When I was just a kid, I had a lot of struggles. One of them was around language. My grandparents spoke Spanish, and then when I lived in Ecuador, that became my only language. I came back to Chicago in the summer before second grade to a family that wanted no part of our Spanish heritage, or seemingly me, so I became very withdrawn, self-conscious, and lonely.
In my efforts to improve my command of the English language, I used to read the dictionary before falling asleep. Idioms and metaphors were a constant struggle though, and my sister especially used to love making fun of how traumatized I was at the “It’s raining cats and dogs” one.
Before too long, I began adding to my constant list-making with journal entries and very often, poetry. I was a child, so didn’t really have access to art supplies per se, but I could always write, and I did—a lot.
A few years ago, I came across perhaps the only surviving journal. Inside the front cover is the date from April of 1982. I would have been 13 years old at that time, which may have been some of the worst days of my life. I don’t know how long I wrote in this one, but I decided at 14 that being a homeless runaway was a better life than being at home, so I’m certain I wasn’t writing much from the street. But somehow, this little book came back into my possession. In some ways, I am glad, but it is also tragically sad…heartbreaking, really.
The journal contains a lot of things: journal-type entries, lists of favorite songs, phone numbers of friends, and a bunch of poems. I wrote a lot of poetry. This was my art…my outlet.
When I found this journal, I was immediately stricken and felt a need to try and incorporate some of these into my work. At that time, I was working on a show that benefitted The Global Fund for Women, and I decided to write some of my poems around the outside edge of the paintings I was working on. Three pieces were particularly powerful, and I’ve held onto them to this day.
My fear will not rule me
My pain will not cripple me
My scars will not shame me
My tears will not stain me
Rise up eyes up
Stand tall and see
All that you love and long for
Exists right inside of thee
The strength of my spirit will devour the demons of this Earth
And I will stand mightily against my oppressors
These poems directly related to me and my own struggles, but I was thinking about the plight of so (so) many women around the world, and thought—I am truly not alone. All of the pain I’ve endured, and whatever traumas or experiences I’ve had, are a mere drop in the bucket compared to entirely too many. I wanted to give…to share the strength that my writing and my art has given to me.
I’ve come to realize that there is no trauma greater than another. None really. We all process things in our own ways, and how we interpret our experiences is unique to every one of us. And the fact is, that we ALL have had difficulties in our lives. We ALL have scars and stories…the things that have shaped the people we are now. And I’ve also learned that there is great power in sharing these stories. We heal when we know we are not alone. It was all the years I spent thinking that I was God’s cruel joke that I existed in pure pain, wishing to be dead. I felt more alone than I thought should be endurable.
My work continues to heal me every day that I am at it. It is a powerful vehicle for expression and a comfortable one for someone who really covets her privacy. My method of healing myself is my own, and it’s important to me to express it in ways that ultimately convey the grace, and strength and beauty of being a survivor…of rising above…and of someone who has (only recently) learned to give a (figurative) hug to her inner little girl. I will continue to create the single, solitary figures, not to convey loneliness, but because that is my way of conveying the idea that we are all unique, and our ways of interpreting the world around us is completely individual.