Adventures in COPING SKILLS

Three years ago I was the inaugural artist for a new and innovative gallery, SeedSpace.  Seed Space is a lab for site-specific installation, sculpture, and performance-based art in Nashville.  The work I exhibited was COPING SKILLS and A PAXIL A DAY.

The COPING SKILLS altar was created in 2007 for the TAKE CARE: Biomedical Ethics in the 21st Century traveling exhibition (2009-2013).  Art reviews about this work, reviews, and images of the show in its entirety can be viewed in the exhibition catalogue.  Basically, the altar was created to honor the medication which allows me to be a successful human, artist, wife, mother, sister, daughter, aunt, and friend.

 

The COPING SKILLS altarIn 2010, an additional benefit to my contacts at SeedSpace is when it began its own CSArt program. At the time, Nashville was only the 4th city to offer Community Supported Artist's shares.  I created 50 small-scale collector pieces of Coping Skills.  We eventually had an installation exhibit of all the CSArtist's work at Nashville International Airport, and they graciously purchased full crates for their permanent collection. One of the works included in the CSArt Crates

At the CSArt Party, where collectors personally interacted with the artists, I was approached by Lee Pepper, CMO at Foundations Recovery Network.  We had a lively conversation about therapy, pharmaceuticals, the stigma against those caring for their mental health issues, and much more.  He brought up an idea about exhibiting my work at a future FRN facility.  Fast forward 3 years and this seed sprouted into a solo exhibition/retrospective that took place April - May of 2013.  The works I exhibited at FRN's Nashville Facility included the following:  Coping Skills and its collector pieces, You Made Your Bed I & IIConstraint SeriesWhat I Really Mean To Say, Is . . . (created specifically for the exhibition), Eat Your Words (it had never been exhibited), and various works as examples of Art Therapy.

One of the best results, other than the amazing interaction with viewers at the opening, was the filming of a 20 minute Art Talk.  I don't have the professionally filmed version available yet , but here is a video shot by my 20 year old son during the talk.  It gives you an idea about my process and theories behind all of the work at the show and work that I am currently developing, such as the BRANDED series (see previous post for details)

So to all you discouraged artists out there, be patient!  The seeds you planted years ago just might grow into a great future opportunity. 

 

 

   

How I became BRANDED

How artist, Sher Fick, found the inspiration for her new series, BRANDED. The series delves into the history and the psychological/physical effects of the dropping of the atomic bombs by the Americans onto the cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan.
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On Reading - Gillian Flynn's "DARK PLACES"

Ok - so I bought a new book [not true: I bought about 8 new books and 5 art journals] for vacation (which doesn't start until Friday).  dark places Here is the thing - I stayed up all night READING one of them (DarkPlaces by Gillian Flynn).  It qualifies as one of those, 'perhaps someone else had a worser (I know this is bad grammar) childhood than I (I know this should say 'me').  The point is, if you can forget my bad grammar, is that it has been a long time since I have been gripped by a book in this manner.  I have 'enjoyed' some and actually 'loved' others.  But this one - it is like the first time I read Augusten Burrough's A WOLF AT THE TABLE or Haven Kimmel's IODINE.  I was rocking, reading, and closing the book, turning off the light, turning the light back on, until 6:15 a.m.
PLEASE TELL ME I AM NOT THE ONLY PSYCHO NIGHT READER!           Hence - being in an altered state of stunned stupidity (or perhaps just otherworldness), I appeared at a 10:30 a.m. meeting with my web designer, which isn't until tomorrow.  um.  ding dang.  I blame this fugue on my altered literary reality. That is what I consider a good read.  To be so altered that I don't know, or really give a taco, what day it is.  Another sign - when you feel that you have only 2 toes on your right foot, like the main character.  Check - GOOD BOOK.  Sitting up rocking yourself - CHECK, good book - thanks Augusten and Haven!!   Kudos to Gillian Flynn for having the balls to write about a flawed, but -therefore- believable character.   This girl woman - Libby - is someone with twisted thinking, but is loveable at the same time.  Which, as you know - is my goal in life - to be the twisted soul that I am, but to be loveable (and, loving, of course). So, dear readers, who are all readers yourself - tell me, what is the last book that kept you up all night???  I'm just dying to know!   Other 'wee hours' of the morning books from my literary past: IT, THE STAND, INSOMNIA (how Ironic) - Stephen King I Know This Much is True - Wally Lamb  . . . . just to name a few!
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Dream in Color - in Honor of Shanna, Carrie, Maureen & Haven

In honor of Carrie’s Studio, Shanna's New Abode for Writing, Maureen's New Cottage for Writing, and after visiting Haven's Writing Barn, I am offering up this Dream I had: Background Information: I always loved art as a child and would study on my own, but I went to a tiny church school with no art class. At this time in my family/community no one mentioned even the possibility of college . . . I thought when you graduated and/or turned 18, you were on your own. So, after high School  I worked full-time, moved in with an aunt in Texas, and then ran off and got married at 19. I kept painting, mostly watercolor and some acrylic, but not really knowing what I was doing. Got into the New Age movement . . . began to believe in my ‘gift’ and that it was part of my tautology. After a divorce I enrolled in an Art Institute while still working full time. One week before classes started I was in an accident and badly injured my back. I met Donny (he was my physical therapist). We married and planned and started our family.  The deal was, I would have art as a hobby and go to school when the kids reached pre-school age.   Above, 30 second gesture drawings from Drawing 101. This dream (of returning to school) came true when I was 27/28. I started with a night drawing class . . . then before I started Painting 101 - I went shopping for art supplies. choosing every tube of Galleria acrylic paint and each paintbrush with exceeding care and love . . .     I then had this dream while being part of a dream interpretation group. FLOWER TRAIN.   I am on a swiftly moving SILVER BULLET train . . . we are flashing through landscapes and the train slows as we come around a bend. I peer out the window and see breathing, pulsing BRIGHT FLESH and CREAMY flowers of an unidentified species. They are singing and throbbing with color and life.   I reach down and pat the baby car seat which is sitting next to me on the train-bench. The 'baby' is wrapped in a beautiful crocheted (which I made) cobweb of rainbow beams . . . I lift the blanket to reveal -   the new glorious tubes of paint and carefully arranged paintbrushes. I cry in recognition. THE END   Above, "Unveiled Sorrow" created in Painting 101 with Professor D. Anne Waters. So - the point being that this dream is when I came to the realization that I needed to nurture and foster my ‘gift’ of creativity to the same extent that I nurtured and fostered my own children.   Our family, around the time of this dream . . . Art is a part of me. I cannot give it away or neglect it. I cannot tell you the all encompassing effect this realization/dream has had on my life. It was my license to be who I was born to be.  . . . and then came Claire.
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Get Out Of Your Own Way

After a short mourning of "My Vintage Soul" (see previous post for details) I have gotten back on the proverbial horse/bicycle. Today I contemplated going back to bed at 8 a.m. (I went to sleep at 4:00 a.m. after playing Mahjong for 4 hours!), but instead I jerked myself directly from the front door as I waived good-bye to Claire and headed down the stairs. Into the studio. To look at the carcass:   After facing that . . . which felt very similar to viewing a newly dearly departed, I decided to work on some new techniques while I pondered what to do with the remains.  My instinct was to trash it, cremate it, send it on to its just rewards - but that is hurt and anger surfacing and some of my best works have been pieces that went 'wrong' and I had to re-work them to salvage them.  The only difference here is that it was finished to my great joy and I know any re-creation will be but a shadow of the original (such was my then state of mind). I decided to rummage through all my new supplies and chose to work with some new RF Paintsticks.  In the encaustic process I had been using, I would paint encaustic into the divots and distress marks and scrape the layers down.  It is back-breaking and time consuming work.  Can you imagine my delight when I was able to create this work within about 2 hours, start to finish, while simultaneously working on 4 others? Let me introduce you to "Traces of Time", 6"x6", Encaustic, Handwritten letter, Leather/silver watch band.   As I sit here typing this title, it occurs to me that I dealt with the very thing I was mourning - my loss of TIME.  Art is so amazing that way.  You do not even know what you are seeking, but it forms itself before your very eyes if you get your ego and brain out of the way.  Finally, after getting myself out of my own way, more works came forth.   "Run Away" 6"x6", Encaustsic, Vintage Fairy Tale pages, quickly followed the time-piece, and then came "Descent"   So, if I would only listen to my own advice I would save myself A LOT of heartache, right? I was excited to use some of the real butterfly wings Don and I had collected on our Lake Lure, NC 2006 vacation.  We came upon hundreds of butterflies hovering over puddles and upon closer inspection realized there were dozens of drowned butterflies.  Apparently some of their wings had become wet and weighed them down and they couldn't fly away.  The living butterflies appeared to hover in a mournfulness of collective spirit. Once again, my feelings are just bubbling up to be revealed in these new works . . . time, the need to 'run away', and mourning. One benefit to all the years of collecting is that I have an amazing resource of materials on hand.  To have them all, more or less, at my fingertips in the new studio is something I have never experienced before. I NEEDED those butterfly wings TODAY, and because I had taken time to unpack and sort - I knew EXACTLY where they were - safely encapsulated in U2's "All That We Can't Leave Behind" CD case. There are no coincidences.  There is only synergy.  The flow and flux as the energy transforms. Consequently (or not)!, what I ended up with today was three new completed works and the energy to begin or re-begin some other works. I now have all the butterfly wings dipped in encaustic and ready for the next 'calling', plus I infused multiple antique baby clothes for my textile version of "Ashes, Ashes", and, best of all, I found a technique that will increase my efficiency and save my body many aches and pains! Somehow, in less than one week, I have decided that this self-destruction of "My Vintage Soul" contained many valuable lessons.  I am looking forward to using these new techniques and insights to create new, and, hopefully, better work in the future. Don't forget: "I get knocked down, but I get up again - you're never gonna keep me down!" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAM9diIDHqs      Chumbawamba- Tubthumping Here are a few images I took of the studio today  - I am, apparently, back in action!   Real butterfly wings (found) dipped in encaustic.     Vintage baby dresses, in the process of being infused with encaustic.   Vintage Baby Robe, infused with encaustic, hardened, standing on its own.   One shelf of collected figurines/vintage toys for future use in assemblages.   Mid-process of encaustic infusion, antique embroidered pinafore with safety pins in pocket.  
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Why are we here?

We found ourselves here.  On this blog.  In this world.  Connected through a fragile web of - you know what, I don't even know what a web really is.  I don't know how they work, technologically speaking.  Someone figured out how to harness a binary code through the energy of light, friction, something and it all got mixed together and - poof - we now have the web, blogs, and what have you. So, we communicate.  We tell each other when we pee.  What we had for dinner.  It is the ultimate waste of energy, really.  I mean, come on - do I need to know that you pee?  Perhaps if you have had some medical problems and you are sitting on my red couch - that is when I need to know. So what do I want from my little spot in the 'web' - why do I want to 'lure' you into my world? Words cause so much pain.  They are just little marks, gathered together, and scratched somewhere.  But they remain.  You can never unspeak a word. Sorry doesn't cut it.  Not in my book. Words can heal.  But sorry is not one of those words.  It needs to be more than that. I want to have fun.  I am fun.  But ultimately, my goal with my art, with my blog, and anything else is in my life is to grow and assist.  To serve others.  How can I connect?  Mainly through images, because there is no language barrier there.  Yes, images can be misunderstood from my intentions, but I have much better chances of being felt through my work, than through mere words alone. There are so many bad things in life.  They happened.  We remember.  They are happening now.  We will remember them tomorrow.  Pain that is unhappened.  I don't want to ever remember.  I don't want a reason to remember. Let's decide together to "Imagine" a world where no one intentionally uses words to attack and belittle.  It is my wish for the world today. I make an oath that here, in my little corner of the web, that I will never condone or exhibit words of pain. You are too precious to me. I am mourning a sense of lost innocence - for the umpteenth time in my life.  I don't want to be the source of pain for anyone . . . we must put out more hope and empathy.  Have more patience.  Everybody has their own stories of pain.  Those that stab with words must carry so much pain, they are just releasing a little of it.  I am prayer walking in my soul tonight . . . all night.  Again.  Searching for peace.
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Eat Your Words - Museum Installation 2010

oh, speaking of “donating for art” - I am making this constant, never-ending sculpture of crazy-quilted prescription bottles - and I received hundreds (of bottles) from everywhere - you put out a call and the people will deliver!!! To the right you see the first stage of the prescription bottle installation - I sent our requests and I received envelopes and boxes from the following: Nancy Hayes, Julie Anderson, Lydia Weaver, Lydia Weaver's Whole Water Aerobics class, Dr. Nancy Kelker, Andrienne Outlaw, Alicia Beach, Lloyd and Shirley Curry.  I hope I haven't forgotton anyone! The point being is that we are RE-USING an item prior to its location in landfills, thus clogging up nature for hundreds of years.  We are not even melting them and reshaping them - we have found something useful to do with them in their current  discarded stated!!!!!  Pre-Cycling!!!   This is how the prescription bottle piece turned-  COPING SKILLS, 48"h x 53"w x14"d, wood, mirror-floored shelf, crazy quilted attached prescription bottles.  Honors the help that myself and others receive from altered mood and anti-anxiety pharmaceutical assistant.  I am thankful for the joy I can now have in my life because I am not a raging lunatic anymore! BE PART OF 'EAT YOUR WORDS'  My next “community” piece is going to be “Eat Your Words” - it will be an acrylic-suspended table, with all clear acrylic dishes/silverware/bowls, etc. and the “food” will be colored paper printed with hurtfully email messages which have been sent and/or received. This idea came about when I had a dream that I was cooking fried chicken breaded with shredded words (one of my personal icons in my work) . . . so if anybody wants that nasty email from Uncle Fester to be part of the piece, email me a copy of said emails (you can edit names or addresses, but the papers will be shredded/cut) to: sherfickart@gmail.com with “Eat Your Words” in the subject line If you prefer snail mail:  Sher Fick, 1023 St. Hubbins Drive (Studio), Spring Hill, TN 37174   Such as:  an entry might look like this: To: sherfickart@gmail.com From: joejones@jonesy.com    (provide real name and address if you want to be listed in the exhibition catalogue - your name won't be with your words submitted, and REMEMBER the worlds will be shredded! Re:  Eat Your Words Installation "Well, I hope you feel good about yourself now that you made Granny cry on HER birthday.  Who do you think you are.  What gives you the right to take the attention away from Granny just to say you are pregnant with another brat.  You are getting too big for your britches, Girl!  You better watch yourself.  You gonna steal all Granny's money cause she feel sorry for you.  Over my dead body". I will also give credit to all donators in the exhibition catalogue, so send your name, address, with email along with it, so I can keep you posted and give credit where credit is due! Feel free to pass this information along - the more the merrier - and this series might take on a life of its own and last as long as the prescription bottle one - i.e. - my whole life! When Adrienne did her last piece (Shelter, see http://www.adrienneoutlaw.com ) we had hundreds of volunteers . . . it is amazing to do community projects. I believe that with eat piece of paper that is donated, that we can erase those negative words from our minds as they will be ritualistically shredded and then used as a piece to great a fantastic social-interactive event.
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Biology vs. Biography - Epiphany 1 of 2009

It hasn't taken me long to experience my first epiphany of 2009. During a recent interview I was asked several questions which I answered separately and honestly.  Afterward I was re-thinking my answers and realized what I multiple-personality-disorder I must sound like.  My life, and therefore my past, has been so bifurcated! On one side I have the genealogy of being a descendant of James Cahill who was on the boat with George Washington - that family declined through the years but made a comeback in the 1900's with entrepreneurial spirit, that was my paternal grandfather's paternal side.  All of my birth father's half brothers went to college or an official trade school and had careers.  One of them is a multi-millionaire.  So I was the 2nd generation of college graduates on that particular branch of the family.   Above: Here is a photo of my father (Walter Hugh Creekbaum, born 1941) with his parents: Mabel (Wiatt) (Creekbaum) Barlow and Emery Wilson Creekbaum, born 1917.  Mabel and Emery divorced before Walter's 1st birthday.  They both married again and had many half-siblings for Walter.  He was shuttled back and forth his entire childhood.  This impacted his life to this day. Flip this to my maternal grandparents, my maternal aunts and uncles, and you have a completely different story.  Also, my own parents divorced before I was a year-old and I was only sporadically exposed to this educated branch (although I saw my paternal grandfather and his wife once in a while, my father's half-siblings on that side never went out of their way to maintain contact with my sister and me while we were children).  Anyway, on the maternal side I do not know of one of the previous generations' college education.  I have one uncle that was brave enough to leave Indiana and have a great career in the Navy and I am sure he received lots of training there.  However, to my knowledge it was the generation of children born in the '60's and 70's (my generation) who first attended, and graduated, college.  Many of us attended only as adults after starting our families.   Yet, I have this far reaching experience from my Unce Jimi Barlow and (the late) Aunt Karen Barlow Alexander, my birth father's half-siblings on his mother's side.  They were both educated right out of high school and showed my sister and I the greater world.  From an early age I can remember staying with them and reading great classics.  My birth father, though he did not attend college, is extremely intelligent and is a voracious reader.  I spent many Summers of my late youth and teenagers years living with them and experiencing the lives of educated, career-paced individuals. To the left is a photo of a typical Sunday afternoon at the farm of maternal GRANDFATHER, Stephen E. Abernathy.  Many cousins frolicked and wreaked havoc on the 52 acre farm in rural, west-central Indiana.  This is about half the Abernathy siblings and half the offspring.  Center is Grandpa, in his 'bibs' - a WWII hero how took custody of my mother and her three siblings when he returned from Germany.  As a toddler to early teen, my mother was raised by a stepmother who died when she was was a teen.  Soon after, her birth mother died and she had never been allowed a private visit.  After Grandpa's last marriage, adding in a few more siblings - the total was 13.  Mother moved out upon her 18th birthday.  Married at 19.  Had my sister at 20.  Since then she has worked non-stop.     I don't know exactly where this leads me, but recognizing the vastly opposing history of my familial branches really struck a chord with me.  I feel I may be a good example of the balance of the auto-didactic and the formally educated.  Each approach enhances the other.  While I deeply regret my adult $20,000 student loans, I would never trade that mere piece of paper for my mountain of knowledge that I learned through the curiosity of a creative mind. Above right, is the photograph taken in 1981 during my sister and my visit to Texas, where all of Mabel's family and offspring had relocated at that time.  From left to right: Uncle Jimi Barlow, an award winning journalist (Walter's half-brother), my sister Lisa (before her Sr. Year of High School), Aunt Karen (Barlow) Alexander, a speech therapist and author who died of breast cancer five years ago (Walter's half-sister), me at age 12 (I am hiding a cast and had 50 plus stitches in my head from a three wheeler accident that morning, I think I was high on Tylenol 3!), my birth father, Walter Hugh Creekbaum - he lived in TX for several years before relocating to Bradenton, FL.   I pay homage to both sides of my genealogy.  These ancestors and recent life mentors have made me who I am today.  I appreciate my education, possibly more than those who felt they were 'owed' it, because I longed for and sacrificed to receive it. And I humbly thank the relatives that took the time and money to expose me to the wider world.  Perhaps they saw in that child, some potential for a better life.  Who I am - is equal parts biology and biography.  I continue reaching for balance in both areas and to pass along the beneficial lessons, while hoping the inheritance of broken families will not adversely effect my children. On the right - a photo of my sister, Lisa and me, probably taken Feb/March of 1968.  Right before our father left. Although I had a brief marriage in in the late 90's (1987-1990), I was lucky enough to get out of that situation and have now been with my husband, Don, for 18 years.  We have three children who are almost alone in their status of being raised by both their biological parents.   To the left is a beautiful picture of my mother - the resemblance is uncanny.  Here smile is still just as wide and warm and her eyes still sparkle. After a long life of working endless days she will be retiring in just a few weeks.  I am looking forward to seeing her for more fun times - hoping to take her to see Loretta Lynn's Museum and also go on an antiquing/quilt viewing trip to Paducah, KY. ---- I feel that I am amazingly OK given the broken branches of my family.  I hope I am reastablishing some nurturing roots for my children - understanding our histories is one step along the way to evolving and preventing damage. As I continue to untangle my roots, I do know that IT IS WELL, WITH MY SOUL - EVEN SO, IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL.
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Abide With Me

  We are not alone.  We exist in a beautiful community of souls.  This post is dedicated to Haven Kimmel and to her beautiful community of souls which have enriched my life since I stumbled (it was fate) upon them in August.  [  www.havenkimmel.com , click blog]. The above work (entitled CATCH ME IF I FALL) is a perfect visualization of my experience in Havenland.  [begun with this bizarre altar niche I found in a thrift store in Fort Walton Beach, FL, it costed me only $6.00, which is a perfect example of where I get my main inspirations (junking or dumpster diving).  The doll face was cast from my original Krissy doll (the one that you pulled on the string and her red hair went shortor long).  One of my more prominent motifs are the wide-spreading oak trees (as it dominated the 'house yard' of my grandfather's Veedersburg, IN farm) and the handmade wooden rope swing that I spent many hours dreaming on as I strove to walk the sky].  Although this work can be disturbing as you notice the barbed wire which entwines the rope, and you realize that to stay balanced you would have to grip that barbed wire (what is supposed to keep you safe might BITE you), to me it is all about the hands that reach up under the swing to . . . catch me if I fall. As a child, due to many mitigating circumstances, most out of my or my 'guardian's' control, I rarely felt safe or that I had a soft place to fall.  Now that I am grown I am allowing myself to rely and trust in and on others . . . these are souls that have become guardians of my creativity and celebrants of my soul. I hope you can see the resilience of this peace and celebrate with me, the beauty I have found not only in Haven's blogland, but in the world that seems to shine brighter with hope.   Barbed  Guardian, 2006.  (Porcelain Doll Head, Rusted Wires, Encaustic, Gold-leaf) As the child's eyes reveal in Catch Me, we, as adults, are reflections of our childhood experiences.  I want to celebrate those that have been able to nurture 'little sher', she will always be a part of me. In Barbed Guardian, a friend of a friend heard about my search for rusted barbed wire/other objects and she shipped me objects from her farm in Sevierville, TN.  That is love.  To the left is WINGED GUARDIAN.  She is a perfect example of my friend's and family's support of my work.  My sister, Lisa, collected the remnants of a cardinal on a nature walk and carefully saved the skull (with its carmine beak) and the wings . . . this forethought and support is what, I believe, imbues the pieces with the ethereal essence I constantly seek to capture.   Lastly in the guardian trio is DOMED Guardian, she is veiled and unknowable.  She is the hidden spark of resilience I believe we can all find in our own souls if we protect it and treasure what is sacred and pure in our hearts.  She IS BROKEN, yes - but she remains. 'find a sanctuary inside oneself, no matter how small' - Lemony Snickets, A Series of Unfortunate Events
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Shaky Ground

written Aug 31, 2008, during insomniatic wakening

There are layers.

My truth is only one view through a convoluted, rippled memory.

As a child, my experiences and observations came with no contextual identifiers.  Even reactions were downplayed and re-assigned in acquiescence to an elder's (church's) desires.

In what format does a child live?  One person's most tragic day could be another's fantasy castle.

Pastelsplitself_2 The fact of some tragedy (ies) does not rob a child of their memorial joy, but it does cast a long shadow on their psychological future.

Sensory triggers are psychoneuroimmunilogical and those re-wired synapses cannot be re-instated to their seminal semantics.

This time of personal archetype development can overrun the soul.  Souls become lost in the netherworld of loss.

While surrounded by birds chirping in the clear blue sky, this, my tattered soul, is grasping at slippery roots to regain a sense of solid footing.

Shall it come to pass?

In my life, moments glimmer with mica-glittered foundation stones, until a new tremor comes along - it is hard to stand on such shaky ground.

What are my "seismic" pre-tremor shocks?

- thick, twisty "devil" eyebrows

- greasy, slicked-back, receding hair

- fishhooks

- knobs turning under a porch awning

- jelly

- banana seat bikes

- flyswatters (especially if shaped like a butterfly)

- keys or money being jangled in a pocket

- creaky swings

- fish eggs pouring from a fresh fish

- black, glossy tarmac from the glare of the sun

- dirty fingernails

- vans with no back seats

- trailers

- pencils

- having my head pushed down

- "Good Girl"

- religion

- blankets too light to feel "safe"

- the urge to pee at night and the danger of going to the nearest bathroom

Raggedy_digital Images:

Image 1 - above - "Split Self", pastel on paper, 32"h x 24"w, 2006.

Image 2 - immediate left - "Your Story Begins At Home", Found Object/Altered Doll Sculpture, Self Portrait, 42" h x 16"w x 17"d, 2006.

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