Earlier this year, I began to work on a series of some of my most personal pieces yet. First, let’s cut to the chase with the story that gives them both context:
When I was a child, I was a very happy, quirky, innocent little child, without a care in the world. I was also definitely what you would call a daddy’s girl. I absolutely, sweetly, hugely, loved and adored my dad, and everyone could see it. Just about every day, I, almost obsessively, drew him pictures, to the point where he told me he would soon no longer have room for all the things I made him. On one sunny day, when I was seven years old, while I was happily playing a game, my dad called me to come sit next to him on our green leather couch, and then told me he was leaving us. Infinitely perplexed and shocked by what I was hearing, the confirmation of the reality of this moment came when I asked him if he was going to come back. That was when I heard the worst “no” I’ve heard so far in my little life experience. My childhood and innocence, as I once knew them, were over. In the years after that, though I was still so young, I continually tried to distance myself from childhood; anything at all that made me feel childlike again. In my mind, it was time to move on and grow up, or, as I so sadly said at age eight, “to be treated like I’m a teenager.”
The first piece, as you’ll see above, deals directly with that dark moment on the green leather couch. Using leather from that actual set of couches, I recreated a likeness of that couch on top of my drawing of that event, and turned it into a sort of trash can, as that couch, as someone brilliantly suggested to me, was like the trash can where my childhood, my innocence, myself, was thrown away by my father. In the trash can itself are recreations of things I drew as a child, including things I clearly recall drawing specifically for my dad. The process of creating that piece, I must say, was very emotionally trying. To be honest, I would find myself breaking down into tears every hour or two when the memory of that moment would come back to vividly haunt me, making me feel like that seven-year-old girl all over again, heartbroken from rejection, wondering why I wasn’t enough to make him stay. However, these tears over painful memories kept on turning into tears of joy and gratitude, as I had, purely by coincidence, not considering how the lyrical themes connected to my piece, been playing the music of the wonderful musician Jason Gray on repeat; music of sweet hope and redemption in the midst of pain and darkness. As something new is literally being created from a symbol of my past pain, I hear the words being sung, “You love me as I am, not as I should be,” “Even this will be made beautiful,” and "In the hands of our redeemer, nothing is wasted." Hearing these things while doing what I was doing created such a beautiful contrast. (Check out Jason’s album Love Will Have The Final Word)
Now comes the piece that covers redemption. It was one year after my dad left that the first of the Lord of the Rings movies, The Fellowship of the Ring, released, before which one of my sisters had begun reading the Lord of the Rings books to me. The Lord of the Rings turned out to be an unexpected sweetness and presentation of hope to me and my family in the throes of that trial, and while most children eagerly wait all year to find presents under the tree at Christmas, I, like the awesome little geek that I was, waited for the next Lord of the Rings movie. If I could summarize The Lord of the Rings very briefly, I would say it’s a story of perseverance, redemption, and hope. Something has been destroyed and darkened, and now a journey must take place to restore it. The journey will be rough, rocky, and plenty painful, but along the way are glimpses, great and small, of the hope that is being sought after, and at the end of it all, that hope will be found, and all will be redeemed. It was for those reasons that I have identified so much with the stories of Middle Earth.
This second piece was also made on that green couch leather, but this time, the thing that not only represents ugliness, but is rather ugly itself, is covered with something beautiful, illustrating the journey of the fellowship, and myself, from darkness and desolation, to hope, redemption, and beauty. The images are made from Lord of the Rings memorabilia; cut up pieces of many, many paper photo stills of the movies from a page-a-day calendar. The images on this piece are meant to depict places traveled in Middle Earth; from bottom to top - the Ash Mountains (surrounding Mordor), the Forest of Mirkwood, the Shire, and then, finally, the way to the Grey Havens, where all is well and at peace. Now, this is where I get in full-on geek mode - the order of images is very loosely based on the illustrated geography of Middle Earth.
To conclude, I want to say that I am aware that my story is not the worst one out there. So many people, those I know and do not know, have been through things far more tragic than I have, but my hope is to remind those who have walked through darkness, to whatever degree that may be, that they are not alone, and are free to address their pain and story. Also, I want to say that I love my father. I truly do. Just as my story was not and is not over, his story isn’t over yet, either, and I want him to know the same hope and redemption that I have experienced.