Leaning In with my most vulnerable stories:

I am an Artist. My right pointer is like my Van Gogh’s Ear.. almost. I never cut it off in a freak-out depressive manic rage. I simply like my finger a lot and I’m an Artist. I don’t think Van Gogh painted with his ear.. he should’ve painted with his finger though! Maybe he would’ve sold more paintings and had been more happy LOL!! I know it’s not as simple as that but, I’ve painted a lot with my finger and because of my work, have had a creative life and passionate journey in creating a career in the arts, museums, and cultural field. My fancy-hands are not really what my story is about but it helps wind us there more gently.

Ever since I can remember, I have used my finger to etch flowers in the frosted school bus windows, or smudge oil pastel clouds, or feeling dissatisfaction with paint brushes and getting my hands right into the paint - even when my art-school teachers would protest because of chemicals and toxins.. I always painted with my hands. It’s my right finger that has been the most important one.. my painting and drawing finger. I’ve painted hundreds of oil paintings and have drawn thousands of drawings with it. I even designed my own drawing software and with it drew, (and shared on Facebook and social media), over 4000 works of art from museums, world heritage sites, and public spaces — some ending up in exhibits, presented, and shared with the public by museums all over the world. However, unlike Van Gogh and his ear, which he self-mutilated and cut off in a passionate rage, I treasure my finger. It’s my magic wand, the force that conducts my creative energy into material, color, and form.

Perhaps this is why I also love Facebook and social media too. Like painting, or drawing on my iPhone with my finger, sharing my images with friends on social media is just as rewarding. My brain lights-up with all the likes-loves-and cute emojis shared on my Facebook and Instagram pages. My friends share my artwork and more people experience a new digital video or a drawing created from Virtual Reality. Virtual Reality, or VR, is now my favorite creative tool to make art with. No toxins, I never run out of paint colors, and I can create 3D models and share them in so many cool ways! I love drawing with an Oculus and even intend to create drawing software for it too! I believe 100% that I can do anything with my hands.

So when someone once threatened to rip it off after I pointed out their abusive behavior, time slowed down. I looked at my finger and thought about how it was my mother’s finger and my mother’s mother’s finger and how special it was. It creates family, and touches love, it creates delicious holiday latkes (potato pancakes), it plants flowers and shares them with neighbors… In those moments, I was seized with incredible power.. I grew larger (much larger than my foe), and used my powerful and creative hands to protect myself.

It took many years of working with my hands to create an art career, a museum, and raise a child. I could not have done that as successfully if it wasn’t for the love and support of my family and community. When I was in danger, I was all alone, smartphones and Facebook did not exist. I felt completely isolated in my experience. Over time, I was able to build a community by sharing my art on Facebook. Today I continue to use that finger, and my powerfully creative hands with more power than ever by drawing in VR, uploading art and sharing with friends on Facebook, and creating more digital and participatory platforms to raise vulnerable voices, create diverse and inclusive experiences, fight for climate justice, and raise empathy and wellness in our community.