Monday, November 7, 2016

My Experience with Painting Number 1 "Bitter Cold"

I find myself somewhere up the stream of life. Here, I will take a breath, reflect, and meditate on my experience of the fifth painting. We found ourselves, there, in the space of Allen’s studio. Cheryl, the project videographer, was setting up the cameras with diligence. Allen was rummaging through his paint. And wondering what colors to give life too. I gleamed this notion from the concern worn on his face. I turned to find Cheryl. She was discerning the best angles for the cameras. I continued observing all this motion. Before I knew it we were off.

Allen, with brush in hand, began carving away.

“I am going to paint the first time I was sexually abused.” Allen announced. The collective mood shifted. It was a sense of calm. Now, it was the gripping realization of why we were sitting in this space, childhood sexual abuse. How profound are these implications? How deep does one have to dive, without fear, into their soul to pull from it something that can illuminate the pain of another. And help another, guide another, and in the process help themselves.

“This is why we are sitting here. To help people” I thought to myself. This thought is always running back and forth through my mind, however, during these sessions it thrusts itself to the forefront of my faculties with assurance. Allen isolated his pain in brush and paint. There, Allen’s agony took the form of yellows and oranges against the sharp red background. They swirled with intelligent magnificence. The space was captivated. Allen’s breathing intensified with each stroke. And he continued narrating his experience with bravery. It was more red, yellow, and orange. Red, yellow, and orange. Red, yellow and orange! It was splash after splash of color. Then, some purples, and other contrasting colors. We were enraptured. Everything stopped all of the sudden.

Between colors, Allen’s wife came home. Cheryl’s dogs, who were upstairs, began barking. The passion subsided for only a moment. I was sitting there dumbfounded. Cheryl went to go quite the dogs. Allen was standing upright, chest out, eyes closed, and breathing heavy breaths of meditation. Allen was in the middle of one of his nuanced forms of meditation. I watched the gravity of it all hit Allen in waves; the sexual abuse, the memories, the digging in his soul for diamonds to help others, the time and space spent occupying this isolation. Upon completion, Allen uncovered a bit of wisdom.

He discussed the complexity of his being in relation to being sexually abused. On the one hand, he loves who he is. On the other hand, he was victimized by monsters and their children in the most sordid of ways that no person should ever have to live through. And these sordid, yet, confusing experiences of sexual abuse have formed him into the man he is today. Allen loves who he is. And he is cognizant of the how these experiences have shaped who he is. In this short moment of retrospection, Allen hit on the core of what I believe we are trying to achieve, or, what we are trying to convey. That these gut-wrenching experiences can have profound effect on who we are for the better. That we can love ourselves. This self-love allows us to come to terms with abuse, realize exactly who and what was done to us, and grow from it. Allow these demons to push us forward. To propel us into the people we want to be. To achieve to dreams we want to achieve. This is what people who have been sexually abused are capable of…anything.  


  1. It is interesting to me that the process is akin to meditation because he is revisiting deeply unsettling events which are generally at odds with the calm measured mood of meditation. His ability to revisit these experiences in a meditative mood reveals the strength he has gained over time to be able to face the tragedy with such calm and courage.

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