Sarah Petty is our January Featured Artist for Building 8! Learn more about Petty and her solo show, “Crisis Entanglement” below.
I have heard so many stories of people’s lives being turned upside down during this time of quarantine and political and social calamity. On a personal note, in less than a year, I have changed my whole business, took a five month long break from creating, left my abuser, found an expensive apartment, started dating the love of my life, and found out, unbeknownst to me, that I have been surrounded by love my whole life.
During this pandemic, I have had an intimate view of how people have struggled to feel connected through the isolation and social distancing. I am a healer who specializes in early developmental trauma and attachment issues. I also grapple with my own challenges of early trauma that lead to insecure relationships to self and others. I had to adapt my practice from in person to Zoom, relying on a video streaming application that makes it impossible to look someone in the eyes. I once had access to my clients’ entire bodies and now my senses had only the shoulders up and their voice to observe. There were physical separations from my clients, my best friend, and my family. So, what was it to feel connected? As a Korean adoptee, I have been exploring that question my whole life. Now I find myself, as many others, in the middle of a pandemic, a crash course in being a human with a need to feel love and belonging.
So, I’ll share my struggles that kept me away from my studio during the first five months of quarantine. It started with me leaving my abuser, the woman who adopted me. After a lifetime of gaslighting, I left in a rage, with absolutely no plan. My adult knew it was past time to leave, but my child was still sick from all the manipulation. There was a period where my child and adult were at war. It felt, I imagine, not unlike a detox from any addictive substance. Thankfully, I had the support of a few therapists to help me process and move through the tangled mess of lies that was my childhood. My friends and partner helped me update my perception of who I am, without the nasty projections my abuser spewed at me. It took a village for me to heal. And I am so grateful.
And during all of that, I had nothing left to fuel my creative energy. Every fleeting spark of inspiration I had, was quickly smothered with overwhelm and feelings of ineptitude. I was afraid to fail. I was frozen.
Month after month, I was baffled by my inability to return to my art practice. Then one day, I finally forced myself to just drive to my studio and touch clay. Figurative work was daunting, and I had no idea what else I could make. So I made a coil. I closed the coil into a loop. I pinched the loop all the way around. Hm… that felt good. I did it again. And again. And soon I had about fifty of these rings of pinched coils. It didn’t look like much of anything. Anxiously, I sent a picture to my friends and asked them what they saw. Calamari. … Ok, well, not the response that fills me with reassurance and confidence. But, this is the first sign of momentum I’ve had in a good long while. I’ll take it!
Day in and day out, I would pinch the clay for hours. Soon I had well over a thousand rings. I was in new territory. I decided to do something I’ve never allowed myself to risk before-I relied solely on my intuition and instinct to move through this piece. No planning. No over analyzing. I was going to let go and trust that each step forward would show itself and I would have the courage to take it. So unlike me.
This piece took on a life of its own that seemed to mimic the feelings I am having. Overwhelm, monotony, relentlessness, grief, anxiety, connection, separateness, intensity, hopelessness, tension, to list a few words to describe my everyday experience. This losing of time and timelessness happening simultaneously. Finding out we are all connected and interdependent in this less than Hallmark movie way. That our actions can save a life, or snuff it out. Like this tapestry, made of silk and porcelain, we are a complex webbed community that is both strong and fragile. We need each other. We need to care about everyone. We need to hold onto our humanity. We need to come from a place of love and curiosity. We need.