Recently I had the honor of painting a special commission for my friend Xochitl. She wanted a commission piece as a gift for her niece Rebecca.
The story she told me, Rebecca's... is brave and beautiful. I knew right away that I wanted this abstract to unfold like my Through Infertility paintings. Every layer representing a piece of Rebecca's journey.
Rebecca was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at a very young age. She spent 15 years of her young life in and out of hospitals, undergoing treatment and grappling with the realities of her diagnosis. As time went on it became clear to her doctors and her family that Rebecca's lungs were failing. Then in October 2017, after a much anticipated wait, Rebecca received the call she had been waiting for. Lungs. This brave girl underwent a double lung transplant, and manages to post the most amazingly positive posts on her facebook blog. You can help support Rebecca and read all about her journey at https://m.facebook.com/Rebecca.cfstrong/
This is her painting. An abstract representation of her story.
Standing very still
at the moon
as it stood in front of
the glorious sun
Mountains of hard. Endless and overwhelming they rise up before me. I feel tired and overcome. The mountains of hard. They undo me.
That's exactly how I was feeling as I sat in my latest therapy session.
exhausted. Feeling the weight of everything.
All the grief, depression and fear. Frustration, loneliness and heartache.
It felt like this huge daunting task to even think about beginning to step towards anything.
Mountains of hard.
That's where I was.
Talking helped. Sleeping helped. I took one step and then another.
The medicine began to work, I felt energy seeping back into me. Giving me a little more energy.
I saw people. Friends. My family. I hugged. I talked.
I began to sing again.
I painted again.
the small shifts. the small steps forward.
they moved me. To a new place. to a spot where I could finally breathe and stay awake.
Where I could see the mountains but I could also see my strength. Not a valley.
More like an open field. With tall wavy grass and sturdy oak trees. Where wildflowers bloom and butterflies roam. Where the light hits golden on every inch of land.
Oh my soul.
I took deep breaths.
The mountains are still here. But they are on my canvas and they have less power. I know I will climb them and face them and be surrounded by them. But I will not be undone. Not now.
I found my way back.
here I will rest a bit.
Somewhere, deep within me, my authentic self is calling "come back to me"
I've been out lately. Not out on the town, or out of my mind... just out. Checked out. Clouded by a haze of depression and loneliness. Fog filled days of napping and surviving.
It all seems so dramatic to write out. But when I look back over the past two months I can see it clearly... like a river flowing through, wide, deep and unrelenting.
I didn't realize I was somewhere amidst it's depths, struggling for air and light. But now as I work my way to shore it is so clear. It is so incredibly clear. The river was so loud I couldn't hear, I couldn't see, it took me for a ride. I think it's letting me go now.
I'm holding on to hope. Moving forward, doing the things I know that can help me crawl out of this. I can see it. I can feel it. Things are shifting and I am on my way back. Forward.
life is a combination of breathtaking beauty, overwhelming possibility, heart shattering pain, and simple wonders. It is fleeting.
Ever changing. Always moving.
Sometimes it is painfully, and devistatingly motionless. Sometimes it is brutally fast. We blink, years fly.
I see all of this in the life cycle of a peony. (Or any flower)
that's why I choose to look. To see. To relish the days. Whatever they bring.
Let's talk, shall we.
I recently had an Art By Jaci Musec sponsored event, featuring the Through Infertility series.
Perhaps it is a little silly to host my own event/art show this early in my art career but
it was time to get the word out about this series, and share the stories, the paintings and my intentions for this project.
So... let's start there.
What is this all about?
This series is a Collective Experience & Abstract Expression
Representing Individual Unique Journeys… Through.
Let's break it down... this is an exclusive opportunity for individuals who have/had or are experiencing infertility. It is a special experience of working with (me) the artist, to create an original one of a kind painting, that represents THEIR unique journey through infertility.
How it works?
Individuals provide detailed information in a series of questionnaires.
(Providing as much information as they are willing.)
I spend time reflecting on the experience. Then a 12 x 36* original- abstract- intuitive painting is rendered.
1 in 8 couples experience Infertility.
Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term after 12 months of trying to conceive.
The idea for this project came to me while prepping for my first solo art exhibit. I was reflecting on the emotional healing power that making art had had on my own infertility journey and I wanted to be able to help other couples in similar situations. (Read about that show here )
So I put the call out on social media and spread the news via word of mouth... asking couples to participate.
It was an experiment of sorts.
Would people participate?
Would I be able to actually do what I was setting out to do?
Would it in fact be healing like I had experienced in my own art making?
Five couples signed up. Five couples sent me their stories. Five times I read and read and cried. Each story impacted me. Each story was heartbreaking, hopeful, peppered with pain and uncertainty. I could, having walked my own journey, identify with so many expressed emotions. So many of their pivotal moments mirrored mine, and yet, we were all on completely different journeys. AND we were all at different places in our infertility paths.
Each of these five painting have a very unique story to tell. So, here they are:
There Will Be Hope
This couple connected with me while in the midst of their infertility journey. It was here, as they found themselves deep in the trenches, that this painting came to life.
They have been struggling, trying and coping with diagnosis; managing fear and confusion and frustration and hopelessness for a while. In fact, they were on this journey for three years, unable to ovulate doctors had prescribed medications. Several months passed, as they watched their dreams and hopes slip farther out of reach, a miracle---they found themselves pregnant.
What a joyful surprise it is to have a treatment finally work.
However, after far too short of time, they experienced loss. The baby did not make it.
Dread, devastation, and heartbreak.
And yet, they had a renewed sense of hope. They moved forward with a more aggressive protocol. Setting parameters on how long and how much they would attempt before moving towards IVF. Now, as they cautiously hope for another miracle, they find themselves planning for what is next... treatment and the unknown factors of the life that lay before them.
They have also begun work towards becoming foster parents.
Currently they are in a season of active waiting.
Always Meant To Be
This Couple’s story begins several years ago. They learned early on that having their own biological child would be an extremely long and uncertain journey. While this news was difficult to process, they knew that God had called them to explore other options; specifically adoption.
They decided to end treatment and pursue adoption. In a fortunate turn of events they did not wait long. A birthmother choose them and the course of their lives changed the day they adopted their son.
Several years have passed since the thick of their infertility journey and adoption story began, but they have spent these 4 years with a continued hope to grow as a family with another adoption miracle. They continue to wait.
This couple’s story is particularly gripping for me as it centers on some of the negative emotions that are brought to surface in this journey. Physical pain, emotional pain, isolation, frustration, bitterness, jealousy, being misunderstood, hurting, longing, and loneliness to name a few. These are the words they used when describing their story.
I connected with them in the midst of their infertility journey. After years of trying to conceive, they find themselves in the thick of the treatment. Dealing with pain and heartbreak of loss and months upon months of what is known as “charting”. Countless tears have been shed. They continue to hold onto the hope of one day seeing their dreams come true.
Scars Of Heart
This couple’s infertility story is another that continues to unfold. They have been trying for over five years. After a diagnosis of PCOS, and several attempts with medication, a doctor suggested a weight loss surgery for the female to increase odds.
Saying this was one of the hardest things she has ever faced, she no longer can eat normally and often struggles just to eat.
After healing from surgery, they did in fact become pregnant. A miracle. Heartbreakingly, only 9 weeks into this pregnancy they lost the baby.
Devastation and depression hit hard. They are working to heal and have begun to take steps to try again.
Growing and Grieving
This couple’s infertility story is another unique look into the emotional challenges of infertility. After struggling to get pregnant and then finding out that they would have issues conceiving, they worked diligently on altering their lifestyle to optimize their chances before taking the next steps with treatment. With the greatest excitement they became successfully pregnant. However, in the midst of this joyful time, devastation took hold as it became clear that her mother would soon be leaving this earth.
Focus continually shifted between worry and excitement for the growing baby―And heartbreak for the slow loss of her mother. The two experiences becoming so intermingled, and heavily affecting the emotional well being of this couple, that it took years to heal from the trauma.
They couple later went on to go through treatment to conceive their second child.
This project... it is so powerful.
Not only did five couples participate. They all remarked on the experience as having valuable, powerful and HEALING effects on them. GUYS--- that was my intention the whole time.
Here are some of the responses they emailed me after receiving my frequent updates or the final email. One participant couldn't wait, so she called me immediately after receiving the final email.
IT'S ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL!!!! I'm in tears! It tells our story so well! Again, I am so honored to be a part of this.
Omg Jaci...wow. I LOVE it. Seeing it finished has left me speechless. I don't think I'll ever be able to express what this painting means to me. I am so very grateful for you and this project. Thank you for this creation and for all your encouraging words along the way.
Wow...your vision and how you connect and portray things! I am super excited to follow the development of this. Like silly excited!
I'm speechless. I cried looking at the photos you sent. I love knowing that our story is literally the heart of this painting. --Again you leave me speechless. I am moved to tears looking at this painting. You managed to capture everything we've been feeling in one picture. I absolutely love it! -- This process has been so healing. It's given me time to reflect and really think. I've cried a lot this week- thanks to you and hormones!!! Thank you so much for everything!--I cried as soon as I saw the pictures. When I read that the textured circle is baby Shaw, I sobbed. I was not prepared for how this reveal affected me. This painting is absolutely perfect and we can never thank you enough for this amazing gift.
Oh my gosh! Jaci! This is amazing!!!! I love the colors and I love how you interpreted that part of our lives like a shadow. I'm beyond pleased and honored about being a part of this! Also, I'm keeping all these emails to put in my scrapbook!
As an emerging artist, it is amazing to be able to work on projects that are well received. And even more amazing to work on something with so much depth and heart.
I thought for a time that maybe my work would only be deeply personal to me.
This series taught me that there is a whole new level for my work, I am thrilled, inspired and so hopeful.
So, I had the show... displaying these five paintings publicly. Now, these five paintings will go to live with their families. I hope that the paintings continue to bring healing, joy, hope and strength to these couples.
And yet, this project... this series... it has only just begun.
I have opened this up as a special commissioned art service.
If you know someone who would benefit from an experience like this... tell them.
If this project moves you... consider sponsoring a painting for a couple who may not be able to afford one.
IF you are someone who would benefit from an experience like this... please take that first step. Email me... let's connect... YOUR STORY MATTERS!
Read more or sign up for your own commissioned work here.
The act of creating art became a powerful tool in shaping the person I am today.
Big things have happened recently.
It all started when I began working on an event location for the Through Infertility collection Open House. I was touring spaces and dreaming about having a space that I could better photograph my artwork. I was planning and thinking and working, and before I even realized I was setting up an appointment to see an available studio space.
I had already booked Jamberry (in Dunlap) for my event. So this really had nothing to do with THAT, yet, in a way it did.
I looked at the studio spaces available and I just knew it was time to take the leap. Time to have a studio space that would be offsite (not in our home), time to have more room to stretch and grow with my work, time to have a space that would lend itself to more creative bursts.
I've worked so hard on this space over the last few weeks. Hauling in supplies and furniture. It feels more and more like my own every time I step into this room.
A few days ago, was the First Friday event in Peoria... and I was able to open the doors to my studio for friends, family and the public to come and see. It is truly a dream come true. I can't wait to see what lies ahead.
People get sick of the rain really quickly round here... not me, I love it.
I breathe in the fresh rainy scents and bask in all the beauty that rainy days highlight. I splash in puddles and let the mist fall on my face. I listen to the gentle, steady rhythm. The grey skies force me to look down and around. Hello reflection in this sidewalk pool. Hello chirpy birds with bellies full of worms. Hello yellow petals dripping. Hello budding branches. Hello grass coming to live--- you are so vibrant and dashing.
With the proper tools(waterproof boots, a warm sweater, a towel to dry off, a hot mug of tea, eyes willing to see) a rainy day is simply a different sort of opportunity. Once to savor all the richness the earth has to offer.
#hellopeoria #rainydays #iloverainydays #meetjacimusec #wordsbyjacimusec #abmlifebeautiful #abmlifeiscolorful
Every once in awhile, in a moments notice, life turns upside down.
News hits your ears and shock waves ripple through your heart.
No one is exempt from these sort of moments.
They are built into the fabric of life.
When they arrive, we all stand, stunned. We almost never see them coming… and even when we do, we are shocked that they’ve arrived.
These moments- upon- moments-upon- moments, when time stands still,
crash into us
like a bolt of lightning. Electric and instant.
They come in a wide range of shapes and sizes and feelings -- each one characterized by the
blind side that they bring to our reality.
Our brains scramble to make sense, our lungs struggle to take that much needed deep breath.
Our hearts beat wildly as we begin the next step… Processing.
Just the other night… I had one of these moments.
It knocked me sideways and swelled my heart with grief.
I felt heavy. Raw. And heartbroken.
After struggling with Infertility for the last (almost) 7 years, I find that I am particularly susceptible to emotional trauma.
Imagine a chronically ill person… they’re immune system is much weaker in many ways, and therefore more susceptible to a dangerous virus.
That’s me… only I am not chronically ill, I am living in perpetual emotional trauma.
It is strange to say that, but it is the most accurate way to explain my situation.
It is why I am consciously and actively vigilant to protect my heart. It is why I do my best to practice self care daily. It is why I say “No” to baby showers, and newborn hospital visits . It is why I no longer teach preschool, why I nap regularly, and why I choose to submerse myself in things that bring joy to my life.
My emotional well being depends on the amount of “defensive” work I do.
With all the work I do, to remain balanced and stable… I still know that I am going to have these blind sides… no one is exempt from these sorts of moments.
They are built into the fabric of life.
How do I cope?
I first let the wave crash. The one that follows the lightning bolt. I feel all the emotion in its pure form and let it wash over me. I observe it. I acknowledge it. Without judging myself, I let whatever I need to feel rise up and be present.
And then I breathe deeply. I hug. I remind myself of these important truth’s:
I am not in control.
This reality is painful, uncomfortable and unwanted… but it is here.
Therefore, I will do my best to accept what I must, change what I can and rise above the rest.
I am not in control.
And then I get to work, taking care of myself.
And for me that can mean many things…
A crying session. Writing. Painting. A brisk walk. Pulling weeds. Screaming loudly. Talking.
Tuesday night, after the initial shock wore off, and I began to process, I sang.
I sang my heart.
I sang on a stage, in a little bar. I stood, in front of mostly strangers, with a microphone, no musician to accompany me, and I sang.
And the healing power of art took over.
The music of my fellow open mic attendees and my own small set -- released the energy that had built up. It lessened the weight of the grief and sadness. It allowed me to move forward.
I love using words to connect with my fellow humans.