Family Secrets Storytelling Art Book

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Family secrets…we all have them. Within even the healthiest and most stable of families there are a few dark tales or stories that no one talks about.

What about dysfunctional families or those that endure soul wrenching challenges or those riddled with abuse and addiction? The secrets buried within those families go far beyond a few skeletons in the closet. They carry with them deep shame and soul numbing detachment.

I met local artist Steve Head several years ago. You can read about our first encounter here. Standing in a coffee shop in downtown Joplin, studying Steve’s incredibly moving art upon the walls, a long buried piece of my heart shifted and opened. His unique depictions, full of symbolism and old photos, tell powerful stories.

More than imaginative works, these pieces are snapshots from Steve’s life, lived within a large family whose history includes poverty, alcoholism and mental illness. It’s a natural progression, to bring some of Steve’s art together in book form. Rather than strolling through a gallery, one can sit with the book,  which offers narrative to accompany the art pieces…and time to study each work, so that its story can be properly shared.

This is Family Secrets, the Storytelling Art of Steve Head.

Family Secrets Storytelling Art Book

Why Share These Stories?

Steve answers this question at the beginning of this oversized, coffee table style book.

Several family members suffered with mental illnesses and alcoholism. Physical, sexual, mental, emotional and even spiritual abuse threads its way throughout the fabric of his family’s history. Add in poverty and dysfunction, and the enormity of it all took an emotional and spiritual toll on nearly everyone connected to this family.

As a result, Steve carried a huge void in his heart, where love and nurturing should have been. He also carried shame for who he thought he was and for all that happened to him during his childhood. Later in life he learned that redemption and healing can only come when that shame is acknowledged and overcome.

Steve’s art brings the pain and dysfunction into the light, exposing it while boldly proclaiming:

“None of what happened in my family was MY fault. And I don’t need to carry this SHAME any longer.”

By sharing his art work, Steve offers an invitation to others to talk about their own shame and secrets and begin to heal.

Family Secrets Storytelling Art BookSteve’s first mixed media piece, “Coke Dealers”, from Family Secrets the Storytelling Art of Steve Head.

A Visual Tour with Compelling Stories

Family Secrets showcases Steve’s art while sharing the family stories behind each piece. He uses mixed media and collage to create one of a kind works of art.

In “Lost and Found, The Redemption of Mary Louisa McBroom”, we learn the sad story about Steve’s grandmother, who spent ten years in the Central Oklahoma State Hospital, and died there. No one in the family spoke of this woman who lived during the Great Depression and birthed twelve children. However, her 50 year old hospital records provided horrific details about the final decade of her life. Steve created art that moved Mary Louisa from obscurity to being known. Her life has value and meaning, even if we can’t fully comprehend all that she bore.

Family Secrets is full of page after page of beautiful, haunting art…and the stories that inspired each piece. I love knowing the process behind the works. Studying each work of art I can interpret some symbols. Steve fills in the deeper truths. Abandoned buildings represent emptiness. A bicycle tossed into a murky pond symbolizes lost childhood opportunities and stolen joy.

Family Secrets Storytelling Art Book

The Essence of the Human Spirit

This is a book that one can spend time with and learn from. And on some level, all of us can relate to the stories told by Steve’s art. We’ve all been hurt. Most of us carry scars from painful encounters with life, with family, with those who should have loved us.

Steve’s art cracks open a door in any heart that is willing to let go of old pain. As sorrowful as many of his stories are, he does not leave us without hope. His is a life that healed. His is a heart that became whole. He’s allowed the secrets and the shame to burn away and transform into a source of compassion and strength.

I love Steve’s Artist Statement, included in the book:

“The essence of every human being is his or her inward spirit. I believe that who we are as a person is the compilation of every thought, memory and human interaction we have ever experienced. My goal, as an artist, is to create visual expressions of those unseen places of the heart, of the child within, and of those shared experiences that connect our hearts to those around us.”

The boy who thought he lacked artistic talent, the boy who endured hardships that no child should have to experience, the young man who struggled with his own addictions, became the artist who now touches other hearts and sets them free.

Sitting with Family Secrets, you may shed hot tears. Old memories may surface from the shadows. And healing may begin, if you will allow it to. As Steve says, we all have untold stories. It’s time to tell yours.

Order Your Copy of Family Secrets

Order Family Secrets The Storytelling Art of Steve Head HERE. And check out The Art and Photography of Steve & Cindy Head Facebook Page HERE.

Family Secrets Storytelling Art Book

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Journey 319: Out of Shame

Today was “date” day, as suggested in the book The Artist’s Way, where I take my inner artist, my creative child, on an excursion. I have really enjoyed these solitary outings, as opportunities to encourage and have fun with my artistic side. 

  
I came up with an idea for a date yesterday, but this morning, I felt unsure. I had something I needed to do this afternoon. As if placating a reluctant child, I talked up the date to my inner artist. “It will be fun, right? We can do this and I can take care of that, deal?” No deal. This morning I checked the Connect2Culture Facebook page, scrolling through art opportunities available in Joplin today. One grabbed my attention. Titled Family Secrets: The Storytelling Artwork of Steve Head, this exhibit was featured at Joplin Avenue Coffee Company downtown. 

I was immediately intrigued. Steve and I are Facebook friends and we play Words with Friends together online. I’ve never met Steve but I feel like I know him because of our connection. I kept that idea foremost in my mind for my afternoon outing. 

  
And then the magic happened, as has been the case the past three weeks. After considering the exhibit as a possibility for my date with myself, I read the chapter for Week Three in The Artist’s Way, Recovering a Sense of Power. Julia immediately goes into the emotion of Anger (I want to explore this further before sharing) and the wonders of Synchronicity. I live with constant synchronicities, otherwise known as coincidences. Today was synchronous! I’ve written before and will again about how these amazing events guide my journey. 

  
The last emotion Julia wrote about was Shame. She says, “Those of us who get bogged down by fear before action are usually being sabotaged by an older enemy: shame.” She goes on to say that making art may feel a lot like telling a family secret. Wait a minute.  

Back I went to the info about Steve Head’s exhibit, Family Secrets. I opened a link and read more. Steve shares that his show features work about his own family and childhood. He tells his story through the use of mixed media and digital collage that incorporates vintage black and white photos of his family. Steve’s family history has members who suffered from poverty, alcoholism and mental illness. 

  
Steve wrote that for most of his life he carried a huge void in his heart, where love and nurturing during his childhood should have been. And a soul full of SHAME for who he thought he was and what happened to him in his family. His healing came as he acknowledged the shame and overcame it. His art, now on exhibit, allowed him to bring the pain he experienced into the light. Reading that, seeing that it dealt with shame, I knew the exhibit was my destination for the afternoon. 

  
They were beautiful, the pieces of art, and poignant. Joplin Avenue Coffee Company was strangely quiet when I arrived, although it filled up as I was leaving. I had time to savor a cup of hot tea while I studied the displayed works of art. I asked Steve’s permission, via messaging, to take pics of his art and write about his exhibit in my blog. He graciously granted it. I have those pics interspersed throughout the post. 

His piece Lost and Found tells the story of his grandmother, Mary. I stood before it the longest, looking at the collage and reading her story on the card below. It is a sad tale. Steve doesn’t try to hide that. Instead he gently sheds light on her story, one of a painful life that ended in an Oklahoma mental hospital. Mary’s journey was shrouded, until Steve uncovered it. Redemption for both of them comes through his marvelous creative expression. 

  
I was contemplative as I drove away. My family did not shame me. The shame I felt as a young child arose around my nighttime fears, and the fact that my crying at night disturbed my parents. I’m the one who decided that my tears bothered my mom and dad. I chose not to cry anymore. The shame I’ve felt my whole life around weeping is because I didn’t want to bother anyone. 

I spoke aloud in the car, “Little Cindy…Little One…it’s okay…” That’s all I managed to say before emotion closed off my throat. But I sent the four year old within soundless words of love and grace and acceptance. At last I finished with a whisper, “…it’s okay to cry. There’s no shame in being afraid. You can cry and it won’t bother anyone.” I know she was listening. 

  
Steve’s exhibit, Family Secrets, is on display at Joplin Avenue Coffee Company until Novembet 29. He has art at Spiva Center for the Arts as well and at Rose Gallery on N Range Line. Many pieces are for sale. Check out his art and future events at www.facebook.com/head2art and stop by the coffee shop this Tuesday morning, 9:00-10:30, for an artist talk and meet and greet.