I created this piece for those of us who are familiar with the depths of our own darkness.
That darkness can include depression, anxiety, isolation, grief and so much more, depending on each of our own unique experiences.
This piece is also for those of us who are choosing to reckon with our shadow, part of that darkness.
Our shadow includes our own violence, the ways we hurt those around us and ourselves. My own shadow self has been on my mind a lot these past few months as I choose to face the ways I hurt others and myself, a very dark and harrowing endeavor.
I have found that the violent parts of myself are most often revealed in the intimate relationships in my life where I am free to be whole, vulnerably and some times terrifyingly whole.
This piece is a testament to my own journey of reckoning with the depths of that darkness.
It is also a statement of hope that has emerged from the darkness in my own life.
In my art, my intention is to focus on those most marginalized parts of ourselves as well as center those people most marginalized in our communities.
I believe that the darkness present within each of us is at the root of the marginalization and injustice in our society. Our personal violence, I have found, is deeply interconnected with the violence we perpetuate in our families, communities and world.
It seems that facing the darkness in ourselves and our society can overwhelm us or it can empower us to engage healing and growth, a sort of cross roads.
This piece is about choosing to engage healing and growth and the life born from these gifts.
I particularly enjoy the combination of the words survive and thrive in this piece.
The word heal is also intentionally at the center, the bridge between the choice to survive and the opportunity to thrive.
And when I say “I owe it to myself,” I mean that I had to choose to live and heal and grow, a choice made out of love for myself and maybe one of the harder decisions I have had to make over and over again in my life.
The original sketch I made of this piece started with the sun. I loved the idea of painting such a vibrant, color filled sun, full of warmth. And as I reflected on the light and warmth of the sun, I reviewed the writing in my journal from the past few months and found repeated themes of darkness.
I started thinking about the contrast between light and dark and the deep interconnection of the two in the journey towards emotional health.
And I recalled a painting that I made for a friend a few years ago that also included themes of light and dark. In that piece, I choose to represent the emergence of light through darkness with persons being carried through the dark by the collective power of a million stars. And I started sketching those persons again in this piece being carried through the darkness by stars toward the sun.
I also recently finished reading The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, which coincidentally has a painting of Icarus on the cover. The Body Keeps the Score is all about trauma and how trauma lives in the body.
One important element of the book is about how healing trauma is an incredibly complex balance between drawing closer to the memories of trauma in order to engage healing and yet not pushing too close to those memories, which could risk re-traumatization. That delicate balance is one I know personally and resonates with my own experience of healing and growth.
As Bessel Van Der Kolk explains, “The challenge of recovery is to reestablish ownership of your body and your mind-of your self. This means feeling free to know what you know and to feel what you feel without becoming overwhelmed, enraged, ashamed, or collapsed” (The Body Keeps the Score, page 205).
The story of Icarus thus becomes one way of interpreting that delicate balance, the sun, a representation of the feelings and memories that can hold the key to our own healing and at the same time the threat of destruction. This reflection is a needed reminder for me of how delicate the healing process is and how gentle and compassionate we need to be with ourselves and others in that journey.
The shadowed figures being carried by stars toward the sun in this piece are a representation of that delicate balance and the process of healing.
Toni Morrison once said, “Once you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.”
This piece was created with that intention in mind. I know how empowering and liberating my own healing process has been and am interested in sharing that light and life and growth with others. “Heal and Thrive” is a step in that direction.