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.