“It’s not the people who are in prison that worry me. It’s the people who aren’t.” —Arthur Gore
I have a very strong dark side to my personality. I admit it. I would guess that anyone that says they don’t have a shadow side, dark and somewhat unholy, is lying to themselves. Religion and philosophy have discussed dark and light, good vs. evil and law vs. lawlessness for centuries. People are usually surprised when I reveal this slithery more secret self. Most of my art that is shown in public is fun, whimsical and humorous. It makes people laugh. I use humor to cover up that darkness that is in me and my fear of the unknown. The “Day of the Dead” is one of my favorite holidays. Death is mocked and not feared but celebrated.
I first recognized this natural part of my personality when I was five. I would sneak under my favorite uncle’s bed and secretly read his True Crime magazines with horror and fascination. I felt some fear. My stomach jumped. Even though the pictures were in black and white, my talented and gifted brain could clearly imagine being right there at the crime scene playing any of the parts, the deceased, the perpetrator or the cop. I loved doing this. I also loved making up scary stories, telling them to and with friends in darkened backyards in the summer, Grimm’s Fairy Tales (the real ones), and flirting with being bad instead of good like the Bible told me to. I’d lay down under the coffee table and pretend I wasn’t breathing (re-enacting a crime scene). Step on a crack you’ll break your mother’s back. I was afraid of the dark but also felt like I was more alive when the unknown lurked in my closet and under my bed. The first movie I ever saw alone was “The Body Snatchers” at the Hollywood Theatre in Portland. When I came out of the movie, ready to walk home, I just knew that everyone I encountered had been snatched and changed and could possibly change me too and I ran as fast as I could to get home. I LOVED it.
As a teenager, my dark side tastes changed. At that age I think its part of the purpose of growing and becoming an adult to have no fear. Teenagers need to be a little fearless to break away from their parents, their protectors. I had no sense of mortality. I would never die. I was a rebel with a cause even though on the outside I was the good girl that my parents hoped I would be. I liked fast cars; I raced trains at railroad crossings, studied dark magic and Edgar Allen Poe. Hell fascinated me. I began to see that good vs. evil is a basic theme of life and art. I read Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and could understand his struggle with morals and inner darkness. I liked bad boys. I was friends with bad girls. But, mostly I just flirted with this darker world. It held my interest. At age sixteen I found art and drama where I could express unspeakable things without actually doing them.
As an adult, I’m still mostly fearless. I still like to drive at a hundred and five, I still like encounters with the darkness, reading and writing true crime, and meeting unusual people. I crave danger. I’d like to climb high rugged mountains. I love carnivals, freak shows, the midway and haunted houses. I love to go where I’m not supposed to be. For a long time I worked in juvenile corrections where I encountered the occasional murderer (about seven on the average per year), rapists, crooks and child prostitutes. I learned how to pick locks. I witnessed things so disturbing that I have kept them to myself. I tried to understand these unusual and unforgettable people. Is it nature or nurture? I still can’t figure it all out. Are there people born without a sense of right and wrong? I would swear that there are. Can some people be changed for the better? I hope they can. But who really knows? So I’ll keep searching for answers. I’ll continue to watch Law and Order more than I go to Sunday Mass, my true crime library will keep growing until it overflows and I’ll keep that adrenaline pumping. You’ll see darkness in my art, all over the walls of the Attic Gallery in December. Some of the paintings shown in this post are from that upcoming show. Pick a dark character, dress up and come to the opening! Drive fast. Take Chances. “Northwest of Normal…the Darkside of Jerry Fenter and Sandy Visse”. Break the rules. Scare yourself.
Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.
I do it so it feels like Hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I have a call.
—Sylvia Plath from her poem Lady Lazarus