Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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Where artist's biographies are encouraged but artist talks cause agonizing shame
Friday March 09, 2007

Dear Alice:
I am a self-taught artist currently reading The Body Never Lies. I thoroughly agree that the things that have happened in an artist's life are the impetus for the art. Folk art museums, the American Folk Art Museum in New York City in particular, encourage artists to share their biographies with the public through artist talks. Museum curators and docents continue to share these stories when they give tours. I cannot avoid biographical information when I speak about my work because my medium is discarded clothing, the old emotional pain and suffering I am driven to transform.

At a recent exhibition, after viewing my portrait of my father and reading what I had written about him, some were offended. I immediately had the curator change my descriptive writing. This was before reading your books.

When I face the audience to give an artist talk, I spontaneously start to cry. This has been so embarrassingly painful and such a mystery to me until reading the Drama of the Gifted Child. As a child, I had to hide my true feelings from myself and others. These artist talks have lead to a repetition of my childhood situation, in which I experience feelings of agonizing shame and painful nakedness as an accompaniment to my genuine expressions
of my true self. But will this ever end? Am I doomed to cry at every talk I am asked to give?
I did not start to make art until I was 49 years old, even though I knew I was an artist since early childhood (my parents discouraged me). I have been making art for 9 years now and giving these talks for about 3 years.

I would love to show you my portraits and figurative expressionist works. May I send some photos? Where should I send them? LFS

AM: Thank you so much for sending me the photos of your paintings. They are very expressive and powerful, I think because they show authentic emotions. I can understand that talking about them makes you cry, but I hope that the shame will disappear once you can fully accept that you were the VICTIM of cruelty and not its creator. What you create is CONSCIOUSNESS and this is still very rare in the world of artists. Most of them don't want to know how they suffered in childhood. Congratulations!

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