Does Art = Survival?

An Existential Crisis

After Katrina happened I struggled with the question:
What is the point of making art? It is useless…
~ self-indulgent & superfluous
~ how can my art help rebuild people’s lives?
~ how will it help give them shelter or put food on their tables?

These big beautiful paintings I’m making can only be enjoyed by those who go to galleries & museums ~ they [art patrons] certainly aren’t in need of help. They’re not facing a crisis of survival & the utter decimation of their lives
Why aren’t they doing more to help the people who are struggling here?

After 3 days of holding space for people to tell their stories about how contractors are screwing them over, they can’t get back to NOLA because they’ve lost their homes; their stories of rape, violence, illness, neglect, and death was happening all around them…

After feeling completely overwhelmed by the deep pain and trauma these people had experienced… I thought:
I will never paint again.
I can never again paint pretty pictures and sell them to wealthy collectors when there are so many people who need help — and if my small gestures of help are making a difference (sometimes a small difference, other times cathartic) then that is what I want to do.

There’s a deep release when we are able to realize that WE ARE NOT OUR STORIES.
The traumas that have shaped our lives do not define us.
There is a liberation in that.
But it also sheds light on the long dark path of doing recovery work.
Such promise here…


I was spent.
Exhausted, angry, and suffering secondary trauma myself after hearing all of these stories…

And then…

I went to see a newly renovated building where my NOLA friend’s artwork was installed.

The space, the work, the colors, the humor and joy in the artwork gave me a profound sense of relief.

Then, I understood what art – beautiful, playful, or even pretty art is for:


… A Healing?

Does Art = Survival?

Perhaps for me.

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