becoming Lecia, the short story of this artist
|I was born in San
Francisco, California, in the spring of 1970.
My parents didn’t belong together and parted ways before my first birthday. My father was barely present for the next 38 years, but my mother was my guiding light, my shining star, my inspiration. Sure, it's a bit heavy on the clichès, but it's true, nonetheless. She was the epitome of the strong, stoic, amazonian woman I wanted to become.
First and foremost, she was an artist. While she never had the luxury of being able to pursue it as a career, no matter how many hours she worked she always made time for art. I realized early on that art was the place where she experienced the most joy, and I wanted to be part of that.
Money was tight, but she managed to come up with the price of admission for us to see things like the King Tut exhibit at the DeYoung, a flower show at the Conservatory or a live performance of Camelot with Richard Burton. She had beautiful books about Georgia O’Keeffe, Gustav Klimt and Winslow Homer. The radio was always playing music; jazz, classical and 70’s rock. I reveled in all of this culture and was touched with the idea that beauty was everywhere, just waiting to be discovered.
My mom could be rigid and
demanding, never letting me be slapdash with art projects we began together.
Sometimes that could dampen my joy in the process but it also forced
me to be more focused on my intentions and taught me to ponder what
I wanted out of my time, the project and, ultimately, my life.
|I went off to New York as soon
as I finished high school and studied painting, photography, printmaking,
fashion and jewelry at Pratt Institute. I was into realism but surrounded
by people who wanted to be the next big abstract artist. I was often annoyed
and harshly judgmental, having the opinion that a form can’t be
broken down and continue to make sense unless it is completely understood
to begin with. I was frustrated in general and, to my shame, my fellow
students were an easy target. I didn’t fare much better with my
professors, who wanted me to define my art in what I thought was pretentious
terms. I felt it should speak for itself. (This problem pestered me long
after college. I’m still reluctant to explain my paintings, or elaborate,
as they either reach into you or they don’t. But folks often want
a little more and my inability or unwillingness to expand is problematic.)
My professors wanted me to participate in long critiques, which I thought
were a waste of my time (I was probably wrong - ah, hindsight).
I couldn’t wait to leave. I did not thrive in this community, one that was supposed to be mine.
A few months after the graduation ceremony, I moved to England. My hope was to see and photograph the world. I worked as a bartender and saved my money while I planned* the journey of a lifetime. I was going to wander until the money ran out.
*my version of 'planned' goes something like this: Paris for my birthday, Easter in Rome, Moscow in time for the TransSiberian train departure. everything else was just winging it. No wonder my mom got anxious!
|Then personal disaster struck.
My mother was diagnosed with stage 4C ovarian cancer. We were told she might have a year left, so I went home to Maine for several months to help with the first round of chemo.
When I went off to college, my mom did as well. Since her graduation, she had developed an art therapy program with Spiral Arts, in Portland, Maine. She was really changing the quality of the lives of institutionalized stroke victims, elders and young adults with disabilities. Because the chemo compromised her immune system, it meant that she shouldn’t go into the places where her program was running. She hated leaving the clients high and dry, so I stepped in to her formidable shoes and ran the sessions for her.
It was inspiring.
The creative output of these folks, who were all inhibited in very real ways, was awesome. It reminded me of how much I loved to create and it was humbling, since I'd not been pursuing art full throttle for a long time, and there were no restrictions on me.
|I returned to L.A. with a sense
of urgency about my art.
I began to delve into all of the mediums I had dabbled with in the past, and I braved new ones with a fearlessness that I’d forgotten I possessed.
For the next six years, my mom and I reconnected through art. She continued to live despite predictions, and I shared everything I did with her. And while I was seeking her approval, I was also attempting to engage her in a conversation that would keep her energized and fighting. And I wanted to brighten her life by bringing beauty and joy into every corner of it, as she had done for me.
Somewhere along the way, my mom became obsessed by my lack of health insurance. It was as if there was a big ball of stress hanging over her, and I saw no need to add to the fear and uncertainty she was already living with. So I took a real job, at a wonderful post production company. The long hours strangled my artistic creativity, but I worked with terrific people, felt as if I was good at what I was doing, and was making more money than I ever had before.
And I had health insurance.
Mom was happy.
In 2008 I began to travel
again, taking my camera on short adventures to Egypt, Mexico, Italy
At the end of 2010, I began
a trip that spanned 3 continents, 12 countries, took a little over 9
months and was the catalyst for what has become the most prolific period
of my creative life.
I was overjoyed and after returning home, I had my first photo exhibit and found there was nothing that made me happier than talking to people about this work - what a departure from my previous thinking of “the images should speak for themselves!”
And that brings us up to date, with me, still based in Los Angeles, planning adventures for myself and my camera while at the same time trying to honor my mother (and myself) by creating and capturing beauty every day.