic for another day...) attempts at recovering from bulimia is that I try so damn hard to hide it. I am simply not honest with, not just my family members, friends, partner, and those closest to me, but also myself. And the world. I say nothing. I tell almost no one what is going on. And when things aren't going well, I live in denial, even with myself. I keep trying to hide this secret, deeper and deeper, down into the rabbit hole.. and down the rabbit hole I go along with it.
The irony is that my artwork, poetry, and almost all of my creative work is probably a product of this eating disorder. It has been such an all-consuming part of my life for so many years, it would be ignorant to say it hasn't shaped me. My art is my story - a story that I fearlessly put out into the world for people to view and to see, but only because it is in code. It's there, but in shadow. It's the cover of a book, but with blank pages. It's all of my fears, secrets, thoughts, and hopes, but are hidden behind the inherent fact that exists in art - that it's open to interpretation. This is my wall. This is where I plateau. It's where I like to hover. This is my separation of self from story. This is the denial of who I am when I don't like who I see in the mirror. This gap is where my eating disorder lives. This gap is my comfort zone.
I believe there are 2 kinds of people that look at art. People that want to decide what it means to them. And people that want to know what it means to you. For some people, it's a bit of both. But it's the second question that trips me up, time and time again. It's the question that I see, brewing in someone's mind after they've looked at one of my pieces for endless minutes, curiously studying, until they turn to me and ask, "What does it mean?".
I have my 30 second pitch that I give to everyone.. "I like nature.. interested in the contrast of dark and light.. good.. evil.. flowers are pretty.. skulls fascinate me.. finding the beauty in darkness.. blah blah blah blah etc.". I've practiced this since college. I like to think I'm good at it. And it's all true. But it's vague. It's the sugar-coated blanket story. I often see this dullness in people's eyes - that they know there's something more to it.. that they've wanted my response to match what they were thinking, or their level of shock-value of the work, the wonder and curiosity they've begun to invest into the piece in their own head, and by my response, I've fallen short; the disappointment of having to exist in a grey area. Or maybe I'm just not as good at delivering my vague pitch as I think I am. I know I'm doing myself a disservice. But I'm also to afraid to change it...
What I wish for this blog, and for my explanation of my work, is to be more authentic in what the impetus is behind the pieces that I make.. that there not just this exploration of light, or strange obsession with skulls. That it's my true story in the most honest, real, raw form. That the art is the wound, and the explanation the healing.
The fist piece I want to talk about is one of my newest works, "Bloody Nose". It's not my favorite piece, but I do like it very much. You may be asking why that one?? And I get it - it may look like yet another skull painting... and I have just about a million of them...
But this one carries a lot of weight for me. I had been in a rough patch for several weeks, struggling to get my head above water - drowning in this disordered voice in my head... It's not so much the voice, but the fighting of it.. a fight I face daily, some days worse than others, but daily nonetheless. It's entirely exhausting and draining of all of my creative energies. It saps any ability I have to make anything other than crumbled papers. I couldn't seem to paint anything or draw anything or sketch anything.. I was in that place I hate, trying to force ideas, desperate to make anything. And I did make things. When I exist in these periods, I make a lot of bad art. And I exist in these periods a lot.
On that evening, I knew I just needed to stop forcing something - or asking things of myself that I wasn't mentally able to create at that time. I needed something comfortable to paint.. and for me, skulls are comfortable.
One of the side-effects I have experienced from bulimia is that I will get bloody noses as a result of blood vessels breaking from persistent purging. This is not glamorous. This is not something I tell people. This might be one of those moments of 'too much information'. I am not proud of this. This is an ugly truth. This little painting represents the way I often feel when I look in the mirror and see blood running out of my nostril. Dark. Sad. Empty. But I know somewhere, deep inside of me, there is always a light still shining.
I chose the colors of this piece specifically. A very bright cadmium yellow, contrasting with deep alizarin crimson, a color I think looks a great deal like blood. I like to use the bright yellows in combination with white to warm the light.. a light I see as hope - that even when I see things going poorly, when I'm disappointed in myself for engaging in destructive behaviors, that light is coming through. That this eating disorder may be relentless, but my hope will always match it and then some. Getting a bloody nose is a stoic reminder of the damage being done to my body. I hold this with great urgency and seriousness, and at the same time, I always remind myself to keep moving forward. Do not get overwhelmed by it or see it as a barrier. To never quit. And that hope is powerful. And I do hope that you may take a bit of hope with it.
8 in. W x 10 in. H
Oil on wood panel