“When I paint, I listen to worship music, and I let God lead,” says Mandy.
Just six weeks into the program, Mandy W. has taken quickly to the Friday afternoon Art Therapy class offered at Saint John’s, despite nary having lifted a paint brush. While it was a requirement for her first 30 days, Mandy found the class to be so therapeutic, she has stayed, and flourished. Her painting, “My Burden, My Life,” has been selected, along with four others from Saint John’s clients, to be shown in the Aspiring Artist Debut, an annual art show sponsored by Northern California Arts and exhibited at the Sacramento Fine Art Center, 5330 Gibbons Drive in Carmichael, from January 29th through February 17th. On Saturday, February 9th, the artists will be on hand at the Second Saturday Reception, also at the Fine Art Center, from 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
The oldest of four children, Mandy has been a victim of domestic violence her entire life. At the age of 13, her mother broke two of her fingers, and at 14, her nose, and often left her younger siblings in Mandy’s care for days. Mandy was molested and raped by her great uncle, then went on to marry an abusive husband, who raped her twice, laughingly mocking his wife when she called him on it, proclaiming that it wasn’t rape because they were married.
“He abused me in every way possible,” reflects Mandy. “Sexually, physically, mentally and spiritually. I didn’t have the courage to leave until he turned on our youngest son, Caleb, who has special needs. He tried to break his neck.”
Since 2008, Mandy has filed nine protective orders against her husband, yet had bounced in and out of the relationship until finally leaving in 2016. In the fall of 2018, Mandy left the abuse behind, moving with her two teenage sons, Robert and Caleb, from Maryland to Sacramento to join her new beau, who decided one week after Mandy’s arrival that this wasn’t for him, and gave Mandy less than a week to move out. After a two-month stint living in a friend’s converted shed, she had to vacate when they began a remodel, so she and her two sons lived in her car in the Walmart parking lot for a month until finally arriving at Saint John’s red doors on December 11, 2018.
“I’ve learned that my addictions are food, work and relationships,” observes Mandy. “When I want to escape my unhealthy relationships, I binge-eat, and I’m a workaholic. I realize now more than ever how much I need this program – I’m so glad to have found Saint John’s.”
When Mandy showed her final piece, three crosses on a grassy knoll, to Art Therapy Program Instructor Dr. Mark, he asked where she was in the painting. “I don’t see you,” he said. After much contemplation, Mandy painted a rose on the middle cross. “I’m starting to feel like a woman,” she explains. “I’ve always been something else: a mother, a daughter, a niece, a wife. Now I am Mandy, and I am a woman.”
“Perfect!” exclaimed Dr. Mark. Mandy has finally put herself into the picture.
The four other Saint John’s paintings on exhibit are “Trinity” by Vanessa B., “Don’t Judge a Book by Her Cover” by Reina M., “City Fire” by Ariel S. and “Under the Sun” by Ruby T.
By Sue Cawdrey
Grants & Communications Manager
Saint John’s Program for Real Change