MY ART STORY by

Victoria Pendragon

Paw Paw
West Virginia

Born of the Storm.jpg

Abstract painting.

Born of the Storm, 2015, by Victoria Pendragon. Photo courtesy of artist

Art has been my life-long companion and my best friend; it could support me when nothing else could; it could speak of the hurt and the anger that I carried; it could share the pain.

As a child I was subjected to sexual trafficking and to incest…. They did not stop entirely until I was about eighteen. My first marriage, in my twenties, ended in a divorce…. I returned, during the course of my second marriage, to making art full time. I’d been trained even as a child—at Saturday classes in the Philadelphia Museum of Art—in painting and had gone on to graduate from the Philadelphia Museum College of Art. My second husband and I worked collaboratively, and it lifted my spirits to be immersed in color again. But four years into the marriage, and a promising start on getting a foothold in the art world, I contracted a fatal and generally incurable disease called scleroderma. It attacked my whole body inside and out, crippling my hands to such a degree that I could only hold a brush if I wrapped it in inches of foam. I could only bear the pain of holding it for about an hour.

In three years, the impossible had happened and I was declared free of the disease, though my body remained disfigured and hardened. I spent the next 20 years in healing processes that addressed every aspect of my being—physical, mental, psychological, and spiritual—and I continued to use my art as part of that process. My hands, although still crippled, no longer hurt and painting became easier.

In 2013, when my mother died, when I knew that every person that had been involved in the abuse that had shaped my struggle with life had also died, I began the creation of what would become a 21-piece one-woman show: Witness, a visual exploration of the emotional and psychological ramifications of childhood sexual abuse and incest. I completed the work in 2014 and it has had two showings in brick-and-mortar galleries so far and has been seen online by thousands.

Collage artwork.

Staying Sane (from Witness) by Victoria Pendragon. Photo courtesy of artist

Each mixed-media collage piece is accompanied by a text panel, guiding the viewer on the journey. My goal in the creation of the show was to encourage other survivors to speak up, to speak out, to get help. I had stumbled blindly through most of my journey; no one spoke openly of such things in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s when I’d first been faced with dealing mentally with having been sexually abused, and I didn’t do well.

Now, with Witness behind me and the sense of a job well done, I am creating the best work of my life, filled with joyful energy and a passion for life. I am still a work in progress but this work is a labor of pure love.