Using Art to Slow Down and Feel Loss
by Allegra Borghese
I had a nervous breakdown my freshman year of college due to over exertion in athletics and an insistence upon academic perfection. The compulsion to achieve and appear on top of everything was a chronic addictive pattern that was not serving me anymore. Art became a way for me to feel from the inside out, to track internal shifts instead of measure self-worth from external validation. The person who most helped me through the journey of using art as my mirror was my mentor Jeffrey Abrams, a local artist in my hometown of Cutchogue, NY.
Jeffrey died a few weeks ago. As usual, I am working four jobs and am flying between Manhattan, the North Fork and the Hamptons, unable to sit with the feeling of loss that I know is there. I couldn’t go to his service because of my work schedule, and to my embarrassment, have not been doing art since I’ve been home. I used to go to his house to paint, where I can be messy, have a drink, curse, make mistakes, and let myself go in ways my home has always restricted me from doing. I had been telling myself to call him since I’d first arrived back in NY, but the days slipped away until, well, it was too late.
But today I am spending time with you in my basement Jeffrey. I’m trying to get the artist in me activated. It’s finally settling in that we won’t be making art together anymore. I am sad because of the creative collaboration that emerged when we were together. We had fun; we indulged, we danced, we sang, we painted, we manifested. I can’t do this on my own. I don’t have any of the right materials. I’m not allowed to make a mess here. Things are too quiet. You are gone. Artistic failures aren’t celebrated the same way. I miss your rough laugh, your original puns, your curiosity and pride into steering me into art therapy.
So an hour or so later I made something, finally. I don’t think it’s cool enough, as usual. No pop, no appeal, no eye catching or mesmerizing thing that has everyone wanting it. But I switch thoughts before falling into the trap of using my art product as a means of bolstering or bruising my ego. I remember how you would put me in a dialogue with the art; you made me ask it how it’s doing and what it wants to say. This piece says ‘I’m watching you’, in a friendly, distant yet caring way. I feel it, thank you, Jeffrey. Let’s paint together again soon.