Give. More. Give More. Love.
Updated: Jun 29, 2021
Behind everything I create, there exists a potent emotion of some variation; a poignant fluster of feelings and sentiments which have fabricated the tangible piece of art you can see out in the world. As I have mentioned in one of my previous blogs, creating pieces with layer after layer is often one of my processes I use to work through a lot of heavy things going on in my head and my heart. I take the thoughts swirling around in my head and layer them onto my canvas, one after the other, shedding bit by bit. One example of how I use this technique is from my collage series, which consists of four pieces: Give, More, Give More, and Love.
In February of 2018, there was a mass shooting at a highschool in Parkland, Florida. At any time and place, violence such as this will always be a heartbreaking tragedy-but I was particularly affected by this one. Many things contributed to my having an emotional meltdown triggered by this horrific instance of gun violence; my anger towards all of the nasty corruption happening in our political system, the Me Too movement (which I feel very passionate about) was gaining momentum...it was a lot, and the school shooting just broke me. There were several photos circulating in the media from this horrific calamity that captured a line of students with their hands up in the air and on each other's shoulders walking out of their school building, (the place they should have felt safest). I can hardly fathom what they must have been feeling and the thought of it tears me to the core. These images captivated me in a gut wrenching way, as their bodies cast shadows on the asphalt in the afternoon sun. It reminded me of the paper chain doll cut out I used to make as a child, reminding me how fragile we are, how impressionable, and how trauma never goes away.
It became obvious that this devastating event had begun to seriously trigger some PTSD for me. The realization that there seems to be no safe place anymore...if kids can’t even feel safe at school, then where can they? This really struck a nerve; school always felt safe for me because it was a place away from my home. The intensity and trauma of the current state of humanity evoked so many questions all at once: what am I doing? What difference am I making? What could I do to make a difference? How can I continue to sit around in my castle painting flowers when shit like this is happening? What is it that I want my art to accomplish? I felt like I was making no difference in the world, but I wanted to, I just was not sure where to start.
In an effort to work some of these intense emotions out, I found myself doing the only thing I knew would provide some type of relief, creating. For several days following the shooting I spent time in my art studio pasting things on four canvas boards-things that bothered me, upset me...anything and everything I was feeling. I would cut out letters from magazines and write notes on it like “be kind”, “love”, “be generous,” and “stop.” The first piece of the series, Give, was coming into existence-scrap by scrap, emotions layered over other emotions. The woman in this piece holds a posture which portrays how she feels when she’s giving everything she can. The shoulder size is to represent her strength, and the armor she’s had to build up to protect herself in order to survive. I drew her nude to symbolize her desperate desire to take off her armor and use this vulnerable state to allow for her to Give.
As I created this first piece, I began thinking...what if we all gave a little more? More kindness, more generosity, more love. We all need more of these things. This brought me to my second piece, which depicts a woman with her hands up, symbolizing her complete letting go and letting in the ability to give all that she has, in hopes that others will absorb that same feeling. But so much of the time, simply giving just doesn’t seem to be enough. So I thought, well, we need to give more-give more than what is comfortable for us. This thought trajectory birthed my third piece: Give More. Here, you see a woman leaning on her out of proportion arm. It turned out kind of strange, but I didn’t mind it. For me, the sentiment behind it was…well, how do you know when giving more is too much and whether it is helping or hurting?
My thoughts continued to spin with all of these questions, urging me toward the next and final piece in the series: Love. Isn’t that what does it all boil down to? This is what we need to give more of. I didn’t want to try and make it pretty, which is why it has the dry and crackled surface on it. I put a layer of medium on it that dries like a parched, cracked desert, void of any nourishment; an exact representation of how I had felt about the world while creating these. Multiple layers over a couple months, no planning, no reasoning, and no thinking about selling any of it. I wasn’t doing it for anybody but myself; to try and find peace, one of the main reasons why I create. In this time period all I wanted was to find a way to make a positive effect and voice what’s important to me through my art, these four pieces are exactly that-my voice on canvas.
Sometime after this series was finished, it was displayed at an art show of mine. I noticed a friend standing in front of the pieces for a while, seemingly transfixed by them. They were really powerful to her and she ended up buying all four of them. When I shared the meaning behind these pieces, I learned that my friend was able to relate to them in a very similar way. This ability to relate to another person is one of the most powerful and inspiring things about being an artist. Knowing that what I create has the ability to be a conduit for direct yet unspoken communication and understanding of human emotion is one of the many reasons I continue to pick up a paintbrush.
After my art show, I felt like I had let go of the emotional weight that this project carried and could move on to my next form of expression. This series became less of, what do I want from this piece, and more of, what do I want from and for society? I believe that when we all give more, society is in better balance, and love is something you can never give too much of.