Artist Statement – Sex, Violence, Death, and Self-Destruction

Dear Reader,

For what ever reason you have stumbled upon this page, please read with a generous and compassionate heart.

If you are suffering, please understand that you are not alone. May my own personal story serve as a testament. I am now 47 years old, I want you to know that survival is possible; along with the sorrow and pain, life has much joy and beauty to offer.

………..My Story – The Teenage Years……..

I am an American. I grew up in the suburbs outside of Houston, Texas. I was very religious as a child. I liked riding horses, and being a girl scout.

Trauma around death and sex during my adolescence led me to discover art, and so my art is very intimate.

Trauma is custom tailored for each of us, coming at different times and in different forms. For me, separation and loss began to pour into my life when I was fifteen; it overwhelmed me; and then gradually receded after I was seventeen.

When I was emerging as a self-conscious, self-aware, sexual being, I suffered loss, rejection, and violence.

When I was fifteen I offered my virginity to my long-term boyfriend; but I was turned down. A few days later, my family broke apart. my brother and I were told we were to blame. Partly in response to these events, for a little while, I  thought that emotional relationships should be separate from sexual relationships. I intentionally lost my virginity to someone I despised. Shortly after this I ran away from home. While a runaway, I may or may not have been gang raped, my memory is spoty. Eventually I returned to my mother’s house.

I wanted to go to boarding school, but instead, was sent to live with my uncle, a missionary from the Church of Christ, who was serving a small congregation on Staten Island and was supported in part by a much larger church in Lubbock, Texas. I was still deeply religious.

Just after I turned sixteen, while living with my aunt and uncle, I had my first encounter with death. A dear friend, Brandon Crowe, sixteen years old, who had suffered much, was run over and killed by a car. I stopped believing in God. My parents reunited, and I returned to live with them. Brandon’s brother, Bret,hung himself. Paul, another friend or ours died of Leukemia.

Accident, illness, old age, and suicides; it was a difficult time, encounters with death came with frequency and intensity.  Nine men in my life, five young and four old, died one by one over the course of that year. Deaths of friends and lovers who were adolescents themselves, deaths of old men who were my relatives; in order to cope I became depressed and I experimented with drugs.

Sometimes my family life was violent and explosive. Sometimes I would run away, but I would eventually return home. My parents took away my car. I would hitchhike to get around. Sometimes it turned out badly. One time I got into a small hatchback. The back seat was filled with junk, the driver was flaccid and greasy. I told him where I wanted to go and got into the passenger seat. He started going the wrong way, and I asked what was up. He said he was going a different way and quickly turned onto an entrance ramp to the freeway. We were now driving at high speed along the freeway. I told him to stop and let me out. He punched me in the jaw. I fished around in my purse for a metal fork I was carrying. I stabbed him in the leg. He slowed down. I jumped out of the moving vehicle.

You should always listen to that little voice that warns you when you may be getting into a bad situation.

Shortly after I turned seventeen, one of my lovers committed suicide a few days after I had introduced him to drugs (Mandrex) and to sex, both at his request. I suffered tremendous guilt. After his funeral, I was dropped of at my parent’s house. Alone, I checked the Physicians Desk Reference and then took about ninety pills, Percocet and Darvon. My family found me and saved my life. I was put into a psychiatric ward in a hospital in downtown Houston.

After I got out I didn’t care whether I lived or died. Sometimes I would stay with friends or live on the streets. From time to time I would return to my  parent’s home.  I became a punk. Somehow I managed to hold onto a job and to go to high school. I was a senior; I took my first art class. I found I could draw. I made my first trip to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. I experienced a synesthetic response to a painting by Kandinsky.

With one semester to go the high school administration asked me to leave, claiming that my appearance was too distracting to other students. With no school to go to I became more unhinged. I reveled in the nightlife. I kept company with drag queens, addicts, drug dealers, and hookers.

Once, when I was tripping on acid, some guys I was staying with robbed the motel where they worked. My best friend and I  drove away with them. We wound up in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. You know things are serious when guns are pointed at your head. My best friend saved us from dangerous situations on more than one occasion. I pawned my jewelry, he called his grandfather. We headed back to Texas.

My art teacher, Weldon Faries, persuaded me to apply to Parsons School of Design, and even though I was asked to leave Klein High, he helped me get a portfolio together of everything I had made. Unbeknownst to me he convinced my parents to help support me.

Luckily, I left Houston and went to Parsons in New York. I still experimented with drugs. Art was a rope I was clinging to to save my life. I lived in a dormitory on Union Square. An art school friend, who lived there too, attempted suicide. I found her. She had written a letter with her own blood on the wall beside her. I called the ambulance.

Saving her life inspired others to have faith in me. I was asked to become a Resident Advisor. While participating in the First Aid accreditation course as part of my training to become an RA, I met my beloved life partner.

Our love came on fast and strong. I was nineteen years old. I became pregnant. They fired me from my position as an RA. My parents withdrew their support.

My love and I started our life together in Western Massachusetts. His family was welcoming and encouraging.  A few months after I turned twenty, our son was born.


In addition to sex, violence, and self-destruction; psychology, dreams, spirituality, struggling to live, motherhood, and love inform my work.

From the Domain of Paula.

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