The wound is the place where the Light enters you.
My family has been through so much loss in the last 12 months. Our 14 year old son is struggling with an intense combination of psychiatric concerns, neurological considerations, unmanaged asthma, and high functioning autism. He spent almost the entire past 2 months in the hospital.
As a family, we have lived through countless hours in 3 different hospitals including 5 days in a psychiatric waiting room. Our days were marred with badges, parking passes, and the lingering smell of hand sanitizer. There have been countless phone calls, voicemails, and text messages. Our two younger children, a dog, and a puppy have been shuffled to different homes after school and over the weekend. Our family of 5 has been broken apart and sleeping in 4 different locations more nights than I can remember.
We have been slogging through contradicting medical opinions regarding which treatments are most likely to help and which would most likely cause harm. There has been an overall unwillingness from the psychiatric system to rule out potentially complicating medical causes of pain (specifically migraines and asthma). Our primary care doctor wanted our son to have an MRI, but 8 weeks later, it still has not been ordered.
Not a single doctor has practical insight on how the high functioning autism diagnosis complicates the symptom picture or impacts the treatment plan. We are sorting through chaos and confusion. In the middle of all of this, there was a funeral for a beloved Aunt that took my husband out of town for 5 days.
There has been so much darkness. But we have not been without beautiful moments of light.
We have an incredible community of friends and family across the states sending love, prayers, and even gift cards. We have needed this support so much. Our local community has been dropping off meals and lunches for the younger kids. Engines and lawnmowers have been delivered to our doorstep for our son to work on and repair. Resources, connections to specialists, and potential paths forward have been offered over and over again. There are so many people holding our family close. It matters beyond words.
I photographed this clay body paint session almost a year ago. I loved the photographs back when I took them, and I have shared several of them along the way. Yet I always felt as if something was missing in the final prints.
Sometimes art and soul are forged in the fires of loss and challenge. In these dark and difficult times, we discover opportunities to rise up and to find both a strength and a light inside ourselves that we didn't know existed.
While in the hospital with my son, I revisited these images with new eyes and a heart more intimately attuned to darkness and light after being repeatedly plunged into the fires.
While reworking these images, I stripped out the background and saved just the base essence of the portraits. Distractions were ruthlessly removed. I took out clothing straps, over-clumpy drips or clay, and the stray hairs that were interfering with the visual presentation I was seeking.
I reworked the essence of each portrait much like a sculptor would carve away a piece of granite until the beauty of the sculptor's vision came through.
I can't begin to tell you how many hours I spent refining these pieces. It didn't matter. I was on hospital time, and all I had to do was wait, and wait, and wait for nothing at all to change. I did my best to channel the loss, the frustrations, and the brokenness of the mental health system into these 4 portraits, so the art would express the depths of my experience.
I feel these portraits were finally crafted into expressions of what I was originally intending when I first photographed this session. This is where I wanted those portraits to reside, in an unthinkable emotional landscape of colorless despair marked with an unquestionable promise of hope, beauty, and light.
To me, these portraits feel like the promise of healing yet to come, a path forward, and a certainty that in the ashes there is a new beginning.
I know they won't feel the same way to everyone. Art is a mirror that reflects your own experiences and the needs of your individual heart. If these portraits speak to you in any way, and even if they don't, I would love to hear your reflections.
I also want to add that if you need help navigating the mental health system, please do not give hope. The challenges feel insurmountable at times, but there is light for you too. I believe there is an inherent promise of new beginnings. Please keep reaching out until you find your way. You don't have to do this alone.
May we all experience light filling our wounds, and may we remember to be that light for one another.