Art heals me. It catches me, and puts me back together. My painting saves my life, over and over. A strange phenomenon, but every time I need art to save my life, my art gets better. It scaffolds up on itself. It’s a funny trade-off: my art needs my struggles to grow.
My preferred origin story is that I was dropped through the sky from outer space. My birth-parents would claim they formed me. My adoptive parents would claim they formed me. But it feels best to say that on May 27, 1973, I was dropped through the stars.
I grew up in a beautiful house in a beautiful neighborhood in Sacramento. I have an older adopted brother and a younger “surprise baby” sister. My younger years were filled with Catholic school, ballet classes, and questionable contributions to various pee-wee sports teams. My parents were not artistic, and so art was something I had to find on my own in college. I was destined to find art because I needed art. I had inherited a mood disorder. When my anxiety at UC Santa Cruz got to be too great, art was there to catch me. I switched my literature major to an art major.
After college, I married my longtime boyfriend, Toto, and we moved to San Francisco. Through my working years, there was, at the end of the day, Toto and my art to come home to. I painted regularly, but was too shy to call myself an artist.
I ducked out of the working world with the birth of our first daughter in 2004. Unfortunately, I suffered a long postpartum depression. Although my previous jobs were unsatisfying, they did keep me out in the world. Now, at home with my baby, my world seemingly collapsed into the space within the walls of our flat. My emotions accumulated in the corners and were contained by the ceilings. And this is what I painted — interiors.
We moved to Oakland in 2006. We were considering having a second child, and I wanted to prepare myself in every way possible for the depression I was sure would follow. We bought a cute house in a good neighborhood near a good elementary school. Our second daughter was born in 2008. My mental health did not bend, it collapsed. I developed postpartum psychosis and severe depression. I was hospitalized and given treatments and medications that erased my memory. In the terrifying time during those years, the doctors asked Toto what it was that I enjoy doing. He said I like to paint. The doctors told him to have me paint as much as possible. And so I painted through my illness. Those paintings saved my life. They gave me a purpose and a voice. I was able to process what was going on in my life, and present the best of myself to the world. I painted still-lifes because I could only focus on one thing at a time. My art grew because I needed it to grow. I was picked up by galleries, and my art career started.
Since that time, we have moved back to San Francisco. My mental health has gone up and down, but my paintings and my family are always there to catch me. I am so lucky to have my painting. When I feel down, I know I have to paint. Art repairs my life – it takes the pain of my life, and turns it into something beautiful. It’s my trade-off. Without the pain I have experienced, my paintings would not be beautiful, and I would not have an art career. Beauty, I know from experience, is the balance of pain. I have paintings to make.