To understand my passion for art, we first have to go back
to the height of my confusion as to where I fit in the world and how I attempted
to figure out how to solve that problem. I was just a few weeks away from my
freshman year of high school and still carrying the PTSD from being transferred
from living alone with a violent father to a mother whose most frequently
communication with me was how stupid I was mixed in with threats to send me
back to my father.
Understanding the lack of value that I had, I signed up for
an art class since I had shown some ability to draw in junior high. I was
buoyed with hope that I could begin to be seen in a better light by the adults
in my life since they had already decided that I wasn’t very intelligent.
I had learned from a book report back in sixth grade not to
try too hard in academics because anytime I turned in work that was above their
opinion of me, I would get punished for cheating, even if they couldn’t find the source
I had cheated from.
was a lost cause to me, but I saw potential in the art class for me to excel
based on the idea that my parents didn’t appear to attribute brains with art.
That wasn’t to be the case though. Instead, this would
result in one of my greatest challenges, because art wasn’t just my last hope
for finding some kind of value in myself, it actually meant something to me.
I was unable to break above a C+ on my projects. With each
consecutive assignment I put everything I had into the work, yet still couldn’t
manage so much as a B-. At the height of my outrage over the way we were being
graded, I had just received my work back from the teacher where I received a
lower grade on an assignment than someone who had spent nearly ten minutes
drawing a cube. Unable to drop the class, I wrote a poem about the teacher on a
desk one day to express my frustration.
That poem resulted in a meeting with my teacher, my mom, the
school principle and me. That meeting was a turning point for me in a way I
could never have suspected. The principle took notice that I didn’t deny having
written the poem in spite of the mandatory minimum of a three-day suspension I
was facing and that when he called my junior high school to see what kind of
problem I was going to be for him, they had to check the records to verify I
attended the school because no one in the office had heard of me.
notice he took resulted in the first public recognition I remember having
received by an adult.
He complimented my spelling and grammar in front of the
teacher I wrote it about. Then he made the teacher answer my question as to why
I was being graded down on my projects. The teacher’s reasoning was that he
felt I didn’t have to try as hard as the students who were getting the A’s and
Naturally, the teacher and I never made up and I spent
months trying hard to make the ugliest projects I was capable of, until he
offered an open project to the class. We were able to make anything we wanted.
With that freedom, I wrote a stylized version of my name
with the top of the letters on fire suspended just above a skeletal hand and
just to the side of my name was a laughing skull. The background was all blues
and blacks, with arcs of lightning cutting through the dark. It was symbolic of
my world view. Death had me and was enjoying slowly destroying me. The lightning
was the atmosphere reacting to my attempt to fight back.
The teacher who hated everything I did, gave me my second
public recognition and most meaningful accomplishment by citing my piece and
one other in the class as the type of work that all the students should aspire
to. Even though he later openly admitted that he still hated me, that day he
had given me a gift because for the second time in not just the year, but in my
life, I had felt truly seen.