Ethics and Perception

 

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When I began working with my current medium, I was living in Southern California and attending classes in ceramics and sculpture. This was a really intense time of my life and my health was starting to decline, so I channeled my energy into my artwork and my health. I was in and out of so many different doctors offices, saw many different healers, and really opened up my whole story to anyone who would listen to try and get some answers. Since no one was finding anything wrong, I thought going to the gym, exercising and changing my whole lifestyle was the answer. I felt like I was doing something wrong or that I did something wrong in my past and how I felt was some kind of punishment. I also became rather shut off and honestly, angry. I used to go on long runs and often times I would find items along the way and incorporate them into my artwork. It is strange the things you will find on the side of the road or laying on the beach. I would also travel back to the east coast to spend time with family and find many items in the area where I grew up. Combined, these items displayed an image of what I was going through, my past experiences and the current lifestyle that I was leading. The more sick I got, the further I was taken out of the world of going to see bands play, staying up late at night and living the lifestyle that I loved surrounded by friends. I had to really tune in and listen to my body and change my life completely. I used this isolating factor and started to create. It is what I went to when I need to get it all out.

After going through three years of treatment, getting back into the world was the scariest thing I have ever done. It was interesting too, getting back on social media and reconnecting. Perception is such a strange thing. I think all of us in the states have witnessed that this year with the election. You can truly believe what you want to, and find numerous articles and online sites that support what you believe, despite if it is wrong or right. Looking at a persons feed on social media is the story they want you to see, just like politicians, we can hide behind our pictures from what we really are. When I began to look for sources for my artwork, I learned that lesson the hard way. I found a gentleman who offered cheap bones for sale. I was really eager to begin working with them since there was so many for my price range. I had sent him an email asking the source of his bones assuming that they were from an ethical source by the way his listing was worded. He never responded, so I began to make two pieces with the bones. The issue that he never responded really bothered me. I just did not want to support something against everything I was about and something about the sale just kept nudging my intuition. When I got an email to leave a review for the purchase, I left a negative remark saying I tried to reach the seller and he never responded so I am unsure of the source of the bones. I thought it would help other people who were interested in purchasing from him. I also put the two pieces I made from his bones to the side and the rest of the bones in a bag with an X on them so they would never be used.

About a week after leaving my negative remark, I got an email from him saying the bones were from a mink farm and were an after product of the mink industry. I literally felt sick to my stomach and really angered at what he wrote next. He claimed that they were ethically sourced since the farms use the whole animal in the process. A quick Google search led me to find organizations and even YouTube videos of seemingly nice people who support the fur trade. I actually almost convinced myself for a moment that it was Ok. It was total propaganda making something terrible look like it was acceptable. Mothers, Fathers, hipster-looking folks who all raised minks to kill for their fur and by-products. I am not judging these folks either. I love diversity and I support everyones views, no matter what you choose do with your life – within reason of course, but personally this all made me sick.

I began to connect with some amazing people who sell bones in ethically sourced ways. I met a woman residing in the mountains of New Mexico who lives with her husband, a biologist, that works as a Natural Resources Manager on a wild-lands ranch. They hike almost every day and that is where she finds carcasses. She takes them home and processe the bones herself to sell. Another person I buy from is living in Crete Greece and he finds animals on the land where he lives similar to the woman in New Mexico. He has some amazing and beautiful items for sale. Lastly I found a seller in Kansas who finds all of her bones and oddities herself and is firm on everything being ethically sourced. She makes the purchase simple since she does all of the work herself. Of course, all of these items are triple the price, and that is reflected in the price of my artwork, but it is a very small price to pay. I find it vital that anyone purchasing my work can feel the magic a piece of artwork can hold when it is the presentation of a life that has departed. That is what my artwork is all about. The reason I create the pieces I do is to display the beauty that nature can offer in life and in death. What we leave behind after death can be just as beautiful as it was while we were living.

August will be four years since beginning this journey and I am still working on getting my life back. Most people know that I have Lyme Disease and co-infectons, but my illness goes beyond that. Often, people like a name and label for an illness. The way medicine and illness is perceived is frankly, very strange. This whole experienced has changed my view completely. It was discovered earlier in treatment that I have a gene mutation and genetics that are unable to clear many infections from my body. That is why I have Lyme so severe and many other health issues. The genetic mutations along with my disease caused havoc internally and basically let anything foreign set up camp. This caused hormone imbalances, metal toxicity and many other issues and why I grew more and more sick throughout time. Addressing the Lyme and co-infections is just one part of the puzzle. I also have to work on the parts of my body that were effected and strengthen them. It is a game of die off, detox and rebuilding. It is so much more than just Lyme, just like many illnesses and diseases are. I cannot hide from every bug and toxin the rest of my life, but I can make my body strong and address these imbalances so it can do it organically. Sure, some diseases are very distinct, but often there is a reason for someone to grow ill. It can be for many reasons such as a compromised immune system, toxic lifestyle, genetic reasons or environmental exposure. These are all things we will hopefully hear more and more about in the very near future. The best thing we all can do is open our eyes, our ears and our minds and listen. Thinking outside of the box is what helps many people find answers to their health issues. No one wants to be sick, or angry, or judged. 

I channeled  Frida Kahlo the last few months. I remember when I first got sick, a friend sent me a text saying simply “Frida Kahlo”. Something so simple as a two word text just stuck. Of course I knew her artwork very well, but I did more research and heard her full story of how she was bed ridden and did artwork in bed. She was such a powerful woman both artistically and politically. Between doctors appointments and medications, I laid down a towel on my bed and made these pieces. My bed has been my island. It is where visitors come to hang out with me, it is my reading nook, my cinema and much more. More and more, lately I am able to venture out of this island. Good moments are replacing the bad. The things I cannot do on my own, my partner has taken my detailed lists and provided me with supplies. He has been been so supportive not only with my artwork but through this whole journey. We both uprooted our whole lives and literally share life with the east and the west coast. Our whole life is back in California, including all of our belongings, and we both sacrifice all that we have to get me better. You never want to bring someone into something so complex like this, but him and my family are right there with me, every step of the way.

I am very eager to list my new work on my Etsy shop. I will be listing them in early March. I am excited to share with others what has gotten me through some interesting times. Right now I live through my computer and the few people I do see are close friends and doctors, so meeting so many new and interesting people the past few months while finding ethically sourced supplies has been such a great experience. Something I hope for everyone is that they can surround themselves with good people who support and love them. I can honestly say for once in my life, I am surrounded by the best of the best. 

Conscious

Three years. Again, it has been some time since I have added anything to this website. I have kept it up in order to have access to my old pieces, but I honestly assumed that would be it for me in the art scene. I simply would move on to other things in life since the chaos of it all left no time for creativity, or so I thought. When I received my diagnosis in October of 2013, I thought that it would all get better from there. I would begin treatment and I would gradually get more able bodied and for once, be able to go on with my life. If someone would have told me then what I was about to go through over the next three years, I probably would not have believed them and claimed them as cynical and crazy. In no way could I ever have imagined not only how sick I was, but how much work treatment took. Having a disease this serious in my body for over twenty years, by the time I was diagnosed, it caused a lot of damage to me neurologically. With my disease, when you begin treatment, it heightens all symptoms and causes mass die off. Added to that, you have to address all of the major bodily functions that were impacted as well. Treatment is a long process. It became evident about six months in that living in a major city far away from family was not going to work. I was too sick to fly home to my family on the east coast, so we drove over four days from San Francisco to Philadelphia. I am very lucky to be alive. The last doctor we saw in California told me there was nothing they could do for me and he agreed it was best that I went home to spend time with family. From what you see on television, and how as a society we are taught to view illness, it puts such a distortion on the reality of it all. How easy it is to become ill and how it is no ones responsibility but our own to get better and in some cases, there is no way to get better. I thought I was a woman of the world before this experience. Then reality hit and my naiveness was shone on with a rather large spotlight.

Over the last three years, I have fought for my life. My family has been uprooted. We have lost almost all of our stability, but we have each other. For a year I was bed ridden and unable to walk further than the bathroom. On good days, downstairs to get the mail. My disease targeted my brain in many ways and treatment made any light and sound excruciating. Someone closing a door too hard or turning on the light was nothing short of torture. This left me in a state of solitude for some time. People would call to stop by and I was embarrassed to tell them the truth and too sick to explain that my disease made me unable to tolerate noise and light. Music, which is about 95% of what I live for, was not an option. Unfortunately, it is something I am still working on. Too many people talking at once sends my head into a spin. My disease is also not well known, and again, therefore societally unaccepted. Patients like myself are shunned by family members, judged by loved ones and called hypochondriacs time and time again. I am very lucky for the people who have stood by me through all of this and also sad by those who I have lost. You never know who will stand by you until a situation like this takes its course.

To be honest, the experience is difficult for me to talk about. I cannot put it all into words. I find this frustrating. When I was first diagnosed, I wanted everyone to know what I went through. In some ways because I wanted people to understand and also so I could help others with similar experiences. As time went on, I discovered we all have to learn to walk our own paths. No one can teach us life experience. I have worked through a lot of anger and come to an understanding that it is Ok to express all experiences in different ways. My way is my artwork. Slowly, bit by bit over the last year, I have begun to see pieces of me come to life. Parts of me that I did not even know were not normal before diagnosis begin to work again. I had been sick for so long that I did not know what healthy felt like. I did not know how to go through a day without living behind something and acting like it was Ok. Without cope mechanisms. I had no idea life could be so simple. I always thought when I would begin to see major progress, I would be out doing much more. That is why I was very surprised that the first thing I wanted to do was to create again. It is almost like a tickle you feel when you are about to sneeze or when you listen to a particular album to get that good feeling where the hair on your arm stands up.

The interesting thing with being back in my home town, away from all of my belongings and away from all of my creative outlets, makes my artwork so much more raw. My art has always been based off of traveling and being outdoors, and my life now is my bedroom, the couch and doctors offices. I think this strengthened my eye. The extreme irony that what influences me most in life, being outdoors, is that what almost killed me. Perhaps it was something from my subconscious telling me the answer to all that ails me. Maybe not. All I know is that I am eager to create again. Although my body is limited in it’s mobility, I am lucky to have people who will take my detailed lists and take the time to get me supplies. I am very blessed to have the support that I have.

So work is in progress and I hope to have some new pieces soon. Stay tuned.

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Been some time.

Not being in school this semester and the majority of my art supplies are still packed, so it has been difficult for me to create anything new in quite some time. That is why when I was asked by a dear friend to do a page in a magazine, I hopped to it. Granted, I did another piece that I rushed to finish and ended up submitting this instead, but this is typical of me. Anything I create happens within 24 hours of the due date. It is what it is.

So much going on after a move. This city is  so inspiring, but so much compacted into such a small geographical area. I love it here.

This is the first artwork I have done since my last art show in San Diego about 4 months ago. All my current pieces are sculpture as well, so it felt good to go back to some old techniques.

Dear Meat 2 resize

Dear Meat