In 2014 my husband and I were in a documentary filmed by Ethan Minsker and the Antagonist movement called “Self Medicated: A Film About Art“. The film focused on several artists, including myself and my husband and our stories and how art helped to get us through different parts of our lives.
I remember when I first met Ethan. I was enthralled. He was at VTXIFF, an indie film festival in Victoria, TX that we worked closely with, showcasing two Antagonist Movement Films one being “This is Berlin, Not New York” and the other being “Never Records : You Are Not Listening“. Coming from a small town with little to no community support hits hard. Everything you do requires you to dig deep to continue to push forward past obstacles. It’s an act of love. Nothing else. Not many get that. But he had started this group of amazing people doing amazing things and I had hope that maybe we could do something like that here in my town. We all want to belong to something. We all want to matter. Underground artists deserve their chance in the spotlight too.
At the time, my husband and I were in a punk band called “Stout City Luchadores” who were also featured in the film. We also ran a podcast, a zine, and a record label all of which focused on giving a voice to underground and indie musicians, poets, and artists that wouldn’t have had one otherwise. A few like minded individuals joined us and helped us promote local shows and art events.
But it’s honestly hard doing what you love at times. It takes courage and strength. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and give into bitterness. It’s hard work to continuously put yourself out there in the hopes that what you do will somehow make a difference in someone’s life. You rarely get thanks. Rarely get recognition. To reiterate, it’s literally an act of love. And it’s a lot of hard work.
With that in mind I learned some hard lessons. I grew some thick skin. I worked under the idea that no one gives a fuck about your band, your music, your art, or what you do. You have to make them. You have to give them a reason. A million people want to be where you are… How badly do you want it? How hungry are you? You have to continue beating your head against a fucking wall and hope that eventually the payoff will be worth it. But maybe that’s just the hardknock life I lived here in conservative, country music, and Bluebonnet bullshit art south Texas. It really did feel like any step forward was a struggle and a fight. Maybe I gave into the bitterness. But it offers some perspective to where I am right now and I’m grateful for everything those years taught me.
Shortly after the film was released I was going through some changes and dealing with burnout. I was getting tired. It wasn’t worth it anymore and I honestly lost hope. It happens. I collapsed. I quit the bands (at the time we were doing TSS: This Shit Sucks and Lechuza). I dissolved the label, the zine, and the podcast. I crawled into a hole and I sat there licking my wounds for a good long while. I got rid of all of my social media and literally fell off of the grid.
I look back now and still don’t fully understand why I did it that way. But I do know that had I kept going at the pace that I was I would have crashed, both physically and mentally.
I still did art. But I did it quietly. In secret. I did it for me. My soul hadn’t totally been crushed and it was nice to do what I loved again without the pressure of having to perform for others. That progressed into what I am doing now with the art I currently create.
I do look back on that time period fondly when my memories take me there, but the details tend to get foggy. Partly because I was rarely sober, but also because I was constantly so stressed and riddled with anxiety from trying to keep a million pieces running smoothly that sometimes it’s easier not to think about it.
But hell, it did have its upsides. We constantly met new people. Made new connections. We have friends all over the US and parts of the world. Many I’ve lost contact with, but I still keep in contact with some. We did a live screen printing event to promote the Self Medicated film release and some of my art was featured, in fact it’s the Self Medicated art seen in this post. We went to a few of the releases in various cities to promote the film. We were constantly on the road with our bands. Constantly planning out interviews, and zines and releases and recording podcasts. It was honestly pretty cool. I got to meet some of my idols in person. My bands even opened for a few of them too.
There are many who would probably tell you if asked, that I didn’t do much. And they aren’t wrong. Others would probably call me a bitch. They are right about that too. I run a tight ship. I’m stubborn. I’m opinionated. People with toxic egos have always pissed me off and I have a tendency to push back, sometimes a little too hard. My mouth has gotten me in trouble more than once. Our bands were small fish. The things we did, including the podcast and zine and label were all small, they never quite crested into national popularity, as we were mostly local and regional. But to me, it was important. To me it mattered. To me it was big. Ego aside, my heart was in it 100% and it came from a place of truth and honesty, even though I was a snot nosed brat.
Recently, out of the blue I got a message from a stranger regarding the documentary.
Hope that this finds you in the best of health and spirits. I wanted to reach out to you in view of your role in the Self-Medicated film. It was your words specifically that motivated me to create for the gain of attenuating my depression. Words can really matter to someone and your honesty proved to be beneficial to my thinking. I’m optimistic. … The right inspiration can really show up at any time.”
And I read it. And I fucking started to bawl, which has been a common occurrence lately. The long and short of it all? The final lesson in this long story? Never sell yourself short. Never give up. Sometimes you need a break, that’s perfectly fine and normal. The break helps you to reset and realign. We go through cycles…no one can run 100% all of the time. But never, ever forget that the small things you do can change lives.
I had no idea when I did that documentary 7 years ago that I would have received this message at another low point in my life. That this total stranger would fill me with gratitude and thankfulness. I’m grateful my words helped her… but she also helped me. What I did, what I do…it actually matters. Life tends to come full circle like that most times.
And art saves man. I don’t care what people say. Whether you are a musician, or film maker, or a painter, or a dancer or whatever, it saves. It gives us purpose. It gives us meaning. It’s a beautiful thing. Keep following your heart. Keep putting yourself out there no matter how hard it gets. The world will try to beat you down. Don’t let it. Sometimes you’ll be in the spotlight performing for others. Sometimes you’ll be in a dark room creating simply for you. Love and love big. And never give up.
Self Medicated: A Film About Art IMDB
This is Berlin, Not New York IMDB
Watch Never Records : You Are Not Listening on Vimeo
TSS (This Shit Sucks) Band Camp
Stout City Luchadores Bandcamp