2015 has been an incredible year of growth for me both personally and professionally. It has been a year of healing and stepping out of my comfort zone. My last painting series was a major breakthrough. It brought to light a repetitive cycle of negative, limiting thoughts. (New to my site? You should take a look at Ineffable: Fantasy & Reality,
which showcases this painting series and my reflections on the work.) I’ve received so much positive feedback from this series of paintings that it lead me to a very special collaboration with Kelly Dooley
. She is launching The K-Do Alliance
, a non-profit for survivors of abuse and domestic violence. Her organization provides financial resources and emotional support to allow these survivors to escape toxic relationships and rebuild their lives. I was honored to participate in the photo shoot for such a noble cause.
There were 8 of us present for this photo shoot. The concept was for each of us to be nude, covered in body paint. This represented that vulnerability is strength; that we each have learned to be comfortable in our own skin by overcoming suffering. Each of us had a different story, but everyone had experienced pain. Growing up, addiction was very prevalent in my family. I never felt able to communicate effectively in this environment. It was erratic and extreme. This made other relationships really difficult for me, especially how I related to myself. As a teen and young adult, I was attracted to partners that were emotionally unavailable and abusive. I couldn’t understand why this was happening to me. I knew something wasn’t right, but I continued to repeat the pattern that was most familiar to me.
When I was 25, I entered a serious romantic relationship with a man who I would later find out was diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. The mental and emotional abuse was very subtle at first, but progressed rapidly. He was very controlling, manipulative, and would consistently sabotage my career and artistic practice. He discouraged me from painting and drawing. Over time, I became a shell of myself and felt little meaning was left in my life. I was isolated and withdrawn. I finally left him after 3 years in 2011, because I felt my spirit dying. I did not feel the joy, enthusiasm, and inspiration that was part of my very essence.
As an outsider, it is easy to dismiss abusive relationships. People tend to say “why don’t you just leave?” in a rather condescending manner. It is difficult to leave because your self confidence becomes eroded. We each have an inner critic; a cycle of thoughts that we aren’t good enough, attractive enough, or smart enough. When you have a partner that magnifies those fears, the results are paralyzing. You really start believing that you are not – and never will be – enough.
It took me a long time to correct my thinking after leaving that relationship. I realized how much I had sacrificed my own self-care and happiness by allowing someone else to magnify my fears. Slowly, I started to repair my relationship with myself. I started to be nicer to myself. I began painting and drawing. Daily meditation and yoga helped me recognize and break the vicious and self-defeating loop of thoughts that replayed in my mind. I began to understand that reality is predicated on thoughts and beliefs, so I must constantly think in a positive and happy way. Joy and peace started to return to my life. The pursuit of happiness led me to realize a few truths:
- I no longer have to focus on the misfortunes of the past or on judging myself.
- Each moment, I can direct my focus towards the pursuit of happiness instead of tearing myself down.
- It takes courage to be the person what I want to be, but I believe in myself.
- In finding the courage to believe, anything is possible.
Photo courtesy of CATM NY
As the photo shoot progressed, I felt like I was living a major moment in art history. All of those books I read about my favorite movements, like Impressionism and Pre-Raphaelite art, were swirling around me. I was living art. Finally, I was proud of who I was. Everyone around me was living art, too. It was so liberating to see each person as who they really were – a beautiful soul in the artwork of their own body. There was no shame or judgement. There was only appreciation and joy. And that is the only way I choose to live.
“Dare to love yourself as if you were a rainbow with gold at both ends.” ― Aberjhani
Many thanks to Kelly Marie Dooley, Phil Valy, CATM NY, Savage Haus, Contra Studios, & each of the wonderful models that participated in the shoot.