In 2016, I had the honor of participating in the Journey of Hope: Real Life Stories of Living with Mental Health Challenges Portrayed Through Art exhibit. The purpose of thi exhibit was to share stories of hope and recovery to give others insight, inspiration, understanding, strength, connection, and to raise awareness. Each artwork was informed by a life story written by the mental health participant with whom the artist had been paired. It is a powerful concept, and a stunning show.
I was paired with Xai. Xai’s story touched me deeply. Although much different in the details and circumstances, I identified with the tragic betrayal that Xai experienced. Reading it cracked open my heart, and instigated a whole new bout of grief. It took awhile to once more remember hope and separate from that betrayals wound enough to be able to approach it as a painting.
I will frequently work on 2 or 3 paintings at the same time, so I can continue painting on one, while allowing sufficient time for paint to dry on the other(s). I officially began painting Xai’s Hope on the 11×14 canvas that I had purchased for the painting for this show. In the meantime, I was experimenting, on a different canvas, working on developing some techniques using acrylic pens. As I dealt with the challenges of the problematic pens, I discovered that this other piece was the journey toward the hope of the first painting. I could not ignore the strength and courage that appeared, just as I could not ignore Xai’s story. The second painting is called Xai’s Journey: Sacrifice of Innocence.
We were asked for one piece only. Apparently, one piece could not contain both Xai’s journey through the darkness and the light of hope. It’s been my experience that addiction appears to separates us from the divine. These two paintings are parts of one journey towards integration.