Cracked, But Not Broken
| by Rebecca Robinson |
I’ve always been an artist who supported myself with odd jobs just to get by. I’ve walked dogs, delivered flowers, done catering, but it was all just to support my art. A few years ago, I was going through some hardships – my job was downsizing and I was in a car accident. My dad, who’s always been there for me, encouraged me to come live with him to figure out my next steps. While I was living at home, I reconnected with a man I went to high school with, and within a couple months we were engaged. I say I married my first boyfriend because I’d never really dated before. It all moved really quickly, but I thought, maybe the universe is telling me something, maybe it’s time to get married and start a family.
And so three years ago, I started my new life as a wife. Though my husband supported my art, I became consumed with wanting to make him happy and be a good wife. And over time, my life started to look like his. Often I felt liberated pursuing his passions, like motorcycle riding, and had fun getting to know his friends. But as time went on I felt like I was losing myself in his life.
About a year ago, our communication started to break down. I felt like I was projecting something on the outside that I wasn’t feeling on the inside. I was experiencing deep inner sadness, but didn’t know how to talk about it. I started to withdraw from my husband and my friends. I wasn’t painting or doing anything creative and started to think, “How did I get here?” I began to realize I was so concerned with creating a perfect married life, that I had forsaken the creative part of me that brought me happiness. I didn’t know how to reconcile my identity as an artist with my identity as a wife. I felt like breaking down and telling my husband that I couldn’t do it anymore. That I had to create because it filled my soul with joy and without art, I was losing myself. I couldn’t find the words to explain this to him, but I soon found the inspiration to show him.
I was listening to the Kendrick Lamar song, “Alright” and felt his lyrics radiating something in me. I kept thinking about stark contrasts and concrete. As soon as the song ended, I drove to Lowe’s and starting picking out materials – concrete, tar, plywood and caulk. I took everything home and just started experimenting with the materials. I put the concrete on the plywood and let it dry – then I took the caulk gun and put it on – I didn’t want to use brushes or color, just white latex paint and tar. I noticed that the concrete couldn’t go past anyplace where there was tar. I’d never worked with these materials before and almost couldn’t believe what I was seeing – it was the truth I wanted to convey.
After experimenting that first time with the materials, I showed my husband, and he said, “That’s cool…” or something like that. I thought, what?! You don’t see what I see! But he saw me, and became my biggest fan, and even built me an art studio in our house! It helped me understand that I need to be more honest with myself. It’s okay if he doesn’t think the way I do, there’s a reason I thought of this. I needed to stop worrying about what everyone was expecting of me and create art that told the story of right now, what I’m feeling.
I want this work to express where I was and what was going on in my life. I want to reach people that can relate to my experience of feeling alone, isolated, hidden from others. I want to provide some comfort. By owning my truth, I hope to encourage others to do the same. I think when we really open up, we allow ourselves to connect. By saying that “things aren’t so good over here,” I hope others can respond with, “Girl, they aren’t so good over here either.”
In the end, I created these six strong panels that captured my authentic experience. My husband didn’t see the finished pieces until my art show. He got there early, brought me flowers and gave me the Kendrick Lamar CD. In that moment, I knew he understood the whole purpose, that he was listening and that he really SAW me. I think it’s so true that we often have to go through the storm to get to a better place.