With thanks to Neil
I attended a really up-lifting and enjoyable International Women's Day event today organised by a friend of mine, involving women who make or create from all over Aberdeenshire. My friend was saying that approaching life (and creativity) with an open heart and no fear was important and I completely agree with her. Certainly every time I set out to make a new photograph, it is a leap of faith and exposes something of myself. Art is about what we feel. How we feel. Why we feel. It's an attempt to stop the world for a time and say “look – this means something to me and might mean something to you.” We are all in this together.
An open heart and no fear is also appropriate with regard to this piece because I was (until recently) unsure about whether to publish it or not. Not really out of fear, although there is an element of that, but more because I am worried that people may misunderstand my motives. I don't want to over-share and I don't want to elicit sympathy but there are reasons I feel it necessary to talk about things which have happened to me in my life. Firstly, this should (I hope) lead on to the next post I am writing which deals with my take on the art I make and secondly, there have been some recent experiences I've had which have brought things I try to keep submerged bubbling to the surface. Some of these are personal issues which I won't go into but I have also been very affected by the recent tragic death of Frances Andrade - http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/feb/10/frances-andrade-killed-herself-lying.
I believe that there is a profound connection between my childhood and my creativity. There was an excellent programme on Radio 4 a couple of years ago presented by Grayson Perry about creativity. He set out to explore and then explode myths surrounding creativity such as “creative people are a little bit mad.” I enjoyed the programme very much, especially his discussion with a psychologist who had written an article on possible connections between childhood trauma and creativity entitled 'Scars on the Bone.'
Anyone who has experienced something bad in their lives will know that it's possible to stick memories/experiences into a box and tuck that box into a dark corner of the mind where it can lie undisturbed for some time. It never disappears, however, and it only takes a phrase, a word, an image or an event to shove that box back into the light and re-open it. The experience of Frances Andrade (who took her own life after being made to re-live the sexual abuse which she suffered as a child and young teenager in a court case after being advised by police not to seek therapy or help) made me think about the fact that children who are the victims of something, more often than not, believe it to be somehow their own fault. That they were, in some way, responsible. And I have also been thinking that the shame we adults who have been child victims carry with us is actually a continuation of the abuse. It's very easy not to talk about difficult things but this perpetuates our notion that, as children, we did something wrong.
The first 18 years of my life were fairly hard. From being an unwanted accidental conception, my mother's suicide attempts and mental illnesses and consequent stays in psychiatric hospitals, sexual abuse from the age of 5 at the hands of my mother's ex-husband, domestic abuse of my mother by a boyfriend to homelessness whilst I was studying for my A levels. My way of coping was to escape mentally. A solitary only child by nature, I withdrew into books and into worlds of my own making. My imagination saved me I think. I really believe that this way of escaping paved the way for my need to find a creative way to express myself. To bring something into life was so much the opposite of the place I found myself in. I was able to make something positive from the negative, although this process was long and slow and non-linear of course. Now, if I express something true to myself, something genuine then I have created something which takes on a life of its own and which, hopefully, may strike a chord with someone else, or make them feel that they are not alone. The thing is that nothing which touches us deeply (whatever it may be) ever goes away and those things always leave a mark - in one way or another. We can't get rid of them or forget them so we absorb them somehow and they become part of the filters through which we see the world.