LETTER FROM A LONELY PAINTER

April 26th, 2020

by Agustina Zabala

When I paint, I don’t lie to myself

I have BLUE tattooed on my left wrist. Every time I look at it I feel hopeful, because it makes me feel that I can create something beautiful in this obscure world. I always go back to this Joni Mitchell masterpiece, where she deals gracefully with heartbreak, timing, death, distance and changes, creating her own universe and a new perspective about love and loss. In the opener track, "All I Want", she sings, “I am on a lonely road and I am travelling... looking for something. What can it be?” As the album continues, her voice breaks from time to time. She takes deep breaths and uses her poetic lyricism as a loaded gun. In its deepest cut, "A Case Of You", I feel like I’m standing in front of a mirror. She and I have something in common: we are both lonely painters, living in a box of paints.

Lately I’ve been painting with pastels (because it makes me feel like a child again) on little pieces of paper. Using bright colours, I paint pictures of vivid dreams that I've had during this period of isolation, portraits of people I miss and also self-portraits. When I paint, I don’t lie to myself. I am painfully honest and sometimes that hurts me. I owe this honesty to women like Joni Mitchell, Fiona Apple, Nina Simone, Hayley Williams, Patti Smith, Louise Bourgeois, Frida Kahlo, Grace Hartigan. Women who have spoken up, have taught me to be loud, even when we were raised to be silent. These women have taken me on journey (See, Joni? I am travelling too) that I hope will never end. These pieces I recently painted were fully spontaneous, impulsive and cathartic.

I recommend exploring painting, playing music, writing. I recommend remembering that art is NOT a matter of “talent” and the things you make don't necessary have to be sublime. I recommend spreading your feelings any way you can, especially during these hard times, allowing yourself to be sad, anxious, angry, confused. On the last song of the album, "The Last Time I Saw Richard", Joni Mitchell makes a statement about loneliness, accepting its darkness but seeing light at the end of the tunnel, when she sings that it is “only a phase, these dark cafe days.” She is right. It’s only a phase.

I recommend opening up to vulnerability. I recommend making anything during this time. To lighten your burden, your mind, your heart. I am sure, like Joni and like me, you are trying as best as you can. I am sure, like Joni and like me, you are travelling. Looking for something. What can it be?

Agustina Zabala is a 21-year-old non-binary contributor from Argentina. They don't necessarily define themselves as an artist, but someone who explores mediums like painting, writing and photography to express vulnerability, explore their identity and seek to show what they love. You can follow Agustina on Instagram @agggggstina 

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