Your wounds lead you to your purpose……Unknown
I often get asked how the series From Fracture To Fairytale came about so I thought I’d explain where the idea all began..I love fantasy work but have always tried, quite successfully, to keep it focused on anyone but myself. I was so certain that my story was too much for anyone to consider as a suitable subject for art. Then in 2017, I became involved in an art project for artists living with a disability called Emerge 2017. I met a group of talented artists who had a range of disabilities from MS, Vision Impairment, some like me with Complex PTSD as well as other physical, mental or emotional challenges. But most of all I saw a range of people with amazing ABILITY rather than a disability.
As a group, we visited the Art Gallery of NSW and saw two exhibitions; Out of the Ordinary and the Mikala Dwyer exhibition, on the same day. It was one of the pieces in Out of the Ordinary by Nicholas Mangan that not only sparked my imagination but transported me straight back to childhood, a place I’d preferred not to have visited.
I was an avid fairy tale reader and a huge Enid Blyton fan as a child and spent many hours living in castles or climbing the Magic Faraway Tree to escape my reality, so the sight of an aluminium ladder that became more and more organic as you climbed higher really sparked the old childhood imagination and made me desperate to climb it. As a result of this unexpected sight my mind was open to the memory of childhood, which it very rarely is.
So when we went into the Mikala Dwyer exhibition, with those emotional barriers to my youth already down, it was easier to be transported back to my childhood but this time the memories weren’t so happy. A piece entitled Square Cloud Compound triggered some awful memories of abuse. It seemed to be a huge, colourful blanket fort and whilst many people will think of that as a safe and happy place, to me it was a place that predators can hide and hurt.
I went home in a state of high anxiety, trying to obliterate it from my conscious mind but I kept coming back to it. That’s when I started to wonder if, maybe, I could combine the happy memory with the traumatic one and perhaps start to rewrite my childhood the way I wanted to, where I came out as a victor, not a victim. I started to entertain the notion that perhaps I had the freedom to write my own happily ever after.
I planned a series of conceptual/composite images and set about casting the characters. The only character who was completely based on reality was me and that was challenging in itself, because as an adult I’m still at odds with that little girl, but 8 year old Eily captured the vulnerability of myself at that age beautifully. The rest of the characters were all the imaginary people I played with. Fairies, angels, mermaids, Puff the Magic Dragon, Pandy and of course, Dame Washalot from the Faraway Tree who, as a child, I always saw as my mum. I stepped in front of the camera for that role which I hate to do, so that was another challenge, but I did it as a nod to my late mum as I’m very like her to look at and I wanted the Dame to be authentic to my experience and to look like I had always imagined her.
I then thought about how I wanted the viewer to step inside the story which was how I coped with a traumatic childhood. I never felt like I was reading but more that I was actually part of the book and wanted to convey that feeling to anyone who saw the images. I set about making an installation where the pages were hung out on a clothesline and the viewer stepped through a front cover and could walk around the inside of the book reading them.
This “escaping into fantasy” theme is one that I’ve played with numerous times, as can be seen with this image, but I’ve never done anything as personal as this before and certainly never considered an installation piece. Every image I’ve done in the past has a bit of me in it but has been such a vague nod to my experiences that only I understand on a deeper level, but this series has left me exposed and vulnerable, not just to the viewer but to myself. I knew I had to extend the story to include the other major traumas that have been part of my life.
So there will be six parts to this whole series. The first speaks about childhood sexual abuse and then moves onto domestic violence, grief due to the the loss of a child, mental illness, homelessness and the recently added cancer. Sounds depressing I know, but this whole story is actually one of hope. Each part of the series speaks about how I crawled my way out from every one of these traumatic events in my life and how I have used them to try to become a better person.
After a longer break than expected due to health issues, I’m finally ready to start on the next part of the series, How Many Flicks Till the Fly Flew Away. The base photos for this will be taken at Bundanon during a residency I have been offered by Bundanon Trust and Accessible Arts at the end of August. I’m so thrilled to get to work there and bring the next part of the series to life.
This will be followed by another two photo series and the last two parts of my story, will be presented as sculptures which I am currently working on. Everything will be told fairy tale style. Fairy tales are important to me as they delve into the dark side of human behaviour but hope and love are always victorious.
I have managed to find 3 wonderful women at various stages of life to continue the role that young Eily started and they are perfect for the role. It’s so exciting to have found these wonderful women who are so keen to help me bring my story to life. I can’t wait to keep you all up to date with what is happening. If you want to follow along on the journey as it progresses, follow us on Facebook.