Iris is a visual artist based in Vancouver, who paints vibrant imagined landscapes as a means of healing from trauma.
My work is a colourful, idealized version of the world I see. As a child, I watched my father and he taught me much of what I know about art. We read art books, went to museums; Our home filled with music, composition, and colour.
There has been a lot of darkness that I’ve fought through: Depression, a PTSD diagnosis, my father’s early loss. I put a box in my head, locked it, and forged on. But you can’t ignore hardened pain – it haunts nightmares and sporadic waking moments.
Painting is the red thread through my life. I lived more and more in my head, where things were bright and kind, and I could control it all. The colours were more vibrant, the trees more stylized. I started trying to spill that world onto canvas. I carved out studio space in our home, bought art supplies on Craigslist when money was tight, and painted on whatever surface I could get my hands on. I made connections with other artists, joined arts organizations, volunteered at shows and craft fairs; I took every opportunity I could to showcase my work.
Having talent is one thing, work is what makes an art career. I read voraciously about other artists; I practice techniques over and over; I’ll never be finished learning or improving. Now my work hangs in galleries, I sell and take commissions, but I won’t be idle.
In painting the world, I sought solace from the dark. The damage, I carry into the light. I tried to paint the world around me, but it’s been me in the world, all along.
Even though I found ways to give voice to my trauma, the path I followed has not been a picnic. When I was young, you “got on with it”, or were told to. I grew up in survival mode. This meant being anything to anyone, to feel safe. Did you want someone submissive – then I was your gal. Someone funny – here I am. I lost myself. It was only late in life that it was possible to find ways to cope, because only since the 80’s did it even get a name: PTSD.
If I were to meet a young me, I would say: get to know yourself. There is such power in self-knowledge. We live in a time where we enjoy the ability to be who we are, man, woman, or not strictly; a sexual spectrum in lovely rainbow hue, to make the human experience more. More beautiful and more interesting. It’s one of the reasons my work is colourful. Not just the eyes or colour of one skin but in every possible ray. Just like trees, every shape, colour possible. The colour green alone has endless possibilities. So, my work is a reflection of how it should be; my ideal world.