2019 Bodypainting Season: “Themes in My Memoir”

Excerpts from and bodypainting inspired by: Not As Crazy As You Think

I wanted to create art in a different way this year. To paint the images in my mind that helped me press the words of my book into being. My memoir is not just a story about seeking freedom from the psychiatric institution. It is also a plea to readers to open their eyes to an “other” world–one holding symbols that exude meaning and evoke the imagination.

Working one-on-one with my models this year, painting on some up to 8 hours straight, kept me hyper-focused and allowed me to dedicate my strokes and color blocking to my natural detailed style. My 2019 Bodypainting Series: “Themes in My Memoir” attempts to create symbolic visual impressions inspired by the following excerpts from my book, Not As Crazy As You Think.


Model: Dru Grey

Excerpt from Chapter 2:The Scientific Library

A week before the flight, Roscoe invited me to his one-bedroom apartment on the sixth floor of a sleek brownstone building on the Upper East Side. His living space was filled with African décor, masks, tribal weapons, and headdresses. His abode spoke volumes about what he stood for.

“Roscoe, this place is amazing,” I mused aloud upon entering.

“It’s what I did. I guess it’s a big part of who I am,” he said with a modest and healthy pride. He sat down on a soft and worn, heavily textured and patterned couch with earthy colors and bold geometric designs. I sat opposite him in a lumpy, oxblood leather chair, the kind that possesses the wear of true character.

He clasped his hands and began. “Ok, now. Let’s talk. You want to do this. Good. The desire is important. Now, stop this head in the clouds stuff and get real, get practical. Watch for charlatans. They look for people like you—they prey on them. Don’t be stupid. Not everyone is so nice.”

Then he handed me a palm-sized, brown leather case and said to me, “The firmest warning I can give you is to have caution about the food. Don’t eat out of the locals’ pots. Don’t eat street vendor food. And don’t eat any raw vegetables. It could kill you.” I opened the case and inside was a metal fork and a knife; they were scratched up and lightweight. “These are the set of utensils I had with me all throughout Africa. I pass them onto you.” I was so touched I thought I might cry.

“The Magic of India”

Model: Cheshire

Excerpt from Chapter 4: The Taj Mahal

Our Bollywood tour guide gave us one hour to stroll around the monument—from the manicured topiary gardens, to the gleaming, blue pools that led to the Taj’s omnipotent opalescent dome. The air was dry and crisp, and the surroundings smelled so fresh and pure as though the perfect green lawn exuded a denser form of oxygen. Time felt like liquid, moving slowly with heaviness, reflecting the quality of the dreamy experience. Indian natives smiling with glowing, white teeth posed in celebration as I organized them in front of my camera.

Surrounding me were not the primary or even the secondary colors of the rainbow that we ordinarily see in our American spectrum of color. The boldest red, white, and blue of the USA were pale, mediocre, and unbearably unexceptional when compared with the shimmering, metallic tints and hues of India. Was it a different sun? A different white light fractured into a more explosively gorgeous rainbow? The women’s shining saris were as glorious as the jade and garnet gems that once lined the white marble rooms of the Taj, which sadly, unlike these saris, did not sparkle anymore. Pirates had raided the tomb over the years and stole almost every jewel. And yet, the magic of the place still sparkled in rare form.

“There’s No Place Like Home”

Model: David Pumo

Excerpt from Chapter 6: Mahander

And then, the phrase rang in my ears, home sweet home. The moral of the story was so simple. Even Dorothy was incredulous when Glinda told her that all she had to do was click her heels three times to whoosh back home safe and sound. Maybe I could find it somewhere in my inner child to believe. Could it be that easy? That I could simply click my heels three times, open my eyes and find myself home? Was there any room for fairy-tale potentialities in real form in India? I thought maybe, just maybe, it was possible. Perhaps I could be the protagonist in the film approached by her guardian angel and be guaranteed a miracle.

I hardly could believe my unswerving commitment in doing the deed. With all my newfound faith, all my heart, and all my childhood conviction in magical things, I clicked my heels three times, and with all the primal heart-power I could muster, I repeated in accord as Dorothy had, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.”

I opened my eyes, and I was still in that room. I really did believe there for a second that I might awake from this wretched dream. But then, I knew for sure that some supernatural mediation would save me from dying on this night because I gained what I needed—faith.

“Doorways Through Timelessness”

Model: Todd D. Moore

Excerpt from Chapter 7: Back in New York

Then, things shifted badly. I was uncomfortably aware that dreamlike themes were pervasive in my communication with others. In a place no one else could go, I was alternating between this world and some other one, opening doorways in my mind and stepping through them. I started to enter a deep, dreamlike trance and had visions of Aryan wind-up dolls with a human façade that interbred with the seeds of our society. Set to go off at a specific command phrase, they were the walking, ticking time bombs (or the super-soldier race), that the Nazis, under a US government secret operation, brought into the country and worked on in the 1940s and never stopped fine-tuning.

“They will ultimately destroy all of humanity unless they can be stopped!” Captain Spock urged. “They’re roaming undercover throughout the country, and their cloned features can fool anyone into thinking they are human. We don’t know the command phrase to set them off. I hope you realize the urgency of this operation, Jen. We need you to find the command phrase. Will you do it?”

But what’s it to me?

“It’s fair revenge,” assured Captain Spock.

Do I have a choice?

“You always have a choice. But it’s only the right choice that puts you on the road to fulfilling your destiny.”

“Mammalia and Insecta”

Model: Cheshire

Excerpt from Chapter 10: The Killer Bees

“Jen, out of that order yet?” asked Spock.

No, there’s more. It’s an ant…An ant is the happy, little soldier who fights for the conquest of worldwide minds for Queen bee assimilation, as they sing loudly in unison marching across the picnic, red and white checkered tablecloth, “The ants go marching one by one, hoorah, hoorah”!

“Cute. But wait, they see war as cute? Sad. No brain development in the empathy region of the brain,” perceived Number One.

Yup. There are cockroaches too in their older family history—Imperialists who were ravagers of the land. And massive infestations of termites.

“OK, the Hymenoptera and Blattodea order, got it,” recorded Lieutenant Dan.

OK, I’m finally coming out of Insecta. What an infestation. Now I’m entering Mammalia. It’s a rat. Someone that tells on a bad guy.

“Getting it down, Jen. You are a rat, yes?”

Yes, that’s right. And I’m a lab rat in a cage. Moving on…It’s an ape. An ape is a hairy jock…It’s a pig. A pig is a fat glutton who can’t stop taking from everyone on Earth. They need more and more….

“OK, Captain, the computer took over. It’s in full universal symbol translation,” finished Lieutenant. “OK, it all came in. Oh boy, she’s done it. This is brand new language, Captain. It’s a strong metaphor and simile language. It’s translated.”

“The Shamanic Journey”

Model: Dru Grey

Excerpt from Chapter 13: Hurricane Sandy

“Captain, I’m reading that she’s doing her best to stay in a deep, trance-like state while she’s there, but she’s having some trouble working against all those stinging metal energies that weaken our communication with her,” explained Chief Number One.

 “Looks like she’s remembering that God Code will properly energize her 4-white-walled room. She’s grabbed some flowers outside on one of her nature walks and smuggled them inside. Hopefully that will help her connect to her power animals,” told Spock.

To my consolation, they assigned me a single room for the first night, which allowed me to shamanic journey in private when I needed to access information. I practiced being an owl, an eagle, and a sparrow, which helped me see things through a larger, bird’s eye perspective, which I needed more than ever on this flight. The owl’s spirit medicine gives wisdom from warnings and prophecies in dreams, which clearly led me here once again. My eagle yoga stance helped me create a sort of invincibility barrier of protection so that the powers-that-be in that hospital would know to leave me alone.  And my sparrow power animal entered my nature walks and showed up in a coloring book in Art therapy class.

More to come…