Meet Andrea Monroe. Andrea Monroe a painter living and working in Los Angeles. She has been able to allow her emotions and intuition to be the guide in which she paints and writes. DivorceForce was originally mesmerized by her paintings influenced by divorce. But when you read her raw openness describing her divorce and artistic expression, we know you will truly be astonished.
DivorceForce: How did your world as an artist and a person going through divorce collide?
Andrea Monroe: I’ve always been creative, but painting did not come to me until the birth of my son. I decorated his room with hand-painted furniture and later, took the images I’d been doing and made a small line of children’s room accessories (stepping stools, clocks, and storage boxes) to sell locally and online. When my son turned three, my husband and I had our first bout with divorce. As I searched for help for my marriage, I was introduced to the spiritual practice of Religious Science founded by Earnest Holmes. I cried at my first service and felt like I’d found “home” and the answers to having a more directed and fulfilled life. After completing a beautiful painting on canvas for a class that eventually allowed me to become a member of the church, I began to paint a series of portraits of spiritual figures, thus developing the style I use now. Long story short, I painted several series during my marriage, but not until my marriage finally came to a close did I sit down to do one that expressed the anguish I was experiencing in ending a relationship with a man I thought I’d be with for a lifetime. In essence, the process of painting became therapeutic for me. It was a way for me to free different emotions ranging from heartache to relief or release via symbolic images. But I thought the paintings needed an explanation of some kind, even if it wasn’t in a completely literal sense, so I wrote a poem for each painting that further colored the experience.
DivorceForce: For each of the picture in “The Story of My Divorce” can you explain the feeling and emotion behind each painting? What brought you to the artistic output you created in each?
It took every ounce of will to finally divorce my husband. I entered into the decision with lots of support from family, friends, and my therapist, so with this life-changing decision, I was extremely hopeful for my future. I can’t quite remember what made me sit down to do the first painting in my divorce. I know that in my past, painting in between my freelance work often settled my mind and lessened the worry about when my next job would happen, so I’m sure I took a similar approach upon entering into this series. But unlike my other paintings where I’d altered found images of other people and places, I became the subject. Only I was a sort of cartoon of myself—a tribalistic woman with a headdress representing pride, a vulva patch representing sexuality and femininity, and a rooted foot that could be either interpreted as someone who was still planted in the past or standing terra firma in her decision to move on.
1. My first painting is called “The Tree of Life”, and it was all based on the possibility to have a better life. The subject in it is accepting a gift of a golden nugget from the tree. The birds flying above represent freedom. The feather boa is what makes her feel pretty in light of what is about to become. The clouds are wisps of possibility.
2. After the decision to divorce finally set into me so did the pain of it. My next painting is called “Pain Body” which was based loosely on Eckhart Tolle’s theory that we hold negative emotion that is poisonous to the body. In this, I’ve painted myself as a strong image, with scepter in hand, eating my pain—a gutted rag doll (which is also me). What I was experiencing here was becoming one with my pain.
3. As the divorce process unfolded, so did many emotions. I went from feeling hopeful to darn right hopeless. My fairytale dream was shot and I realized I could end up being alone for the rest of my life. Nothing felt right in this painting. It is called “Crucified.” My headdress is paled in color and my boa has slipped away and I’m trying to reach it. The sun above is one mass of solar flare. My possibilities (the clouds) are trying to hold me up.
4. Next was “It Shall Remain Nameless”, an odd title because I didn’t really know what to call it. The emotions depicted here are a cross between complete and utter anger at my husband for giving up on us to wanting not to let go of a “fairytale” of a death-do-us-part marriage. Basically, I was in disbelief that he did not love me anymore and he never told me. The melting “pickle” is my husband who I vowed loyalty to by marrying him. In this painting, he has snatched my snatch or my youth and sexuality. The hooded falcon is deception. The white picket gate goes nowhere now.
5. “Harpooned” was another painting of my processing pain. While I was feeling all the loss, it seemed my husband felt nothing at all. We resided in the same house during our separation and I often heard him laughing at the TV…like nothing was happening to us. Here he is laughing at the bottom of the painting while I’m dying.
6. I had many ups and downs during the months while the divorce was being finalized. Sometimes I felt horrible and sometimes hope returned. In “Spite of Catastrophe” is me dancing in spite of my world collapsing all around me.
7. In “Surf and Turf”, I’ve become sassier. The concrete bacon thing is my husband—concrete because he is a gray mass of unmoving matter and bacon because he is a meathead. His hand tries to cover my mouth, which has all to do with my feeling like I was never “heard” throughout my marriage. The tidal wave is behind us meaning the past is behind also. All the animals frolicking on the beach are playful, as is what I’m wearing. The cloud of possibility is red because it is a celebration balloon now.
8. By the time I painted “Comatose”, I think I was emotionally exhausted, so I showed myself resting in the light of a TV. That’s what most people do anyway in front of a TV—no interactions, zombified. The cloud of possibility rests also, like a framed memory of what was. The vulva patch is different too. Maybe I’m dreaming it has wings? Or maybe it’s just melting away.
9. The last painting is 4×6 of a woman (who incidentally looks nothing like me) emerging from the shell of her warrior costume. I called this one “No Cicadas” because I intended to paint cicadas into it, but didn’t. The bird again is free. The roses are friendships and the mouths are possibilities of love. The rocks are peace and Zen. I made it through.
DivorceForce: Is your artistic output more a primal scream or therapeutic journey?
I believe it was a little of both.
DivorceForce: How important was art to you as you went through your divorce journey?
Andrea Monroe: Painting grounded me and helped me get through my loneliness during the process. I guess when I paint I feel like I’m the hand of someone else, therefore I feel like someone is with me.
DivorceForce: Any final words of advice for others?
Andrea Monroe: Many say they are not creative, but I believe everyone is to some degree. When I was an art mentor at my son’s elementary school, I taught them that old saying—that there are no mistakes in art. I think that this holds true at any age. A doodle can be an expression of emotion and so can be repainting your bedroom a different color. Maybe the therapy is in the action rather than the outcome. In any event, I suggest doing anything that helps you feel better. Jot down a sentence or write a poem, draw stick figures, read a spiritual book, make a new dessert, buy some flowers…but don’t just sit there and die.
Andrea’s artwork and poetry writings, “The Story of My Divorce” are available here.