16 in high school and drowning in anxiety. I had recently come out of the closet to my high school friends. All turned their back on me but one. Few days after I told my parents out of anger during an argument. The conversation following was a blur but I clearly remember how alone and devastated I felt. I fell into a depression with no one to talk to. I felt exposed, judged and humiliated by all. How dare I think that it would be ok to be myself? Why did I think telling someone would be a relief? Did I really think anyone would be accepting? I knew no one that was lesbian, gay or bisexual. I was the outcast and at that moment felt like the target. I don’t know what those girls did with the secret I told them that day, but I do know that they never talked to me again and rumors were spread that I was crushing on my only friend I now had. I was offended that just because I’m lesbian, everyone thought I wanted to sleep with every girl. I was very appreciative of my only true friend and grateful these dumb rumors didn’t push her away from our friendship. Even so, I still felt alone and betrayed. There was nothing I could do or say to make things go back to the way it was. Everyone knew my secret.
Walking into my high school art class always felt a bit better compared to the crushing world outside that door. It was during this time that our class was given assignments to research our favorite artist, build our own canvas, and finally perfectly timed, I was given my first paint brush. I remember how nervous I felt, I did not know how to paint. I mostly sketched, I was ok at it, but not great.
I had in mind what I wanted to work on and asked for permission to do so. With approval, I selected a figurative photo. I stared at this photograph and admired the pose she was in. I felt her freedom and I yearned release from all suffocating emotions I could not shake off. I chose the color Prussian blue and found it most fitting. A color of change and movement. I have never attempted a figurative drawing or sketch and here I was about to paint one. Not knowing where to start and thinking I will probably fail this assignment, I selected a paintbrush and got started.
I don’t remember visually my progress or how I started the painting but I do remember the rhythmic strokes and the fear of failing this assignment melting away. I remember taking deep breaths and with every exhale I was more relaxed. All the anxiety and overwhelming emotions calm as I lost myself in my work. My mind quiet as I painted shaped shadows and soft curves. I fell in love with painting that very moment. I worked on this painting every chance I got, the more I painted, the more I felt like the woman in the photograph. Free. I titled the painting SHE. SHE was my first real painting, SHE was my first figurative piece, SHE was my first love.
“She was inspired, She found passion. Her soul could finally sing! She finally had what she most desired, She was free.” Jenna Garcia