2016-04-01 / Neighbors

Artist speaks out on social issues

Paintings tackle depression, suicide, sexual identity
By Melissa Simon


NATURE AND SPIRITUALITY—The painting titled “The Shaman, the Heart of the Dancing Drum and the Minotaur” is one of several that will be on display April 9 in Simi Valley as part of artist Grace Divine’s “Shamanic Surrealism” series. 
Courtesy of Grace Divine NATURE AND SPIRITUALITY—The painting titled “The Shaman, the Heart of the Dancing Drum and the Minotaur” is one of several that will be on display April 9 in Simi Valley as part of artist Grace Divine’s “Shamanic Surrealism” series. Courtesy of Grace Divine Creating art has always been a way for Grace Divine to share her life experiences, whether happy or tragic.

On April 9, the 52-year-old Orange County resident will come to Simi Valley and display more than 30 paintings during her art show, Speak Out, which focuses on health and social issues including depression, suicide, sexual identity and HIV/AIDS.

Speak Out will be exhibited at the Simi Valley Plaza, 1407 E. Los Angeles Ave.

Divine’s paintings have been displayed online and at roving art shows since 2000. Her growing collection aims to educate the public and promote humanitarian and civil rights issues, the artist said.


Grace Divine Grace Divine “What’s happening today is people are moving into technology so quickly that we’re losing touch with our humanity . . . and we’re running headlong into a reality where we’re becoming part of the technology,” the artist said.

“In contrast to that, there’s this movement that’s about getting in touch with nature and going back who we really are as human beings. My goal is to encourage dialogue of what’s truly important, that allows victims to talk to whomever they wish about their feelings and fears instead of feeling shame.”

Drawing from life

Divine said her art is based on her own experiences as a woman, mother and shamanic drummer.

The first group of paintings in Speak Out are called “Women’s Sexuality” and look at the first kiss, passion, pregnancy and other experiences, Divine said. “Thwarted topics,” she said, like rape and being a battered woman, are also themes in her artwork.

“I met someone online. I was very naive and, long story short, I was raped,” the artist said in an interview. “I decided I needed to speak up about it because I have two daughters, 22 and 24 years old, and I didn’t want this to happen to them or any other woman.

“Most women live with this alone and there isn’t much encouragement for them to come forward. I’m trying to use my art to say I’m not ashamed of what happened.”

The second series that will be on display is called “Shamanic Surrealism,” in which Divine used an older style of painting, similar to what an archaeologist would find, to take a look at nature and mental health issues like suicide and depression.

Divine said the purpose of this series is to remind people there are ways to heal without using drugs.

About 12 paintings were inspired by the suicide of Divine’s older daughter’s boyfriend last year. She said her daughter found her boyfriend in a gruesome scene.

“Sometimes we all suffer from depression of some kind. My daughter’s boyfriend was very loved, and no one around him picked up on this very serious thing,” the painter said.

“We don’t talk about our shame and then people die. When did we stop being a tribe of people and become so attached to technology that we miss what’s happening around us? I’m not against technology, but I think there needs to be a connection between people.”

Divine hopes that, in addition to encouraging dialogue, her work will inspire young artists to express themselves in a meaningful way.

“I’m hoping to encourage young people to create art about their experiences because if I can do it, they can do it too,” she said.

IN A NUTSHELL

Speak Out will feature more than 30 paintings. The show runs from 6 to 8 p.m. Sat., April 9 at 1407 E. Los Angeles Ave. in Simi Valley. The event includes a poetry reading and shamanic drumming performance. Admission is free and open to the public. Recommended age is 15 years and up. For more information, visit gracedivine.com.

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