The tortured artist: an age old stereotype that has turned artists into piss poor caricatures and memes. The image that comes to mind is a Picasso-esque artist in a dirty, run down loft on the verge of insanity and only her art to keep her company. There is more to this than just a stereotype, however. We laugh at the caricature, but the truth is we often relate to the voice this artist reveals in her art. Despite this cliche and underneath all the memes, lies a truth that keeps art just as impactful as in the Renaissance Era. Art resonates with people, allowing them to relate, empathize, reflect. It is an artist’s voice that resonates so deeply within the viewer and inspires thinking and feeling. More often than not, that voice comes from a trauma and a darker place. It is those whom have hurt and are brave enough to speak about that hurt who become impactful artists. It is the artist that relates to others on a deeper and more profound level, releasing that brave soul and allowing an audience to find their own power in their work. Lindsey Francis of @morethanmuddy has become that impactful artist through her own pain and ability to reveal the pain of her audience and empower them.
Lindsey invited me into her swanky apartment building with an enthusiastic swoop of her arm and a laugh, immediately lighting up her face. We chatted formalities as we climbed the narrow staircase and stepped into her apartment. The large, commanding canvasses that hung on her walls complimented the open lightness of her apartment. Intentionally over sized paintings in various bright colors and subject matter drew the viewer immediately into Lindsey’s world. Silhouettes, bright slashes of color, conflict and anatomical drawings flowed throughout the living room and into her intimate and orderly art studio. She offered me a seat on the large, surprisingly comfortable couch as she pulled up a swivel chair in front me. The boldly colored and loosely flowing canvasses on the wall organically clashed with the organization and neatness of the room. A smaller, unfinished canvas sat on the easel, as different colored paint and tools hung neatly on the wall next to it. We started our conversation talking about the trips we had taken recently and her eyes lit up as she recanted her trip to the West Coast for her sister’s wedding. She spoke about the need to cleanse and to reset as her demeanor softened and she thoughtfully turned towards the art on the walls. The conversation naturally flowed into the catharsis and cleansing power of creativity.
Each canvas that hung on the wall told a story and exuded the emotion and trauma of the artist. One large canvas that hung boldly on the wall, exhibited semi-frantic lines and patterns in bright colors flashing across the background. Smooth, calm patterns wove in and out of the lines. A hint of a silhouette peaks out amongst the lines, patterns and vibrant colors. Finished shortly after her grandfather’s passing, Lindsey used this painting to honor him and address her trauma of losing one of the most important people in her life. She reminisced on his support of her artist endeavors and the emotional roller coaster of losing him. “ That was a tough one to get through,” she nervously giggled. The slightly hidden silhouette resembled the grandfather that she missed. “I feel that he is watching over me and that is a representation of that. He was my biggest supporter. I went through a lot losing him. You can kinda see that in this piece. It took a while and a lot of emotion to get through it.” A thoughtful silence hung in the air as another painting caught my eye, provoking me to ask the inspiration and interpretation. The human anatomical figure on one side and the figures of a wolf and a bear other other seemed to be provoking each other from different sides of the canvas. The human body in conflict with the natural surrounds or a deeper evil. “That image came to me in a dream!” She smiled. We discussed the symbolism and laughed at my rudimentary interpretation of her art, as Lindsey walked over to the closet and began to pull out a few smaller works.
An interwoven theme clearly flows throughout many of the paintings; anatomy and physiology. I mention my revelation and she smiled softly. Her body is almost continuously at war with itself, creating a consistent and internal conflict that is hidden from the outside world. She paints large abstract paintings, not only stretching and flexing her emotional strength, but causing physical exertion that helps to comfort her. Ceramics, another passion of hers, also help in their physicality.
“I was sick all of the time. I said to a friend ‘Something’s wrong.’ And then the testing started and I was labeled ‘patient’. When you’re labeled as a ‘patient’ , you label yourself as “patient”. You forget that you used to be another person.”
When Lindsey found herself in severe and constant pain, suffering from Celiac’s Disease’s, IBS, and other chronic illness, she turned to art as a way to cope and find herself again. Luckily, art has always been a part of her life. “Remember those blow pens?” she asked with a laugh. Memories of blow pens and gel pens and hours of drawing on mine and my sister’s hands sprang into my brain. “I have a rockstar parents that always supported creativity.” It was this cultivated creativity that continues to save her from the depressive labels of “chronic “ and “sick” and the soul crushing pain that leaves most reeling. It is her ability to portray that pain that allows her audience to feel, relate and discover.
Using bold colors and wild lines, Lindsey encompasses the heart of her physical pain and the resilience of the spirit. One of her pieces that struck me as a viewer featured the human skull dissected in two and arrows and lines jutting outward to the ends of the canvass. I felt the mental and emotional pain as my eyes traced the arrows and lines from the inner brain to the edges of the canvas. My thoughts strayed to those whom suffer daily from diseases that cannot be seen. They suffer in silence as society deems them “weak” or “attention seeking”. How many people fight an internal battle just get up for the day? Artists like Lindsey are their voices and help shed some light on the stigmatism of “ill”.
“I want to facilitate discussion. I want to teach people what a sick person can look like…I want to reach as many people as possible. Allowing them to find meaning in a piece, maybe find some comfort,” Lindsey said as she almost read what I was thinking. “There are so many people that suffer and don’t have an outlet. I feel sorry for those people. Maybe my work can inspire them to tap into their creativity? If I can reach one person out there then it makes it all worth while.”
We discussed a few more of her pieces and ceramics as night grew cold and darker. I snapped a few photos and lingered on one in particular, trying to absorb as much as I could about the piece and jotting down a few ideas down in my notebook. A meme of a tortured artist I had seen from somewhere I had long forgotten sprang to my mind as Lindsey walked me to the door and I thanked her for her hospitality. I waved goodbye and walked up to my car, grateful and fully aware of my health. Newly inspired by Lindsey and her voice, I thought of all those whom suffer alone and silently. To reach that one person who is in need of it, to hear a voice that needs to be heard, will make is all worth while.
Check out more of Lindsey Francis work here