An Evolving Life. Me Too.
Inspired by Angela Rieck’s recent Hummingbird post, I became aware that my new artwork and perhaps, part of my purpose here is to find the courage and support to share my MeToo experience. Until now, I hadn’t realized I qualified since the most severe abuse took place not at work or in the outside world, but in my childhood home. I was so ashamed not only of being the victim, but moreover of my parents for not protecting me.
I was never sexually abused, but there was much physical and verbal abuse wielded by my father. Blond, green-eyed, naturally creative, and a gymnast with powerful upper-body strength, he was the center of my universe. When he arrived home from work, I remember bouncing in my highchair. Some of my fondest memories are of him teaching me how to draw animals and figures at the kitchen table, and how to do cartwheels and handstands in the living room.
So my heart broke over and over again as I realized how malevolent and mentally disturbed he was. If he were alive today, I’m convinced he would have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder or perhaps, even worse, as a sociopath. In those days, there were many nights when I physically intervened between my parents, as the oldest child, to protect my mother. And there was a summer afternoon when he directed his violent rage at me at the age of six with a beating that continued on and off into the evening.
As a result, our bond severed; he withdrew from me and I from him, traumatized and fearful. As I matured into a young woman, I was always on the lookout for another man to fill the void. And often, I found myself attracted to the “bad boy” who was full of fun and adventure, but also reckless and unpredictable like my father.
In my early adulthood, I often reacted to chauvinistic behavior by directly confronting male authority figures for inappropriate language or behavior. In that way, perhaps I was ahead of my time. Yet despite my bravado, there were many MeToo incidents: a shocking proposal from my favorite university professor to spend the night in his Manhattan hotel room; unwanted advances from male colleagues; as well as sexual innuendo and disrespect from male bosses and clients. Over the years, I quit positions as an advertising account executive, a reporter, and an English professor due to demeaning or unacceptable treatment from male superiors.
So now years later after much emotional healing through a patchwork of resources all supported mostly by women, I find myself—as I’ve written before— drawing the figure over and over using charcoal, pastel, gouache, anything I can get my hands on. First I discovered that it helped me cope with my mother’s agonizing death; then eventually helped me lay her to rest.
Yet still I continue to be obsessed…and lately, as you’ve seen, I’m dissecting the figure, calling them Sacred Monsters, tacking them all over the walls of my studio, not quite sure why. Along the way, there have been clues. Lately, the figures have been calling out to be connected—not only to me but to one another.
Then last week I created this piece from three individual drawings or studies chosen from my walls. If you look close, you’ll see there are two figures supporting one. Just like the thousands, perhaps millions of MeToo women who have finally spoken out not just for themselves, but to support one another. Just like all the women who have supported me through my recovery, and continue to carry me forward as my voice grows stronger as a woman and as an artist…
Please click the image to enlarge.
I have had the good fortune of knowing Meryl Spiegel for many years. We met during my BNB days when she was referred to me as a resource for a specific type of photography I was searching for. I also knew her as a writer. Over the years, I have been impressed with Meryl’s talent and creativity, and the honesty of her work. When Meryl began to sketch, paint, work with pastels, she truly overlaid one talent on top of another. The layers were intriguing. I reached out to Meryl recently because I thought that the Hummingbird audience would appreciate her work, and value her process. They say that timing is everything, and in this case it was, because Meryl was thinking about not only “showing” her work, but writing about it too. In our new series, An Evolving Life, Meryl will share the stages, challenges, and meaning of her art, and the journey that coincides with the pieces she highlights. Sandra Novick
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