I remember learning the meaning of empathy at a really young age. It might have to do with being a twin, but I always needed to see two sides. As a very shy kid who would seek out her own space, empathy was key in me learning how to be around other people and see outside myself.
I still like to be alone but that said, I never thought I would crave people’s points of view like I do now. More and more I've been painting large scale mural works in locations I couldn't imagine, and initially it wasn't about stories or people, it was just to chase this feeling of doing bigger things alone. I expected sun, wind, rain, talking to artists, trying not to be intimidated by artists, trying to use spray paint (no), bucket paint (yes), broken rollers, and no more nice clothes.
The one thing I wasn't thinking about was empathy, and how my whole approach would change. This work more often than not involves me arriving into people’s towns, existing for a set period of time, then moving on to the next thing. We don't always speak the same language, or feel as equally passionate about the intricacies of shattered glass, or find it funny a lift broke down in a main intersection. Still, it's the people who stay on in these places that are important to me, and now this is work I make for myself but also for them. Their experiences and stories were meaningful before I came, and only become richer and more layered when I'm long gone.
Artworks with words can be read in painfully literal ways, which can be powerful on one hand, but on the other makes you very vulnerable to be so clear about what you're trying to say. To invite someone into your way of thinking is really hard – you're open to every kind of criticism, from disgruntled home owners to the especially brutal 'I hate it' from 6 year olds. But with this vulnerability of being so open, people connect, talk and become vulnerable too. People are letting me exist where they live, tell me details of their lives that aren't on display, and we both see the two sides of staying and leaving, doing and thinking, past and future, what might be truly incredible or might be the hardest thing you've faced so far.
My words are about fragments of conversations and time – they aren't about sympathy and sorrow, but empathy for those universal human feelings. I love that through other people my work has become a tool to connect and reflect the value of experiences that were created in the immediate walls and environment that we don't always acknowledge every day. I still like to be alone, but have found a way to read parts of people's experiences, and vice versa – it's something that might not be easy to put into words, so you put yourself in their place instead.