Sunday, February 23, 2014

Turning Points…

When I was younger, some bad things happened to me.  The details of those events are unimportant to this post or relevant to my life now.  But at the time, they lived beneath the surface of my skin and when I made artwork, they came out.  They seeped out of my fingertips and onto the canvas, laying the hurt bare for all to see.  I felt like my artwork was a way for me to express all the things I could not say in the light of day.  They were the late night whispers to dear friends while blinking away tears – things said in a jumble of words as fast as they would come out.  If I said them quickly, they would not hurt as much.  I pulled the words from my lips like bandages being ripped off, their removal suddenly stinging.  I put them down in paint, to ease the burn and quiet the hammering in my heart.

One day I had a critique with Peter Hristoff and Monroe Denton.  The first thing anyone said was, "These paintings are really sad.  Not sad because they are lacking in quality, but sad because they express so much anguish."  I stood there, quietly shaking… acknowledging what I already knew.

Then Monroe said, "Don't be a victim.  Don't let anyone tell you how to live your life.  Be stronger than that.  Be the hero of your own story.  Only then can you make artwork that really speaks from your voice and not what someone or something made you say."

Peter remarked on the gold-leaf I had added and how they took on an iconographic feel.  He whispered, "Don't worship the mistakes of the past."

From there, we had a discussion of the subtle differences between art therapy and fine art.  We talked about mixing paint and different mediums to make the colors richer and glossier.  Monroe started to scribble and then handed me a note.  On it where the titles of two books:  "Legend, Myth, and Magic in the Image of the Artist" by Ernst Kris and Otto Kurz and "Letters to a Young Artist" edited by Peter Nesbett, Sarah Andress, and Shelly Bancroft.

He smiled at me sadly and said, "These will help make sense of things."

I sometimes think back to that humid summer day.

For me, it was turning point.  Not only in my work, but as a person.  If I lived my life as a victim to fate or circumstance, I would never fully actualize my full potential.  I would always be held back.  I would never be able to say something true, I would only be able to echo old hurts.

The truth of the matter is that it is easy to be a victim.  It is easy to cry out and have people come to your side and comfort you, pat your head and coo in your ear.  It is easy to blame others and say, "I am this way because I was made this way."  It's harder to say, "This happened, but I  chose to live a better life of my own free will."  This is not to say that there aren't truly horrible things that happen to people. Bad things happen.  Bad things often times happen to good people.  But at some point you have to put the hurt away and move forward… otherwise you'll always be controlled by forces outside of your control.

The reason that I have been thinking so much about this turning point in my life is that recently there is a group of people who are intent on painting me as a villain.  They speak of how I've hurt them and publicly humiliated them and have outlined all the things I have done wrong.  If you didn't know me, you'd think I was a monster from their descriptions.  They would call me Iago, spinning webs and lies.

But the truth is that I have done nothing wrong and have only lived my life according to what I think is best.  I use the facts that I have gathered and look deep within to make the judgements we must in life.  Each day, I try to do good works and bring beauty to this world.  Each day, I do the best I can with what I have to work with and always try to make the world a better place.  I do so in small ways, encouraging others, building bridges, and promoting the arts.  I share my experiences in hopes that others can find meaning in the stories as I have found meaning in them.  I put positivity in the universe, with the hopes that like a pebble, the ripples will grow and expand ever-outward.  I give my loyalty freely and always try to see the best in people.  Some days are harder than others.  Some days are challenges.  I always own my words and actions.  And if I have wronged someone, I try my best to make amends.  I learned not to distinguish myself by the bad in my life, but strive to be known for the good.

And when it comes to others who try to vilify me, I won't play your game.  I will not be bullied.  I will not be made into something I am not.  I will stand up for myself and say the things that I need to say.  I will not sit silently.  I will not be the public whipping boy.  I have lived a life that I am proud of.  I've overcome adversity and been a force of positive change.  I will shine brightly and no one can stop me!

7 comments:

Andrew Thornton said...

A note on the paintings: All of the paintings still survive, in tact and together. They reside in the home of a friend and collector. His private collection is dedicated to self-portraits by LGBT artists. I am honored to be a part of his collection and happy to know that a piece of my life, frozen in time, has been preserved. The pieces I made depict a time in my life when I was coming to know myself and turn my life around.

To release these paintings into the world was powerfully cathartic. Even though I let go of them and that time in my life, I still remember.

Lori Anderson said...

Well said. I am guilty of feeling victimized, either by other people or by my own self-destructive feelings. It's always a relief when I come out of the fog and can shake the nastiness out of my system.

Erin Siegel said...

I only wish I could eloquently tell you how beautiful your writing is! I just can't describe, but your words touch my heart and I resonate deeply with your thoughts and feelings. I love your philosophy and outlook on life. Yes, yes, yes! Thank you for sharing your story. I so enjoyed every word!

Anne said...

I am flabbergasted that anyone would think badly of you...so I cannot get my head around anyone thinking you are a villain.
Clearly, they have some sort of agenda for their own purposes.

Sandra Pendragon said...

Taking your power back and no longer giving it away. It sure is a beautiful thing to see. Thanks for sharing a little slice of your huge accomplishment. My favorite quote of all time is "what people say about me is none of my business". Your real friends know the truth and if they believe the others, than I guess they weren't really your true friends( or family).

Sandra Pendragon said...

Taking your power back and no longer giving it away. It sure is a beautiful thing to see. Thanks for sharing a little slice of your huge accomplishment. My favorite quote of all time is "what people say about me is none of my business". Your real friends know the truth and if they believe the others, than I guess they weren't really your true friends( or family).

Green Studio said...

Lovely eloquent brave post Andrew!