There cannot be dark without light. There cannot be light without dark. They are two halves of the same coin. Only by embracing both, are we whole.
This past week, I finally dove into the series paintings that I’m creating for my June 7th show at Legum Design in Bend, OR. I started 4 canvases all at once, and managed to finish 1 painting, which also happens to be the largest of the 4. While painting, I thought about how to explain this series in a statement for the show. The series may have a long way to go until completion, but the statement is becoming clearer.
Last fall, I wrote a deeply personal essay that changed my life. Ever since, my painting has been linked to my emotional state, the genuine nature of which had been (unbeknownst to me) hiding under the rug, swept there along with the years of trauma that I had been blaming on myself. That, in combination with years of trying to figure out who the world wanted me to be instead of just being myself, left me a little out of touch with the actual emotional nature and root of myself and my art.
After I shared my truth in the form of an open letter, I created a series of small paintings called, Reclaimed Hearts. Each painting in that series has a paper heart, ripped up and then reassembled onto canvas. This was the purest form of expression I had ever encountered in my work. It was me healing my broken heart in painting form.
Since then, the image of the broken yet mended heart has stuck. Now, I have never been all that attracted to hearts. To me, it has always been a trite symbol associated with Valentine’s Day and the doodling of 6-year-olds. However, now that I know how repairing my own heart has affected me, my art, and my loved ones, the simple image feels different. I have given the sweet heart a welcome saltiness.
Pair that with the dark colors and dim cavernous spaces that I am placing the hearts within, I feel I am creating pieces that realistically look at the beauty in life, and the darkness that inevitably lives side-by-side. Now, I am NOT trying to be all doom and gloom, simply realistic.
Even the most loving and successful relationships have cracks and dark times. When I’m sitting on my surf board in the ocean marveling at the beauty of nature, I am also aware of the pollution that threatens the sea and the world. When I’m looking at gorgeous pictures on social media, I can’t help thinking that I am seeing the pretty side of life shared by that person, and I’m aware of the anxiety created for others, who compare their own imperfect lives to those profiles of perfection.
There is nothing wrong with the dark. What is wrong is our avoidance of it.
I could go on and on. The point is there is no light without the dark. It doesn’t mean that the dark has to take over, but if there is no light without the dark, then there is certainly a place for the dark. Don't you think?
The dark should be honored. It should be discussed out in the open instead of hidden in a therapist’s office (although please, by all means, discuss it there too). There is nothing wrong with the dark. What is wrong is our avoidance of it.
Once, I was at a little league game when another Mom, who is also a friend, asked how I had quit drinking. When I told her that I had to go and get a few years of help, the smile on her face dropped into one of concern. She immediately began waving her hands in front of her in a cease and desist motion, and said in a hushed voice, “We don’t have to talk about it.” It was though the subject had passed over a line, from “friendly self-help topic” to “things not discussed in public”.
“I don’t care if we talk about it. I’ll talk to anyone about it.” I said in return. She changed the subject quickly. I was embarrassed. Not by the fact that she asked, but that my response had seemed to embarrass her. I made her feel uncomfortable by simply speaking my truth.
What do you think the world would look like if everyone stopped hiding behind their light, and accepted their dark into the mix?
My truth is, I can’t think of something that I wouldn’t talk honestly about, or someone that I wouldn’t talk honestly to. I’ve been known to do so at the dinner table in a crowded restaurant, to someone I just met at a party, and on public radio. I don’t care if you know my darkness. In a way, I find it disarming, and I think it just makes my light shine a bit brighter.
So, that is what I’m currently working on and what my week has been about. Visual representation of my acceptance of the dark. I embrace it and I encourage you to as well. For me, it has been liberating. I’m not worried about you finding out about my dark anymore. Too much of my life’s energy has been spent on hiding it. It’s exhausting.
I’m tired of spending my energy that way and frankly, I don’t give a shit anymore if my darkness is judged. Those who judge it are the very ones who need to take a clearer look at their own.
What do you think the world would look like if everyone stopped hiding behind their light, and accepted their dark into the mix? What would your world look like if you did? Or if you have already, what brought you to that acceptance?
Take a look at the painting at top of this blog post. That is what my commingling light and dark look like. I think it’s damn beautiful. Peaceful. Harmonized. I wish that for everyone.
I am an artist and writer, living in Talent, Oregon with my husband and daughter. I play in the ocean to stay strong and inspired, and I often visit my hometown of New Orleans, where the rhythm of my heartbeat is renewed. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram where I post stuff sometimes. To hear from me more regularly, join me on this crazy, beautiful Artventure.