Can art save lives? Absolutely!

Growing up in a disjointed, broken home, I retreated into art at an early age to escape for hours on end.  It was the only way I could deal with the disappointment and isolation I felt on a daily basis.  I contemplated suicide a number of times but always found some hope in my work, music or reading. I had friends, yes but school was tough.  Trying to fit in when being labelled a nerd, and coming from a poor single parent family meant it was never going to be easy. Of course it is much easier when you have a good family support to lean on but mine was shaky at best.  At home I never knew what to expect.  Some days my Mum was good, she would be happy and talkative, other days yelling and screaming and not making sense. I clearly remember my mother yelling at me on a regular basis to get out of the house, the hours I spent drawing seemed to aggravate her despite the fact she bragged about my work to everyone she came across. I also remember that she never told me she loved me. Sometimes as a child you feel so undervalued by the things your parents don’t do. These unspoken words scarred me more than the physical damage she could ever do.

I was kicked out of home at 16. My mother tried to strangle me and told me I would never make it on my own. I went and lived with my brother who had suffered a similar fate at just 15. So here we were a brother and sister trying to make it on our own at 20 and 16 years of age.  Let me say the cooking was not great but I learned fast!  At this point I lived and breathed art.  I sculpted, painted, designed and created whenever I had spare time.  I felt completely free to pursue my passion. I lived in my school art room at lunch times and my art teacher became instrumental in steering me towards an arts career.  Although it wasn’t smooth sailing yet!  During this time, I was re-united with my loving father.  He was amazing!  He supported me 100% emotionally, which is what I had been craving.  He was musically talented and I could totally relate to him and he encouraged me in my artistic pursuits. I then studied visual art and design at college and just when I felt my little world was safe my father died on Christmas Day after suffering a massive heart-attack. I only had 2 short years with my Dad. What ensued was a path of self-destruction.  I felt I had no one left in this world and the isolation was overwhelming. I didn’t know who I was and I didn’t care, I just wanted to escape the pain and loneliness in my world.

At rock bottom I made a choice to pursue a path of healing and self-discovery.  This was the hardest road I have ever walked. I can honestly say that healing these emotional wounds was a dark and difficult journey.  The ONE thing, the ONLY thing that helped me cope, that enabled me to express my pain and that gave me hope was ART.  I could escape and disappear for hours on end with just a pencil and piece of paper. I could hide behind my lens and capture the world around me and guess what I found?  It was beautiful.

While I am no longer hide from the world I have learnt over the years that my demons still hide in my closet.  That I still suffer from negative self-talk and a lack of self-esteem on occasions and that you don’t always completely heal these wounds but rather you learn how to live with them and use them to make you stronger.  Overcoming a troubled childhood means that you are on guard for the rest of your life to not to to choose quick fixes, or to sink into a depressed state, to not relive the past, which is why art is a way of life for me now.  It is prevention, it is therapy, it is keeping me balanced and fulfilled.

My work at this point in my life is about realising my identity, investigating and celebrating it. My subjects are full of life as am I.  They all have a purpose as do I. The images that I create bring hope and happiness as I hope to bring to all the people in my world. I want to remind my viewers of the mesmerising beauty in this sometimes dark world. I have a purpose and a passion to share this journey and all it has taught me with the amazing people in my home, in my community and those I meet along the way.

I know art saves lives, it saved mine.

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