The Van Gogh Project

The Van Gogh Project


The Van Gogh Project, in theory, still exists, and it comprises a dream of helping my sister get her art out into the world, and improve the quality of life. What is yet to be accomplished is a trip to NYC to draw, a trip to Paris, to draw, and a trip to the Van Gogh museum followed by painting the countrysides that Van Gogh painted.

While I have fully recovered from complex-PTSD, and the plethora of things that go with, my sisterʻs path has been quite different. The difference between private care in a container of love and in a safe place, and being an artist under an LPS conservatorship being bounced from facility to facility.

One of the driving factors of my recovery journey was to work hard, to one day, be a resource to my sister Leilani, and work hard I did. 

After attending a conference for survivors who had also experienced extreme abuse, and realizing, goodness, their psyches organize just like mine, I canʻt be making this up, same psychology, same stories, resulting in the biggest denial block easing up. 

I noted that most of the survivors identified with their mental health condition. Something spoke to my heart and said, there is another path. An understanding blossomed that I could identify with my passion, my then sense of life purpose, and simply ignore the labels and the stigmas of complex-PTSD, and what was then known as a multiple personality disorder, and use THAT to be my healing drive.

For nearly a decade I had NO contact with my family, because the terror of connection, that they might still be engaged with the "cult" communities connected to both sexual trauma, trafficking, torture, with memory of medical experimentation. Yes, extreme trauma. A part of it, I realize, was racist in nature, and a part of it economic, things my parents felt were necessary to pay the mortgage and put food on the table. 

We all worked. My brothers sold golf balls. The daughters were sold for other things, all three of us, and the health issues were a consequence.

Seeking safety

A psychiatrist I worked with, in a period when I was misdiagnosed, encouraged me to stop therapy for a period and just use medications, he also advised no contact with my sister, in that he felt it was too destabalizing. After writing my memoir I went back into therapy who advised a different psychiatrist, which came with a different approach to using meds, and the misdiagnosis went away. This man gave me an explanation, meds wonʻt cure you, for that, you need therapy (and shamanism I discovered).

 In 2017 I felt stable enough to reconnect with my sister, and from this, the Van Gogh project emerged. My sisterʻs desire to raise an awareness of what it is like to be an institutionalized artist. 

We had several shared shows at Yoga Soup, in Santa Barbara, as a part of Cybil Gilbertsonʻs NECTAR, and a 20 minute theatrical work was co-created which premiered in Brooklyn NY along with a shared show. We brought the performance portion of the work home to Santa Barbara, CA at Center Stage Theater as a part of Nebula Dance Labʻs dance festival. 

My sister was able to attend, and came up to take a bow with the performers. As I held her hand, nothing was sweeter than hearing her say, you got the story right. 

In New York I was approached by several individuals who received a  bit of healing, and expressed gratitude for telling a story they could relate to.  One woman expressed, she had never been able to tell a single soul, but that she had been in a psychiatric setting, and the hell of the experience, and having to advocate for herself to get release

Witness feedback

An actor, who happened on the installation, adds his encouragement to Leilani.