Keep the Rage Tender by Rebecca Gonzalez-Bartoli
September 22 – November 12, 2021
Attend an in-person opening reception for Keep the Rage Tender on Wednesday, September 22, 5 – 7 p.m., with an artist talk at 6 p.m.!
As Fresh A.I.R. Gallery's primary display space remains closed during the pandemic, Keep the Rage Tender will be on display at the gallery's SEEN Studios (Studio #21 inside the Chromedge building at 289 W. Walnut Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43215). Email email@example.com to make an appointment.
"Keep the rage tender" is my favorite line from the poem Therapy by Nayyirah Waheed. It reminds me that despite all I’ve been through, my life can be tender and fulfilling.
I began struggling with mental illness when I was seven years old. I was diagnosed with OCD, which developed into severe depression by my teenage years. I self-harmed and had an eating disorder. When I was in the fourth grade, I had an art teacher who took special interest in me; I remember this well because it was then that I decided I wanted to become an artist. In high school I had another teacher, Tosca Villano, who guided me and supported my art like no other. I would have dropped out had it not been for her art classes. When I was 19, I began life in Philadelphia at my dream art school. Shortly before then, I had stopped taking my antipsychotic medication due to its intense side effects. It was a few months after the semester started when things took a turn for the worse, and I had an episode of psychosis that lasted several months. I was asked to leave school and I returned home in crisis. I was hospitalized and at 20 years old was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.
This was an unbelievable moment for me. I was devastated, though relieved to finally have a name for what I’d been experiencing. The next few years were very difficult, including my traumatic time in the mental health system. One of the constants that stayed with me through everything was art. Art has been and always will be an integral part of me. It’s like breathing: I am not complete without it. Creating art is therapeutic for me, and when I am in the moment of making something, the world is quiet. I find peace. I desperately needed this peace throughout my twenties.
Through hard work and determination, I have now been in recovery for 10 years. Being an artist in recovery is a very important identity for me. I hope to share my recovery journey and how art has helped me become who I am today with others who may be struggling. These days, I like to live slowly and softly. I enjoy small things like taking pictures of flowers and traveling to the Fresh A.I.R. art studio. Everything I do brings me some joy, no matter how small. I appreciate the fact that I can get out of bed each morning, that I can eat, and that I can take my pills. Being kind to myself works hand-in-hand with these things, and I have to remember that I am living in the way that makes me happy.
I fight every day for my recovery, and not every day is easy. I live with chronic exhaustion and residual pain from trauma, and I still experience bouts of severe depression. I am still learning and growing as a person, and as an artist. My art is an expression of my mental health and the journey I’ve been on is evident in the progression of my creations. The best thing about being in recovery is knowing that no matter how difficult things get, I’ll never be back at square one.
Please contact Fresh A.I.R. Gallery if interested in purchasing any of the pieces below.