We interviewed a self made artist in Spain who explains how all the poetic images and clichés that we always see on the artist’s biographies could make your most powerful passions and dreams turn into a nightmare that will lead you into the destruction of everything that you have ever loved.
It was the 80s. I was 18 and I started to see how a country that had lived in cultural ostracism wake up in an exciting way. I lived my childhood in a small town, with a very traditional education so it was really difficult for me to find the courage necessary to pack my suitcase and walk out of my village to try to make it in the eye of the hurricane, Madrid.
My first painful experience was to confide my aspiration to my family. When I told my parents I was going to go to the capital to make it as a photographer, the pride that their eyes had shown before turned to devastation because the daughter of villagers had chosen this fate. To the point of exhaustion I begged them to understand that I was looking for a way to portray the most intimate moments of the soul captured in a single instant. It didn’t work at all. Filled with insecurities and melancholy, I turned my head down and I kept on my way.
At first I could barely devote time to my art because my comings and goings were preventing me from doing so; just the pleasure of my inner development and my personal discovery compensated the effort to live in this unstable situation. At some point I decided try to make of my lifestyle my own work and without knowing it I was about to discover what would become an awful journey leading me to question myself and all that had been part of my living before.
The first thing I had to do was to find a place where I could show my work. I started to look to all those artists who I had met during my first few months in the city for some type of help or guidance. Unfortunately, all those smiles and praises that I had received in the past turned into distrust and criticism. I don’t know if it was because they were thinking that I had transformed myself into an object of consumption or if by the simple fact of their own selfishness, they thought that my work could steal the attention of their own, most of them turned their backs on me. I began to grow frustrated and somehow I wanted to fight against all of them in an attempt to show them that my self-worth will provide me the opportunity that I was looking for, not their contacts or help. Poisoned by loneliness and melancholy, I turned my head down and I kept on my way.
I tried to get a chance in some of the galleries where I had worked in, and I knocked on the doors of the media that I had collaborated with but none of them gave me their support. I continued my search in every corner of the city but the same ghost came back every time: Who were your teachers? Who supports you? Where are the newspaper articles that extol your virtues? Where are your contacts? Unfortunately all of these questions had nothing to do with my work.
After almost 4 years of effort, the opportunity that I had been looking for appeared. I would have the chance to show my photos to a well known journalist. It was my moment. He invited me to have dinner at his place in order to show my best work and express my ideas. At the end of the dinner, when everything seemed perfect, everything changed: “I have thousands of young talents like you… but not all of them know exactly what I want.” After that ambiguous sexual invitation, I decided that I had to go out there, but the worst was yet to come.
The man insisted more and more in an aggressive way. When I was just about to leave, I was at one of the weakest emotional stages of my life, he raped me. I couldn’t stop thinking of my parents, I could see that look that they gave me in my head when I left my home. I also thought about all of those who had turned their backs on me. I blamed them, in one way or another, for what was happening to me. I imagined trying to escape while I felt how he was ripping through my body…my humanity. I fled the house crying, trying not to puke, silenced by the noise of the city that had ruined my life. Empty and shattered, I turned my head down and I kept on my way.
It was time to leave that sick world once and for all, but it was then when the real opportunities finally appeared. Maybe it was some kind of sick joke but in a few weeks a couple art galleries rang me because they were interested in showing my work, eager to enjoy the talent and beauty that this monster claimed that he had seen in my work.
I could finally be able to live off my photos and I even dream of the idea of poetic justice after all that I had suffered. But it was not enough. The image of this night coursed through my head, consuming my guts and at the same time that I fell into one of the worst clichés in a life of an artist, the self-destructive spiral. Drugs and alcohol began to be my only way of life, the only way to escape from my life. Every day, I put more white powder on the table, lost and desperate I turned my head down and I kept on my way.
I stopped going to the galleries where they were showing my work and was no longer interested in knowing art movements, not even in developing my skills. I was almost dead. One day I received a call from my agent, alarmed by what they were doing with my pictures. I went to an exhibition of all the photographers of our generation with the hope that this beat would be what I needed to wake up from this terrible nightmare. When I arrived I saw how those bastards had destroyed my photographs making collages and deconstructions of my early works, those who had been taken when I still was full of life and enthusiasm. The same feeling of that dark day, that had turned my life into a black hole, had returned. They had raped me again, but this time it wasn’t my body nor was it my soul; it was what I never thought that they could reach and it had been destroyed.
I went back to the clichés of the artist’s life. I decided that the only way was to end up with my life. But I also failed on that. I woke up in a hospital room, no one by my side, no one that could carry me home. Lying in that bed, empty, with the only vision in mind of the next attempt I started to remember the day I left my home. I was a little naïve girl back then and in some way I still was because I didn’t find any time during the past 8 years to get back in contact with my family. I was the one that had turned my back on them exactly the same way that everybody was doing it that morning. It was too late, I would do it again. It was going to be, finally, my great success.
I waited sitting at the bus stop to get home, crying, alone. I turned my head down as I had done so many times before. I saw a little bug on the ground. Red, violet, green, blue. Bright colors, composing a melody of immeasurable beauty, almost unreal, with every sunbeam blinking on his small body. As an allegory of everything that I was going to lose.
It was then when I realized that I had always turned my head down when I was hurt and now for the first time in my life I had discovered that beauty was not in the museums or galleries of this rotten city. It was just in front of me, it was pure, it was sincere, it was everything that I had been looking for. It was ART. Just when I was about to fall into oblivion was when I remembered that there was something on the inside, my reason to stay alive. It was not the success, money or recognition of all the parasites that had taken all of me without giving anything in return. It was simply my passion, and it had been part of my life me since I was born into this world.
I took the best photograph of my entire life… in my mind, no negative, just for me, nobody could ever see it, sell it or destroy it. I turned my head up and I finally found my way.