Today we’re joined by Phillipa Duke. Phillipa is an extraordinary artist with an incredible story. She’s also a first for this site: she’s an aspiring art therapist. She does a number of visual arts and is currently completing an art module where her final pieces are based on her asexuality. Her work is incredibly beautiful and brimming with vibrant colors. It’s clear that Phillipa is incredibly dedicated to and passionate about art. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
I am currently doing a degree in Art Therapies so a lot of my art is based in reflection and emotion. Art is a valuable outlet to express things that words cannot begin to convey and allow for all types of therapeutic gain. From the simplest doodle reminding you of a childish, care-free time to the deepest purges of the soul, art can do that for you. That is what I have used my art work for.
My most recent projects have been based on self, such as the concept of self, image of self and finding myself and who I really am.
What inspires you?
My past inspires me, because looking at where I have been only fuels me in imagining where I could go. I have the support of what little family I have left and all of their hopes for a life that they didn’t have a chance to get have all been put in to me. I will have a better life, I will be happy, I will take care of my mother and I will help others.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
My parents got divorced when I turned 18 and it was the nastiest split you can imagine. Years of neglect that went under the radar of even myself, (because I thought that was the way the world was) came to light and everything fell apart for me. I had to build myself as a person from the ground up as every single thing about me up until that moment was crafted by the lies and manipulations of others. During this time I could have taken a very negative turn, but I was on an Art Foundation course at my local college when this all took place. I didn’t do any work for 2/3rds of the year and my teacher took me aside and told me that I don’t need to sit and churn out pretty things like some of the others. She told me that I could express everything I am feeling in to my art, and with that kick up the bum I did just that and passed the course (which was a miracle with having done three times less that I was supposed to do to pass) because she saw my passion in my work.
This is what led me to realise the value of art and how it saved me. This is why I am on an art therapies course currently running sessions with young vulnerable children and strive to be an art therapist as a lifelong career.
Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?
Sorry, no I don’t. If I did it would probably be a sweet potato somewhere. Don’t ask, it’s a quirk.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
A lot of “adults” (I use the term loosely) will say “oh there is no career in it the starving artist oh no go in to law or banking or blahblahblah conformity blah” but you never know, your ideas could revolutionize the world. You could be the artist that cheers up someone’s day when they really needed it, you can engage with an audience in a unique way without them never having met you. You can have fun and you can take it as serious as Armageddon, it’s all about expression. You have a right to it, so just do it.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
I am a sex repulsed aromantic asexual with a tendency to squish. And no, not squish as in I fancy someone once in a blue moon, but squish as in “wow this person is great I really want to be around them and be friends“. The funny thing about my orientation is that I am possibly the filthiest minded asexual on the planet. Don’t ask me how it works, but it does.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
I am a student at university currently so I haven’t really got a “field”, but if we expand that question on to real life everyday encounters, I do get a lot of erasure and de-valuing comments, such as the typical rude questions like “do you masturbate?” and “have you seen a doctor?” along with assumptions I will find that magical unicorn of a man that would cure me.
If you considered my field to be as a university student then yes, I have faced the most horrific, damaging ace-phobia from my old flatmates.
At the end of the day as soon as you realize all that’s coming out of their mouths is just mouth farts with no more substance than the air we breathe, no matter how bad it stinks, the more mentally healthy you feel in terms of happiness in general and happiness with who you are.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
Right, so you know there is a lot of support in the asexual world and one of the proud arguments a lot of asexuals put up is “I was not abused” and “I am not broken” or something along those lines, for me the most common misconception in the asexual community is that if I have been abused, and if I have in fact spent a part of my life completely broken, does that invalidate me in others eyes? I don’t need the validation of anyone, but it’s a tad annoying to see my own people having assumptions too.
As mentioned above with those nasty psychopathic flatmates, one of the things that they subjected me to were not only acephobic comments and slurs, but a majority of things based at lesbians. They all assumed asexual meant lesbian which bugs me to high heaven at such an off-base assumption. I have a huge problem with asexual erasure so when someone looks at me blank faced when it pops up in conversation that I am asexual or just nods and assumes they get it… people need educating that I am not the loch ness monster and that asexuals aren’t mythical beasts that only appear under the blood moon. We exist everywhere, the biggest problem to me is that nobody seems to know that. My asexual friend has a theory that it’s all down to asexuals (some sub-categories within the asexual spectrum at least) can find it very easy to come across as heterosexual, so nobody notices and nobody asks.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
I have a phrase that I tell people when I am asked how I am so confident (not full of myself, just happy with who I am in my own skin and how it shows).
“You have to live your life for you.”
Now on the face of it that seems really selfish, like “oh but what about kids, what about family, what about a career in helping others oh you are so selfish” but if you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. You have one life. That life is yours. It’s not your parents, it’s not your best friends, it’s not your bullies, it’s not societies, and it’s yours. If you live your life trying to match up even in the slightest way to what others want for you and from you by going against what you feel, you are giving others power over your life. That life is yours, a lot of these people may not be around forever, especially the friends and bullies. Life goes on and things change, but you have to be your own anchor. You need to take courage and be what some would call “selfish” and live your life for you, even if that means breaking the strongest of ties to those you love to do it. Loneliness is not a curse, I can happily say that I am lonely, or more accurately alone, because I am content. I am in the best place I have ever been in my entire life and I am alone/lonely at the same time. It doesn’t have to be a curse. I am secure in who I am and yes you miss people and crave acceptance from others at first, but once you realize that all the approval and love that you need is within you, the easier it will be to live life the way that feels right.
Regardless of where I face hate, erasure or misunderstandings, the way I deal with it is simple. Their opinions aren’t valid. It’s like if you asked a baby to write a paper on time travel. They may go absolutely ham and chips on that paper with crayons colouring in the page however they want, but at the end of the day it’s all just nonsense and scribbles. (I love odd metaphors) Babies aren’t qualified to write papers on time travel, and neither are people that put down others because they consider asexuality to be a weak spot, or just too damn weird and unrelatable to even try to respect it. They are invalid, have absolutely no stock, and therefor do not have the right/power to upset you. You control who’s comments get to you and you get to draw the line between what is valid and what is nonsense scribbled in crayon by a baby about your life. It’s yours. You’ve got to live your life for you, in five years’ time it’s highly likely you will never see these people again so don’t give their words value. Strive to love yourself and be the best person you can be for you.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
I have a WordPress! I made it for potential employers or those interested in my work to look at so if you just go to the art and photography page you can see some more art.
Thank you, Phillipa, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.