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.
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.