Why are you the way you are?
Well, Carly had Abby and Meghan had Brandy and Alexis lived next door but ended up with Kathryn so I spent my time with Anne Frank, melting candles into jars with makeshift wicks to make new candles, sometimes burning my hands, nearly burning the house down or singeing my bangs, listening to the Crooklyn soundtrack and crying to the top 10 countdowns on 96.3 The Rose. I discovered masturbation early and had aspirations of becoming a stripper. I called a sex hotline in 6th grade after finding the 900 number on the side of a pay phone and hung up after they said hello, so I called again and hung up again. Life savings of $100 handed over to my screaming mother, stunned with relief that it was me calling and not my stepdad. I blame the daily after school cheese toasts that often caught on fire for my early menstruation and my raging hormones for those 3 broken sugar bowls and the fact that when made to windex the front window of Lily’s nose spots I was compelled to spray the hydrangeas. I spent hours sitting on the bathroom counter picking at my face but when I saw how my mother looked at me I discovered other parts of my body I could pick and pluck and never have any input.
I fell in love with punk and hardcore and a pack of skateboarders, chatting with them on AIM taking my retainer out to make out with one under the guise of walking Lily and and learned about veganism and tofu from a dude who I worked with at Dunkin' Donuts where I also learned how to steal. I traded plugs and piercing jewelry for Bukowski and Zinn shaved my head, conditioning with Chapstick and styling with conditioner and wore mostly homemade clothes. I was bored with school but loved art, math and sex, or the idea of sex, the fantasies of porn and the vibrator that looks like a tongue, the moments in Victoria’s Secret catalogues where any part of the model touched another model, the internet, where I learned I was attracted to all genders, where I practiced the art of erotic language, getting off with strangers and learning how to get rid of computer viruses. After my mother read my diary and yelled at me for knowing the word “boner” I destroyed my old diaries and created a language all my own with words, pictures, compositions that evolved into sketchbooks to keep me from implicating myself in the sexually explicit world that was my head. Devoid of name or gender, fantasies and ramblings. No one could imagine how I spent my time deep in the world of the internet chat rooms trading pictures of people I didn't know with people I didn't know exploring body modification in lieu of self harming, starting to stretch my ears in tiny increments. Collaging pages of magazines and sewing for hours.
A week before I got my license we were woken up to the sound of a car crashing into our house which ended up being a bunch of jocks who were also drug dealers inflicting their revenge against stolen paraphernalia on our house smashing the majority of the windows and beating the front door with a golf club, the cops did nothing, the emergency cleanup company made the disaster disappear. I started sleeping with a coworker who lived on the same street as one of the jocks and fantasized about smashing his car windows on my way home late at night. I just gave him the finger one day driving by him eating Ben and Jerry’s on Main Street. I always made curfew but I never felt safe walking to my door at night. My mother told me my sister was using heroin while we were trying to be quiet waiting on my stepdad to arrive for his surprise birthday dinner at a Chinese food restaurant. My boyfriend told me I was making too big a deal out of it, although that was the same boyfriend who would borrow my car to see his other girlfriend, who ended up slashing all of my tires one night when she thought I was at his house.
I was weaving tapestries in art school about child molesters, alcoholism and broken homes, getting to class late because I would wake up feeling hung over from staying up all night with trichotillomania episodes, getting my first urinary tract infections and yeast infections and cervical cancer scares. I started applying to graduate school while sleeping with a graduate student who told me “not to be disappointed when I didn't get in to any schools.” I got into all the schools. The first conversation at grad school was someone asking me if I was one of those “straight edge hardcore chicks” which was basically my entire experience plus some slut shaming and being told my work was too emotional, but I learned a lot about my content and developed a strong commitment to my work, taking the first of many sleeps under my looms. I spent months weaving tapestries of car crashes and childhood photographs, using the physical distance between my family and I to start broaching subjects that challenged me while developing my technical skills in tapestry. My final critique ended in tears but I was done with school for the first time in my life.
I traded my Honda civic for a truck so that I could drive around the country with my looms to residencies and artist colonies, arriving to many with maxed out credit cards and overdrawn bank accounts, having to explain that I would need stipends sooner rather than later, learning that many artists were privileged and “salad days” was a thing people would say to young artists who were struggling. I would learn about relapses and infections caused by IV drug use and pregnancies and warrants and arrests on the road and back home while I was trying to find change and returning salt and shampoo to get my bank account out of the negative my mother called me to ask if she should buy the medicine to keep our dying dog comfortable or buy the plane ticket to get my sister to rehab. I finally expressed my need for boundaries after starting to understand codependency and the effects of addiction on myself and having a slight mental breakdown. Boundaries were basically translated into learning everything with a few week delay, which just made life more annoying but I kept reminding myself, I didn't cause it, I can't control or cure it. I started working on an exhibition called daddy issues in which I funneled my self hatred into slut shaming and victim blaming but then I learned that feminism was a thing and after a long hot homeless summer showering at Planet Fitness and spending my days at the air conditioned library reading piles of books I started to understand a bit more about the work I wanted to make and why I was so scared to. I eventually started using my own body in my works and facing the socially ingrained issues that charged so much of my self-image and alienated me from so many. My work continues to be the way I process and understand deep rooted issues within my family, myself and society at large.