Back in mid-February I did a painting called “all the shitty lies he told me." I had been having those dreams again… the ones from which I’d awaken in a cold, sweaty, panic, until I realized it wasn’t happening now.
But it had been real. I had stayed in a relationship for the better part of a decade, my 20s, with someone who clearly did not love me. Convinced that it was my fault, I began to loathe myself for not being good enough. If it wasn’t him telling me how I should change - in order for him love me more, it was a voice inside me that pointed out my every fault and wouldn’t shut up.
Part of me wanted to do a series based on these feelings, this time in my life. I painted another one, with ninjagrl looking at a ramshackle wooden bridge across a gaping chasm entitled, ”almost enough.” But it was never enough. I could never get to the other side.
And yet, part of me felt like it would be too whiney. Too self-pitying. However… when I first started painting ninjagrl, some of my most poignant paintings were of times and feelings full of pain or loss. People could relate. And it helped me to get those feelings out. I’d give them to turtle and ninja and they could carry them for me. Share the feelings, if not the details, with the world.
The other reason I wanted to do this series was because when I think of that girl - young me - in that relationship - not understanding what love really looks like - my heart breaks for her. And if my sharing could help anyone else extricate themselves from something so toxic, how could I not?
I held that pain inside me for so long. So many years. But I don’t feel anger any longer. Just clarity. And sadness for her. That wasn’t love. “I might love you more if you lost weight” is not love.“You are so close to my ideal of who I want to be with” is not love. “What have you done lately to make me love you?” is not love. I can barely write this without crying for her.
And then… I think about what I have now. How securely and utterly loved I am. How selflessly loved. How exactly who I am, right now, is his standard of beauty. He’s my best friend, my partner, my confidant. I wake from those cold, empty, sad dreams… to a feeling of being enveloped in sunshine and warmth, protected and cherished. Completely enough.
But… I never got any further with that series.
Because the world turned upside down.
And now there is a different kind of fear… and sadness and loneliness… But I’ve also seen and felt also a stronger sense of community - an outpouring of love, support and encouragement. A celebration of human resilience. And my art has turned to reflecting that. Documenting this strange, new, world. And trying to bring some joy and hope thru my depictions of ninja and turtle with their rolls of toilet paper and heart-shaped balloons.
I don’t know what is next. For art, for us, for the world… If I’ve learned one thing from the past month, it’s that things can change in an instant - all our plans as ephemeral as the wind. But, as Luke jokes at the climax of any movie from star wars to Frozen, “It’s LOVE!”
(A bunch of the original paintings, as well as prints of some, are available in my shop. If you'd like to have a look, I'd be much obliged!)