Delineation of a Void

(2018)

A series of works composed of 8 paintings and handwritten stories

'Delineation of a Void' represents a pause in the artist’s life in which she looks back over the last eight years. Originally based on the idea of the female condition, the project evolved into a way for the artist to gain distance and see herself as a multifaceted individual. 

©MargheritaVillani_Lindsey Katharine Johnson_01.jpg
©MargheritaVillani_Lindsey Katharine Johnson_05.jpg

By utilizing the language of iconic symbolism, the artist explores the different ways one may gain the perspective necessary to process major life events while placing a particular emphasis on what it means to experience these events in a female-assigned body. The creation of the series became a type of autobiographical navigation where buried problems and memories resurfaced, allowing the artist to translate their impact. Each work acts as a mirror for the artist to observe herself and capture moments in time that were crucial to her development, while meditating on their broader connection to humanity. The paintings and stories emerge from eight themes: sisterhood, love, gender identity, destiny, matrilineage, spirituality, the body, and death. Through this work she highlights the importance of understanding personal traumas not as weaknesses, but potential strengths that enable self-determination.

 

spirituality

150x93cm

oil on linen

I was brought up Catholic. I was baptized as an infant, I took my First Communion at the age of ten, and when I was seventeen, I had a Confirmation. The Catholic religion has left a mark in the history books as both a good entity and a bad one. I started to question Catholicism when I was around seven years old. After seeing a movie about Greek mythology, I compared Hercules to Jesus and Zeus to God, which ended me up in a chair being scolded by my mother. She quickly corrected me with the commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” Instead of believing her, I started doing research when I got older. This was before the internet, so books at the library became my access to knowledge. I became extremely interested in different religions and practices. I soon realized there was a pattern; most religions are not that different. Religions are a way to give a sense of community to people, to give them a common interest. It is based in teaching, faith, belief, and the body. When I was little my grandmother and great aunt introduced me to art. They shared with me their love for the craft and I took to it like a duck in water. I would draw and paint on anything, on paper, in books, on the wall, and sometimes our cat when no one was looking. Besides growing up Catholic, I grew up knowing I wanted to be an artist like Michelangelo. I just remember my aunt having a massive book of his art when I was little. Soon that obsession grew and I learned about all the other great artists that came before and after him. Every new artist I learned about became like a bible story to me; each one formed an intricate part in the tapestry of the art world. What is amazing to me is that this bible doesn’t stop. It continues to be written and I have a chance to be a part of it. I was nineteen years old the first time I was discouraged from pursuing an art career. It was by my boyfriend at the time who felt that if I wasn’t selling work already then I wasn’t good enough. I was in college and I had been on the track towards an art degree. Within my second year, I switched to Math and English as a major. I wasn’t bad at it, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do. My heart wasn’t in it. I became depressed and my soul was quieted. He ended up breaking up with me a year later. As chance would have it, I was enrolled in a darkroom class as a time filler. If it wasn’t for that breakup and that course in photography, I might not be standing where I am today. My soul was lifted and I started to feel like I was back at my roots. After switching my major back to art, I placed a ring on my finger and vowed to never veer off my path again for anyone or anything. In Catholicism and other religions, it is common to keep items around you for worship purposes, like a rosary. Over the past eight years, I’ve started to collect my own sacred items such as odd gifts from friends and good luck charms. They range from a crystal necklace to a tiny gnome to a tiger’s eye stone. You could say I’m superstitious, but they serve as reminders to me, just like my ring.  Reminders to always make work and never veer off my path. Art is my religion.


gender identity

150x93cm

oil on linen

Growing up, I was expected by my mother to act a certain way and like certain things because I was in a female-assigned body. This was fine for me because I identified as a heterosexual cisgender woman. My sister, on the other hand, I watched struggle with my mother and her ideals of how we were expected to be. When we would go shopping for clothes, I remember my sister throwing a tantrum because she didn’t want to wear bows or the color pink. She didn’t want to play with girlie toys; she wanted race cars. It was no joke when my mother would tell someone that we were day and night. I never saw my sister as different than me, though. I didn’t have a problem with how she wanted to dress or what she wanted to play with. She was my sister and I accepted her no matter what she wanted to look like on the outside. In a way, as I got older, I understood more of what my sister went through when we were younger. I’ve been in relationships where I allowed it to be OK for my partner to tell me my space was in the kitchen or I shouldn’t paint certain subjects because it could upset people. He would also tell me women are supposed to be submissive, have long hair, and be modest.  My opinions didn’t matter to him. In hindsight, he was never worth my time. What I learned is your body is your own and no one else’s. No one is allowed to tell you how you should look physically. If you think you look good, then who are they to tell you you don’t? Do not let anyone tell you what to wear, how to fix your hair, or if you should wear makeup or not. If you want to be modest, than be modest. If you want to show off your body, than show it off. It is time to break the chains of social norms and grow into a higher understanding. I’m tired of being told that someone else’s opinion matters more than my own. I don’t want to bite my tongue any longer. If we look to the animal kingdom, we will see there is no reason why we have to behave a certain way depending on whether we have an extra appendage or not. The parrot fish switches gender and actually will live part of their life as male and another as female. The female hyena actually appears as a male from the outside and has a pseudo-penis. Nowhere in the natural world is it written that one person is more normal than the other. I want to break away from the ways I’ve been conditioned and break free from what is deemed socially admissible. I want to embody my animal spirit guides and be intelligent like an octopus, be a protector like a snail, be an emblem of salvation like the starfish, and have a sense of balance and control like the spider monkey. I desire to be a strong person, who will not bend to societal expectations and who will stay true to myself. I stand with the people who live their lives the way they want to live, who push against the confines of what is deemed acceptable. We exist on a spectrum. I personally would rather see millions of colors than just two. We need to rise above this and support each other. We were born with this body and we will die in it. Be kind to yourself and others.


love

150x93cm

oil on linen

In primary school, I was submersed in creative writing. I often used our daily writings as a way to release intimate thoughts and feelings. This is something I carried with me into adulthood. I still keep a small black book next to my bed for the nights when my mind is not ready to sleep. When I was younger, I wrote and drew a lot about my parent’s divorce and moving away from friends. However, those themes soon changed when I began dating. My first love has his own black book filled with endless writings of my love for him and things I was never brave enough to say to him. After he broke up with me, I filled two more black books with writings. Our relationship was emotionally and mentally abusive. He would get mad when I’d cut my hair or wore certain outfits. He wanted me to be this type of person I could never be. I remember he would always tell me to just be myself, but the sad part is that he was never in love with who I was, just in love with the idea he had of me. I think he realized that before I ever did. I have never let anyone in very easily and I never allow anyone to fully hold my heart. It is the one organ I find in myself to be most vulnerable. The only people I allow to see that side of me are people I know I can trust. The scary part is allowing anyone to read the notebooks. Anytime I ever allowed someone to read some of them, I felt like I was naked in a room of people. The second guy I ever dated genuinely was kind and tender, but often became jealous and never really trusted me. He had been hurt a lot, like myself, and one day he found my stash of black books. He questioned a lot of it and I quickly snatched them out of his hands. I felt bare and invaded. They exposed the deepest chasms of my mind and heart. I never let him in entirely. We loved and supported each other. He knew me better than my first love, but he never really knew me. I think that was because we didn’t know how to trust each other with our hearts. The only place I know I can truly be myself is when I write or paint. It’s a place I can open my heart up and release the coagulated blood that blocks my blood vessels. I often write about the sweet and tender moments, but I write more so about the moments when I have to find strength to pack up, move on, and believe in myself. Sometimes you say goodbye to someone you love because you know they will be better off without you in their life. Other times that someone leaves you in the dust and you’re left there waiting for them to return. It’s a cold and strange feeling when someone exits your life. You begin to realize how much you leaned on them and relied on them for support.  Love is not something you just toss to the wayside, it is also something that you don’t just take for granted. I’ve had to learn to be gentler with my heart and also more careful with whom I allow to see it and hold it. I have known love and I have known the absence of it.


death

150x93cm

oil on linen

Marie had always been in my life. We were born a month apart, our families were very close, there were photos of our mothers pregnant together, and we had shared baby photos. Growing up we were often dressed a like and we always had the same haircut. We were basically twins growing up. She was my partner in crime for many years. We grew a part for a short amount of time when we got older, because our parents had divorced around the same time. Our life paths were always parallel in many ways. When I was fifteen, her and I had started to hang around each other again. The dust had settled around the divorce of our parents and our parent’s had remarried. I felt like I had my old friend back and life was starting to become normal again. We had planned out our entire summer that year together. Marie was a beautiful girl, smart, and witty. She was always the center of attention and I liked standing in her shadow growing up. She would stand up for me when I was bullied, taught me many skills like skating, and gave me confidence when I didn’t have any. She believed in me and I believed in her. We were kids and we were figuring life out together. I was so excited to have her back in my life again. We had both been put through the ringer and we both had so much to catch up on. Life can never prepare you for the unexpected. Sometimes things happen for a reason and sometimes you never learn that reason. My family and I were at a lake house for a week with some family friends when my dad got a phone call. My sister and I had been swimming that afternoon and my stepmom had called us in. As my sister and I approached the back porch, we saw our father’s face streaming with tears. I had never seen my father cry before this moment. I had seen him angry, happy, and silly but this … this was different. He told my sister and I that Marie had passed away suddenly. I ran off the porch and kept running till I reached the end of the dock. I stayed out there until the sun fell and I could see the moon rise. It had never felt so large. We left the next day to attend the wake and funeral. My father had been asked to be a pallbearer to carry her casket. The entire drive home was quiet. I barely slept the next couple of nights. My father and stepmother dropped my sister and I off to be with our mother. She never dealt with death well and Marie’s death would take a toll on her mental state in the coming years. I had to become her shoulder to cry on, not the other way around. When we went to the wake the next day, I remember walking down the isle through the people. Time seemed to stand still. I reached the edge of her casket and Marie’s mother wrapped her arms around me. They allowed me to walk up to look at her one last time. As I gazed down into the casket I felt my heart being pulled from my chest. It didn’t look like Marie. Her face had been mangled from the accident and they tried their best to cover the damage. The damage was there… Spread across the room of people crying. I couldn’t grasp that she was gone. I didn’t want to believe it. Even over a decade later, I have to pinch myself. I forget she’s gone a lot of the time. I don’t think I ever accepted her death. Days after she was laid to rest, my mother had the bright idea to write messages on pink balloons to send to Marie. I don’t remember what I wrote, but I do know what I would say to Marie today. I would tell her that she would never be forgotten. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of her. I wish could hug her and hear her laugh just one more time. Every year on her birthday, I spend the day alone doing something we could have done together. I still to this day wonder who she would be today.


destiny

150x93cm

oil on linen

I had a dream at the beginning of this journey. I was at sea in an old boat. I had no control over where the boat was headed. Then as I gazed up I realized I was drifting towards a cave that was dark and scary. As I entered the cave, the light went away very quickly and there was only darkness. I couldn’t see anything in front of me. Then, I noticed a small white dot off in the distance. The waves beating against the boat sounded like the rhythm of a heart. As I got closer the small white dot became larger and larger. The walls in the cave were no longer jagged; they were carved out and shaped like a vaulted hall. At the end of the tunnel, I could see a large tree that seemed to sparkle and glisten. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever laid my eyes on. Suddenly, I fell out of the boat and I fought to get back in, but I couldn’t. I sank to the bottom and then the dream ended. Someone once told me this dream sounded like it could be a birth dream; it was my subconscious remembering my exit of the womb. I interpret this dream differently, however. I think back on this dream a lot now and it’s very rare I remember dreams so vividly. I view the dream as a symbol for my life path. I have been in this exact same boat for many years. I didn’t know what would come next and I didn’t care to focus on the destination. I was enjoying the journey I was on and going where the wind took me. If I hoisted a sail, then I could steer the boat in whatever direction I wanted. Eight years ago, I pledged to myself I would reach this destination I am at now. This voyage has been long and I am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I know my story will continue. I have been asked far too many times what I plan on doing next. I don’t have an answer and I promise it is a question I ask myself many times. Looking back, it has become more apparent that I had control over my destination, but at the same time my own hand carves it out. The work I have begun is unfinished. I think through life we go through many births, like a passage into a new era. When I graduated from secondary school, when I moved to a new country, they are all passages to a new chapter. I don’t know when the book will end. All I know is to keep reading and just enjoy the journey. The less we know the further we search for.


physical body

150x93cm

oil on linen

When my body first started to change, it was in the midst of my parent’s divorce. I had switched schools and I knew no one there. I had no friends and my mother was mentally disconnected. So much so, she had no idea I had gotten my first period already. I was at my new school when Mother Nature decided to visit for the first time. I had to call my grandmother to come get me from school because I didn’t understand what was happening to my body. She was my first guide into feminine products and this new change in my body. Looking back, I was not introduced to this very well. It wasn’t her fault. When she was my age this was something you weren’t supposed to discuss. To me it seemed back then it wasn’t proper for her to talk about these things. I was first taught it was impolite to discuss such matters. No one needed to be aware of what was happening to our bodies behind closed doors. I never discussed it with anyone really until I was around fifteen and I met a new friend. She really was a plethora of information. I think because her mother was so open with her on everything. She made it ok to talk about our bodies and remove the blindfold I was wearing. My body was not something to be ashamed of, it was a new strength I didn’t know I had. I had the power to carry life in my body. A couple of years later, I got caught staying the night at a guy’s house. He was my friend and honestly nothing happened that night. We didn’t even kiss, as much as I wanted to kiss him. My parents found out and I was grounded for six months. My mother decided that I wasn’t telling the truth about that night and took me to the gynecologist. Apparently, the doctor would be able to tell if I had lost my virginity or not. However, after that appointment, we got an answer that no one was prepared for. My cervix was covered with lesions and I had a growth on one of my ovaries. The growth was benign, but the lesions were cancerous. I had my cervix scraped with out any pain reliever or anesthesia. The pain was indescribable. It was like nothing I had ever felt before. I was then told there was a higher chance that I would never be able to carry children. Being told that at the age of seventeen is not something any young person wants to hear, much less try to understand. My doctor had me go through a round of shots and put me on a type of birth control to help with the growth on my ovaries. After a year, everything was in the clear and I was fine. Before all of this, I had so many anxieties about my body and my perception of it. I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin and I couldn’t express that in anyway. I think these moments for me made it ok to know my body and no longer ask permission to do so. My mother was absent mentally for a lot of my upbringing and maturing stages in life. She placed blame on outer sources that in retrospect she couldn’t have possibly dealt with on her own. She ended up dealing with it in a way that ended up affecting her daughters’ personal development. Separating myself from my mother became one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, not because I didn’t love her, but because I realized that her presence in my life was becoming more and more detrimental.


matrilineal

150x93cm

oil on linen

I remember being eight years old and being at my grandparents’ house, which was only down the road at the time. My grandparents said we have to go to our house. When I walked through the door of our home. I saw my mother weeping next to a strange man sitting on the couch, in the same living room my sister and I used to dance around to music videos in. There were many home videos of those times. My sister had to have been six maybe younger. Apparently, my mom had been cheating on my dad. It wasn’t ok. Before things were different. Life was blissful. I remember my dad scooping my sister and I up that night and putting us into their bedroom and closing the door behind him. There was a lot of yelling from the other side. To this day I acted like I didn’t remember that moment because I know that moment was the first day I saw my mother as someone else… someone that wasn’t my mother. The person I thought I knew, who carried me in their womb for nine months, and she was no longer that person. To me after that she was someone that was dishonest and untrustworthy. It wasn’t my father’s fault it was hers and that was long before she was diagnosed with any mental disorder. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Manic. She used to tell us stories. Stories like when you see a white moth not to be scared of it because it was a loved one visiting us from heaven. She believed in that sort of thing. You know ghosts coming from the other side to visit their loved ones, who where still here on earth. So much has happened since then. Since my mother first lost my trust. She regained it little by little after we moved from my first child hood home. Instead of my grandparent’s house only being a couple of steps down the road they were now a thirty-minute drive. I think back on this moment a lot. I imagine being safe and feeling secure. Not knowing the dangers of the real world yet. The time before the night my mother first lost my trust. Those first sweet eight years before that night. What life was like then was magical. My childhood during that time was picturesque and normal. Looking back it may have only been a lie but now it seems it wasn’t anything, but a capture of innocence. Innocent memories I cherish everyday when I look back. She meant well, my mother, for her self that is. I don’t think she knew fully what she was doing. My poor father, the pain he must have felt. That night was the night that everything changed and the stars became a lot less bright. I remember comforting my sister and whispering to my self, “just wake up its just another night mare”. It wasn’t. It was reality crashing down on my childhood. She stepped out of her box that night and released a demon within herself. She could no longer put it back. She tried to keep it dormant from there on out. Until I was in the fifth grade, when she attempted to leave this world, move on to the next, and to become a white moth. I pushed down those feelings and those memories. From who picked me up from school that day after she was found barely a live. My earliest memory from that time was going to the hospital to visit her. I remember dad trying to fix our hair for school to act like everything was normal. The school knew. Everyone that worked there knew. She worked at our school, so of course they all knew. We were the kids whose mother tried to commit suicide for some unknown reason, because she seemed fine. She was good at hiding things. My parent’s would fight a lot before then. Maybe she felt like all three of us would be better off with out her. She had just given up the fight to try to remain normal, happy, and put a smile on. I’ll never truly know. It’s so easy to just pick up the phone and call and ask, but it’s been eight years now since I’ve actually spoken to her.


sisterhood

150x93cm

oil on linen

Your sister does not have to be of blood. They can come from the same womb or they may come from another. These people that shift in and out of your life come in different forms. For me they have come into my life at different intervals. Some of them have stuck around and some of them have trenched through the blood, sweat, and tears along side me. I carry these women in my heart, whether they are with me still or they have left. They have seen me in my dark days and have reminded me of happier moments, like bluebirds flying before a storm. The times when you think you are absolutely alone, they tend to be right there with you, helping to hold up the weight of the world. I don’t always take the time to thank my sisters. I take them for granted far too many times. There have been times when I should have been there for them and supported them, but I let them down. Too many moments, my sisters have taken time out of their lives to help me and I never had or gave them my time to do the same. I have one blood sister. We come from the same womb. She and I growing up would monitor the bluebird houses in the spring to watch the eggs hatch in the nest. Our favorite day was always when we’d watch them leave the nest and fly away. The saddest days were when we’d see a snake slither out of the small opening of the house. We knew then that those chicks would never fly. Their mother would soon return and see the horrific scene left behind. Snakes are interesting creatures. In many cultures, they are seen as spirit guides and if one bites you in a dream, it is to be seen as a reminder to be weary of important matters. Comparing my sisters to both snakes and bluebirds is like looking at them as two sides to a coin. They can be my closest confidants and then they can also be my worst enemy. My sisters are also the people who will hold a mirror up to my face and give me a reality check that is long over due. They are the people who are most honest with me and I know they expect the same from me. My sisters accept me for both my strengths and my weaknesses. They see through me and still stand by my side when the going gets tough. Looking back on the past eight years, I wouldn’t have gotten through to the other side with out them. I owe more to my sisters than anyone else. It is my oath to them to always from this day forth to stand up for them when they cannot speak. To help carry their load when it becomes too heavy. To dry their eyes and hold them tight when they have fallen. To aid them in their endeavors and support them when they need an extra boost to reach the stars. What we put into the universe will be rewarded back to us. We don’t do things for our sisters for gain; we do it because we know they would do the same for us. In a way, my sisters are my family. They are the ones I run to for guidance and help. I hope I am the sister they are to me.