becoming artist

becoming artist
Sunday December 20, 2009


Dear Alice,
Thanks for everything you’ve done, and continue to do. You’ve given me, and countless others, a place to start, and an opportunity to heal the wounds of childhood.

I was sexually abused by my mother’s brother from around the time my younger sister was born, (22 months old) till about 5 years old. I remember my aunt telling my uncle that he needed to stop what he was doing to me. He said that I wouldn’t remember anything before I was 5. I did however remember that scene when I was 32.

Most of this happened to me at his house. Because I was hit and intimidated often by my parents, I learned that my voice needed to be quiet. I also learned that it would never be safe to cry for help. So I never did. My parents drove us an hour to his house, mostly on holidays, and because my parents where only aware of their needs, my needs went unnoticed. Perfect for an uncle who helped himself to his nephew in a bathroom. Or he baby-sat me, while my aunt helped my mother and sisters food shop before we went home. I remember being abused 2 times. But my gut trembles when I think it was much more than twice.

I read your first book in 1991. THANK YOU!! It was a hand that I reached for, to save me from drowning. You made me feel like I deserved some help. I still hold on to your hand today.

Ironically, I was an artist as a tiny child. Or I became one very early in my childhood. Where as you became an artist later in your life. Somehow I was always able to separate my art from the abuse (all the sexual abuse was forgotten, I believe because no one acted as if anything had happened. Ignore something and it won’t be remembered. React to it, and it will be tough to forget). My art was truly a get-a-way. A place that was safe. Well, safe until I was 11. At that time my uncle got his sister (my mother) to ask me to paint him a picture. I was able to avoid an answer until he visited our home on a beautiful spring day in May (1976). I had just finished my best painting 2 months prior. A collie in a snow storm, howling because he came upon an injured lamb. There I was in the back yard with my uncle and mother standing close. My uncle couldn’t ask the question, so my mother asked. “Can you paint a picture of your uncle’s destroyer? He was in the war, and he would like that from you, because you’re such a good artist.” I didn’t say anything. I was then asked again. I knew what they wanted from me, so, with my head staring at the ground, I sadly whispered okay.

What I learned from that was, that if I never drew or painted again, I would never have to paint him that picture.

I’m 45 now, and I still can’t get the pain/anxiety/panic, to subside. I’ve tried to paint and draw from time to time as an adult, but I stop because it’s too painful. My art was an expression of my soul. Can you give me some advice, not only as an enlightened witness, but also as an art teacher?

Thank you,

“LMJ” (my pseudonym should you choose to publish this letter)

AM: There are millions of artists who never want to know what happened to them in childhood. But you DO want and apparently you have access to your memory. Trust your hand and let you inform about what it is eager to tell you so you can recall what you need to. Maybe it is waiting already a lot of time for you to take it seriously. What you may find out could be more precious to you than becoming a famous artist, you will get your history, hidden for such a long time.