light is a central theme in my works. I’ve based paintings and various series on light. I infuse precious metals into all my paint pigments so that even if a painting is dark it is infused with light. The intention is that it catches your eye when the sun hits the painting and is a symbolic reminder to seek the light and to be the light in the world.
As my final series of 2020, I’ve giving you a different kind of light. Gaslight. You probably know how it feels to be gaslighted, but can we see when we are doing it? I’ve been in a couple of abusive relationships in my life and know what it feels like. It’s a scary feeling when you really don’t know what is real, what is true, and whether or not you’re crazy and making things up.
I decided to do this series now because I’ve seen more gaslighting in America in the last year than I ever have before. I witnessed people I knew and trusted invalidating the experiences and realities of their family and friends with opposing political viewpoints. People who I considered loving, gentle, and kind made it clear that power or being “right” is more important than the human being on the other side of their social media post. Reality has felt murky this past year.
These pieces represent realities, dark and light, true and false. We all go through different experiences in the world which forms our realities. The etymology of the term “Gaslight” comes from a 1938 play written by Patrick Hamilton called Angel Street. In the play, a husband systematically tries to convince his wife that she is going insane, one of his tactics; dimming and flickering the gas lamps in the house. We do this to each other when we invalidate someone’s experience. We do this when we assert that the things we care about are categorically more important than what someone else cares about. We turn out the lights on our neighbors all the time.
The elements of this series deal with conflicting truths, the pain of unknown realities, and the supremacy of the value of our fellow human beings. The stark contrast between dark, midnight blues and the raw, creamy, pearl canvas was the first creative choice. The contrasting canvas color illustrates our different understandings of what is true about the world.
When making these works I cut out imperfect sections of canvas and hand sewed these realities into other canvases. I made the choice to sew them by hand instead of doing clean machine stitching because the hand stitching looks painful. When realities collide it is raw. It is painful. It is ugly. It pulls at the fabric of what we know to be true and what we believe about the world around us. It feels like you’re going crazy because this feeling is wholly “other.” Our realities are never clean cut, it is almost never a perfect meeting of the minds, just like these patches of canvas.
As with previous collections (The Divide, There Will Be More), our lifelines are a major focal point. (If you are unfamiliar with my “lifelines” please see this post for an explanation) For the first time ever in a series, I chose to make the lifelines in 24k gold, symbolic of the fact that every human being is valuable and worthy of love, even if you disagree with and hate what they stand for. Here is a visual reminder that you are golden and valuable even if we live in different realities.
These pieces are a reminder to think before we speak and to compassionately listen with the intent to understand, not merely to respond. Let’s pause before we gaslight someone by telling them their reality isn’t real, or asserting that our reality is the most important one. Choose to love and invest in the lives of the real human beings around us, instead of asserting that they must bend to our will, in order to be worthy or valuable.