From Diane Arbus to Sylvia Plath, the tragic endings of women artists receive endless publicity. Media has romanticized and glamorized the image of the troubled female artist ad nauseam – especially recently. While some creative women do hear the siren’s call of self-destruction, certainly not every woman yields to it. What about the women who persevere? The artists who live through mental illness? Where is their spotlight?
Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction aims to remedy this. With over twenty essays, the collection shares personal testaments from women who choose to wake up every day – even when it’s a struggle. The authors (including Amanda Palmer, bell hooks, Margaret Cho, and Nan Goldin) describe dealing with addiction, cutting, eating disorders, cancer, rape, homophobia, abuse and depression, and how they learned to channel their pain into art.
In addition to covering a variety of coping methods, the essays span a rich range of perspectives. Contributors from many creative fields offer their guidance: artists, writers, dancers, photographers, burlesque performers, cartoonists, poets and playwrights. Their invaluable advice weaves through several mediums – some draw, some write, some photograph – as they help readers find their own tools for staying alive.
The diversity presented in Live Through This is comforting, necessary and one of the many reasons why the collection rules. Brown alumnus, Kate Bornstein, describes her experiences as a trans* woman in “Art as Prayer.” Women of different races, economic backgrounds, and sexual orientations all tell their stories of conquering self-destruction. In doing so, they promise that you can too.
By: Bridget Elizabeth Sweet, Contributor