I grew up in a small community full of those who had zero understanding of abstract art. I was once one of those…. Not that barn paintings, floral or any other traditional subjects are not good. I love them and paint them often. But, I grew up with the understanding of what I was taught, and abstract was not among the art lessons. I want to share my journey of learning and new understanding…..
Inspiration that started my journey to abstract art
It began in 1997…. we were young and we loved each other. There were future plans discussed… marriage, a home and a family…. We had been together for two years and we were sure we wanted to spend our lives together. Then one day everything changed. Someone came into his life and I can only explain her as being a sociopath, a narcissist… something, but whatever it was she was anything but normal. I felt it deep in my spirit something was wrong with her – She had the ability to manipulate in ways I had seen before (for another post another time) but it was, to me, a personal attack. I loved a man, had a life plan together with him and in a moment she shredded our plans with seduction, lies, and manipulation.
I packed up my belongings and registered at a community college in San Luis Obispo, about 4 hours away from my home – far enough away to escape painful memories – my hope was to escape the pain itself from losing my love. It did not work… not at all. I may have left town, gotten away from our life, our friends and all the places we spent time and had memories but the pain followed me. I continued to paint the things I knew but it felt very different. There was a part of me that believed I would somehow reveal my pain through my work, which I did not want because to reveal my heart in that state terrified me – I was, without really realizing it – afraid to paint….. There was another part of me that felt a disconnect from what I had always known because everything had changed. My “plan” for life was now completely altered, turned upside down and torn apart. My love was gone and his new love made sure to rub it in my face as well as tell others we both knew how she was using him for his family money – things like “if I marry him I will be set for life”…. things that broke my heart more because I loved him for him. I knew in my spirit that he was in for a frightful ride with her and would someday see her as the biggest mistake of his life (which turned out to be exactly what happened). Anyway, there I was, 4 hours away from home finding that it was just as confining there as it was at home, minus his girlfriend in my face….. I painted but had somehow lost my connection to the art I once created. I was changed. I did not yet know the degree of that change but it was significant… I spent a few years trying to figure out what the change was and how to find myself again – or the new me, post shattered heart. My whole being was shattered, putting back the pieces looked different because I was different, forever changed. I did not realize my work would be so affected… that I would go from my simple barn and flowers view of life would become so abstract…. It literally took a couple years post Ben to love art the way i once had. The love for art was always there, I just had to rediscover it in the new me…..The thought occurred to me to abstract my work through a suggestion from my brother. He had moved out of town with our mother years before so his exposure to the world was very different from mine. He asked me to paint him something abstract. I had no clue what to do but he put the bug in my ear and it grew into the “new me”………
The Choice to Abstract….
A few years passed, the pain remained but by this time was a dull ache rather than the sharp, stabbing want to stop breathing kind of pain. I still missed my love but I moved on, did what I had to do…. I moved from San Luis Obispo where I had been attending the community college and moved to The SF Bay Area to begin my art training at California College of the Arts. I remember the first conscious choice to learn about abstract. I was in a class and the instructor asked us to write the one thing we would like to learn about in his class that semester. By this time, I had not only lost my Ben, but both of my grandfathers had just passed away (within a couple months of each other). I was close to both of them and my heart was re-broken in a whole new way. I was a mess and just did not really know what to do with myself. I decided to choose to learn a whole new thing…. maybe create that painting my brother wanted…so – exact words written that day “I want to learn how to love and paint abstract”. It was a conscious decision but at that time I had no idea why (other than a request from my baby brother). I was a representational artist and I did not even like abstract work but decided what the heck, might as well expand my thinking (did not think I would ever fall in love with abstract art though). I was also re-learning me, so unknowingly, it was perfect timing….
After we placed our paper in the bucket in the middle of the room with our one thing we wanted to learn the instructor said, OK….. lets begin. He handed $1.00 out to each student in the room and said we had one hour… Take your dollar, buy something and bring it back here is what he told us…. OK, go!!! An hour later the middle of the room was full of junk. Jelly beans, magazines from the local thrift store… and someone came back with a sock he bought off someone’s foot. Guess what landed in front of where I was sitting? yep. The old, worn icky sock…. The next thing our instructor said was to take the concept of what we wanted to learn and apply it to drawing the item in front of us. I drew an abstract sock…. strange as it sounds, I fell in love with abstract in that moment. It took another several months to a year to understand why… I was still missing Ben, both of my grandfathers had just passed (one suddenly, one expected….but painful either way) and I had no idea but my best friend in the world, the one who walked by me through thick and thin was about to die as well at the age of 26. I was in pain and was in for a lot more. I got the call in the middle of class and rushed home to my best friend hooked up to life support. That was the last time I saw my Rachel……..
Putting pieces back together….
finally,. I stopped having loss of life in my life and I, though still in pain really began to be aware of the work I was creating and take time to think about why. My work had become almost completely non-objective. I realized it was my way of putting my pieces back together, redefining myself having lost so much. I hid my pain in my abstract work and also my joy…. I was starting to find a new me in creating something from nothing… Really, thinking about it my process to create abstract work was much the way my life had been. I took something and broke it down into nothing, much the same way I was feeling about my own life, how it had been broken apart into what felt like a lot of nothing… then put it back together into something new, unrecognizable as the life that once existed, but beautiful in its own, new form. I had found me again… redefined and completely different, with elements of the old me but changed from what I once was. The pain changed me, but I was able to take the pain and turn it into lessons learned and move on.
Fast forward to now…. (there are several…. like dozens) of articles to be written about the in between stuff – but now I make my living as an artist in various areas from my mixed media abstract paintings, to handmade jewelry, to christian clothing and many other design related works. I have two beautiful boys ages 10 and 8, I am now married to Ben and we have a beautiful little girl who turned 3 in November. The entire series of abstract paintings I created ( photos of abstracts in this article are from that series) were purchased by Sonora Regional Medical Center for their new Cancer center. They picked up the paintings just last week for installation (another post with pics after the grand opening coming…. soon).
I am now in a place of deciding how I want to add to my abstract art to reflect the changes in my life… My art is always a journey that coincides with the experiences in my life. I sometimes do not even see the difference in my work until I am through certain events/life changes…….
Abstract work is sometimes harder to understand, it was for me – but it is now so much a part of me that even though I still create representational work I still keep going back to the abstract… the work that helped me see that broken things can be put back together and that although changed completely still have beauty if we only choose to see it…..