By K. O’Neill on September 28
The vision, my work, and what I’ve learned in 2020.
When I was initially contacted to work with NomadWorks several months ago on a solo exhibition I knew it was going to be challenging to convey the meaning behind the exhibition without being physically present, but it is a challenge I nonetheless happily accepted.
I’d hardly consider this my first rodeo in exhibiting. I’ve worked with NomadWorks before with the artist collective Color of Ages and have shown in galleries in Philly, NYC and Miami. What makes this show so different is the circumstances under which it was created.
What incidentally started out as a pun, “Hindsight” (much like my year) has become a force to be reckoned with. Last summer I had the opportunity to share my work with Center City Philadelphia in my solo show, Lift Me Up, centered around this concept I’d birthed showing “the tango between trauma and posttraumatic growth”. As my work is mostly up-close facial expressions, the pieces shown documented an evolution between expressions of pain, discomfort, and eventually peace and serenity. This show, Hindsight, was supposed to be a sort of second-wave of my solo last year. I worked with the brilliant mind of Tobe Roberts (friend, curator, amazing artist) to essentially construct this exhibition to be a celebration of overcoming obstacles, the triumph over trauma. I’d love to tell you that’s what this show still is about and while the pieces selected tell a similar story, the mood is far more somber.
Fear, grief, and trauma are just some themes that have been inescapable this year, for a variety of reasons that aren’t exclusive to my experience. Subsequently, it would be unfair for me to say that I’m in the same enthusiastic mood I was in last year. “Hindsight is 2020”, and we’re never going to know the right things to do or say to alleviate some lesson we haven’t learned yet; the past is both five years and five seconds ago. My pieces were created to show expressions I face in my battle with PTSD- a battle that I was celebrating last summer as if it was over because of this incredible testament to an experience I’d considered worked through. That was not necessarily the case and I’ll be the first to tell you that progress isn’t linear: you will stumble, scrape your knees and cry (a lot). However, relapse isn’t a sign you’ve failed and your work (or a gallery exhibit for that matter) has been in vain, it’s an opportunity to refocus- something this collaboration was curated to show.
There is no “end” to self-improvement, much like there is no definite end to healing.
Rather than being something celebratory and triumphant, I’d like for Hindsight to be remembered instead as a specific moment in time, in my growth as an artist, and as a testament to non-linear progress. To the good days and the bad. To putting in the work to heal, even when it hurts and it’s so much more comfortable to ignore how we feel. To taking the time to learn how to treat ourselves, and to creating something worth looking back on.