Self Portraits: The ‘Rearticulating’ years (1999-2004)

Warning – lots of pictures! Read on wifi!

1999 was right after my last heroin bust. You can read the excerpt from Snakes and Ladders here. It was a pretty dodgy time to be Angela J Williams.

Hadn’t worked out yet that my problem was heroin, but needles. Slipped and fell in a pretty big puddle of uppers. Put some real effort into enhancing my track marks.

Completely lost the ability to write but was still driven by that inherent need to record. So I drew pictures.

Blue is ‘me now’ having a think. Skim if you’re just after the juicy facts. Hi Defence. 

1999

  • Still had some words
  • Recovering from the bust
  • Coming out of a 24/7 BDSM thing
  • Going into what I think is another BDSM thing but which turns out to be the worst case of domestic abuse I’ve ever survived (sorry mum) – this one really nearly killed me
  • Throwing myself face first into the drug puddle and splashing around
  • Working in the sex industry to support 2+ habits
  • Also – officially the year I stopped wearing clothes
  • In these pictures I am looking for a version of myself that I can sit with. The first two pictures show a me which is restricted, weighed down, desperately crying out. The frequent nudity and submissive/loaded poses show a struggle with the very core of self, the relationship with the body. The frequent decapitation and disembodiment points to my struggle to come to terms with myself as a whole. The last picture, the page of clutching hands, shows the flexing of the hands which comes right before a big effort.  

2000

  • Wildly out of control
  • Skipping from one abusive relationship to another like some very stubborn pebble
  • Following each with a stay in a psych clinic, pretty stuff
  • Starting to get help – talk to services, etc
  • Homeless – mostly bed/couch surfing
  • Taking lots of drugs and hanging out in some very less-than-savoury joints
  • In these pictures, I’m infantilising my process, trying to foreshorten myself into a smaller existence. The heavy strokes in most of these pictures shows a simmering tension, a tension which was going to explode spectacularly. Tension had a bad habit of doing this before I got into therapy. The ongoing obsession with myself naked is starting to wane, but I still can’t seem to consistently give myself a head. The last picture, a relatively true to life fantasy about where I wanted to be makes me sad, makes me wish I could tell 2000 me that it’s all okay, this imagined her is coming.

2001

  • Diary is missing
  • Started seeing Shrinkola, Dr Peter Young
  • This was the year where everything went wrong. There are not enough clichés in the world to describe the emotional colander which was my world that year. 

 

2002

  • Therapy seems to be working
  • Taking way less drugs, still working in the sex industry but have started training as a dominatrix at Salon Kittys
  • Re-imagining myself out of the labels and finding a centre
  • Dipping into drugs, but more as play/experiment
  • Started bridging course to get into Uni – paid for this with a couple of road trips as a hooker, I like to say I paid for it with my ‘money box’
  • Wrote a 36000 word novella (still locked very tightly in a bottom drawer) to prove to myself I could write before I went
  • The pictures of are becoming more detailed, a more nuanced and blended view. I can look at myself more now, want to look at myself more. I’m giving things background and context, letting the images of myself become seated in the real world. These different conceptions of me are the ‘strands of Angela’ that Shrinkola and I start trying to weave into a single cohesive thread. For a long while picture three was my mascot, the me who I imagined carrying all the rest in her basket through the real world. That was fun. By that second last picture, that full face portrait, I was able to actually see a person me. I was just about to wriggle my way through the back door into Uni and I was trying to work out how they hell this version of me fitted in there.

2003

  • Started at Uni
  • Gave up needles
  • Started to write, for hours and hours until my hand almost cramped
  • Found the joy of mixing words and pictures
  • Passed my apprenticeship at Salon Kittys
  • Started doing some writing on the computer
  • These pictures are afterthoughts to my journaling, thinking, creating. They are nestled among pages of tight script, increasingly covered in lines, arrows, exclamations. The second and third pictures, almost street art poetry, show me starting to accept the empowering angles of my history. I don’t have words right now to tell you about the childhood terror that birthed that last picture. You probably don’t want to know.  

2004

  • Put most of my words in books with lines no
  • Kicking goals at Uni – distinction average and lots of HDs
  • Kicking balls at work – getting paid way too much money for it
  • Thinking a lot about me and who I am, but thinking so much more in words no
  • These pictures show the shift back into a fully articulate mode. There is no time for pictures, only time for words. Pictures of myself are now tools for planning while I write stories about killing my mother with a hammer. I start thinking about power and identity and how I can use these ideas as a safety net to keep the perpetrators predators out. 

    2005-Now

  • I’ve stopped keeping notebooks, this makes me sad. I buy notes books but so much of my world is digital now. I obviously draw much less when I’m a) not high and b) expressing myself creatively in words. But I obviously also need to draw so have recently picked up the pen and paper again but I’m looking at different things now, a different me.
  • Or maybe it’s the same old me but with more patience, a wider pallette, and an enhanced level of social and creative access?
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Varuna, the writers’ house, Blue Mountains, 13 Feb 2016
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