Imagine: you’re an attorney in New York, dealing with brutal cases and people — some of whom are your colleagues.
One day, out of the blue, you discover a love for painting. At first, it’s only stress-relief. Then onlookers start reacting. It seems you may have some talent.
A wife and mother of two young children, JJ did her best to ‘leave the work at work’. But two years ago, she felt her frustration growing.
“Being a Black woman in the legal profession in New York City can be brutal. I have been bullied countless times by my White adversaries.”
Worse, she came to realize: “There is nothing fair about the justice system in America”. That was a heart-breaker; JJ had attended law school because she thought she could make “real change”.
Then she started to read news stories about another woman of colour being bullied — very publicly — in newspapers and online. JJ felt immediate empathy for her.
“Seeing a hardworking, passionate, intelligent, go-getter woman of colour being demonized, dehumanized on a daily basis by a segment of the media not because of anything she has done, but because of her Blackness” triggered both a realization and an awakening.
“The world will not change much as long as there are closed-minded people who would rather dwell on negativity than shedding light on the good in this world. It won’t change as long as people with public platforms continue to use their platforms to spread lies and half-truths. Some people have been suppressing their hate, waiting for the right moment to strike.”
During this time of growing frustration, JJ attended a friend’s bridal shower and was invited to take an art class there with other women.
Before it was over, she was hooked.
“Until that class, I never painted a day in my life.
“I got married immediately after law school, had my first baby within that year. I never even thought about taking a painting class until my friend’s bridal shower. I was suddenly hit with a realization that I probably missed my calling.”
She started to post her early paintings on social media.
Encouragement turned into admiration. Admiration turned into purchases.
Stephanie, a Canadian buyer of one of JJ’s paintings says:
“I feel blessed to have watched and encouraged her growth as an artist. What inspires me is her expression of life with passion, strength and such beauty it literally hits me in the belly when I look at them. Whether it’s on social media or at my home where I have two gorgeous paintings, I smile with great pride for a sister of the soul.”
JJ says painting allows her freedom.
“I can be brutally honest, and a lot of people don’t like honesty. Painting allows me to use my creativity as well as my honesty. Through my painting, I express myself freely without the constraint society places on women, especially a Black woman like myself.”
JJ’s paintings arouse different emotions in the people who have purchased them or encouraged her to turn her hobby into her dream.
Ava, who lives in Texas, says JJ’s paintings give her “instant peace and joy”.
“I like her paintings because they make me feel serenity and they have an effortless effulgence to them. I think her work is professional and more than just a hobby. She has talent, the kind you are born with and the kind you have to work hard to achieve.”
JJ paints almost every day, and has recently launched her website myhobbyturns2dream.com .
POSTSCRIPT: JJ didn’t want to identify the woman who helped inspire her art “because so many use her name for the wrong reasons.”
She then revealed: “I confess that without the hateful media campaign against Duchess (of Sussex) Meghan, I am not sure I would have looked for a hobby to channel my anger and frustration against racism.”
Quoting Michael Jackson’s lyric “Man in the Mirror”, JJ says that, with her paintings, “I’m starting with the woman in the mirror. I’m asking her to change her ways. And no message could have been clearer.”
But her greatest realization was inspired by the duchess herself, who has persevered and succeeded, in spite of the hate against her.
“It made me realize I should not settle for anything less than greatness.”
*The paintings above may not be replicated. Property of the artist.*
51 thoughts on “When Anger Leads to Art”
Oh, Cynthia, thank you for sharing JJ’s story and her paintings. I am feeling worn down by the racism and hatred in the world, and it’s not even directed at me. I’m going to reread this a few more times, look at each painting a few more times, and try to gain perspective and a personal action plan from what I learn.
Oh, my dear Jane. Would you believe: I’ve been feeling worn down for the same reasons too. I have been sitting on this story for several weeks, and finally decided to complete it and post, because the time felt so right. Thanks for your keen reply, Jane.
Reblogged this on Robby Robin's Journey and commented:
For those of you who, like me, are heartsick at the racism, inequality, hatred, greed, and hypocrisy prevalent in the world, I highly recommend this blog post by Cynthia Reyes, telling about a woman who channeled her anger into art (in her case painting) and found her voice and some peace of mind. She not only found release from her anger, she also found she had talent. My art work won’t do the trick. Maybe I’ll try activist art through quilting.
Thank you, Jane!
Kudos to JJ for channeling her passion and anger into creativity and beautiful paintings. I can’t claim to understand the challenges of being a person of color. And still, I’m tired of hate, racism, and the business of war and chaos that pervades our world.
It is so exhausting, Brad. I see my younger self in JJ’s comments, and I remember that those were the times I wrote the most. Many of those ‘etchings’ became my first book, and even the upcoming gardening memoir. Thank God I had that outlet.
I’m grateful you had that outlet too and created such beautiful books. Maybe challenges really do make us better, but they’re sure not fun during them. 🙂
This story is beautiful. Finding a new passion is always inspiring.
Well said and so true. Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment.
Why do we have to make life so hard for people because of the colour of their skins? It is so cruel and senseless. I am so glad that JJ found an outlet and that Meghan gave her the impetus to look for it. The paintings are fascinating and full of atmosphere. I am reading Becoming (Michelle Obama) at the moment and learning, on every page, a little more about the experiences of a black woman working in a predominantly white environment. I am also learning a whole lot of other wonderful stuff about family life and hard work. It should be compulsory reading for teenagers in every classroom in the world. I know the haters seem to be the bigger number in the world today, but I think they shout louder and I am convinced that the vast majority of people are decent and trying to make a peaceful, friendly, inclusive world.
Your reply made me shiver, Hilary. Such keen insight in every sentence. I especially like your last sentence. Thank you.
These are lovely paintings. JJ has a real gift and her story is inspiring.
How lovely to receive your comment. Thank you!
An inspiring story – so glad you shared it!
Thanks, Jo Nell. I’m glad I did too.
I am going to have to look at these paintings more than once. Some of them really speak to me, and there is something in each one that catches my eye. I don’t understand the racism and the loudness of it. It’s good JJ can channel the anger. I worked in a law firm once and left really angry and it wasn’t from racism, which would have made the whole sick hierarchical cocktail even more offensive. Thanks for bringing this example forward. Only people bringing it up will help get rid of it.
You may well be right, Lisa. If we keep bringing it forward, maybe caring people will know it’s real, and maybe we will go some way towards eradicating it.
My personal thoughts on this are that when someone (let’s be specific–a white person) tells you they aren’t racist, they are simply not aware of all their reactions. It’s in hearing these stories that we can then relate our own thoughts in moments (quick, easily missed moments) in real life back to the story and thus change the trajectory of another story. So, yes, bringing the stories out brings awareness and awareness can bring change.
Wonderful, I hope JJ pursues her art.
Me too, Amy!
I love this post, Cynthia! Heartfelt and honest. So many of us white people are also sick to death of this kind of racism and bullying of anyone. I am so disappointed in so many that would do the things they do. Most days, my heart is heavy from hearing about one more injustice due to bigotry and ignorance. It shames me that a human can treat another human so poorly. Unfortunately, it starts from the top down here in the US. I’m glad JJ found such a beautiful outlet for her pain and frustration. Synchronistic, I think.
I hear you, Marlene. It does make any caring person sick. I’m glad JJ has found this outlet too.
An inspirational story
Thank you, Derrick. My best to you and the head gardener.
Thanks very much from us both, Cynthia
Stunning art and isn’t it often that we miss our original calling and that it is only revealed by accident … and thereby allowing our creativity to flourish!
Wow! Lovely paintings! I keep scrolling up and down on this post to take in each painting. JJ has such talent and I hope she continues to share her gift.
An uplifting story. But what the heck! We can be better. Why aren’t we?
All I have are hints and guesses – and TS Elliott might have said that first. Then again, he stole from Dame Julian of Norwich, so this is probably retribution.
I grew up British and I know the nasty class system meant everybody needed to feel they could look down on someone else. When some disadvantaged Brits went to America and Canada, they carried the same prejudices, although they were often fleeing it themselves. But there’s more to it than that, I know.
Yes. As a Franco-Amercian, I, too, know a lot about the nasty class system. Time to move on from that way of thinking! Past time.
A beautiful story.
Yes, the arts elevate, rejuvenate, resonate, re-create and sustains.
Thank you for sharing this.
Lovely post. I’m glad to hear that Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex is such an inspiration and role model
She is to many women around the world. That’s why they are furious at how the UK press has mistreated her.
Wonderful post! Wonderful story about JJ, her creativity, and her inspiration. Thanks for sharing it AND her lovely art work.
I find JJ’s painting serene as well!
This was a great, inspirationoal post, Cynthia. And a great testimonial for J.J. It proves that despite all the close minded people out there, there are still others with open hearts.
Well expressed, Jina. Thanks for commenting.
Those are really nice paintings, Cynthia! I cannot fathom how it must feel to be discriminated against in such a brutal way and because of what? Skin colour? Seriously, I don’t get it. Some of the most beautiful people (inside and out) I’ve met have a skin colour different to mine. What, are we still in the stone-age or something?!
I’d have to say the same, Kevin. It’s crazy to judge people only on skin colour and what opportunities we miss when we do.
A beautiful share Cynthia. We all need our outlets to let out the outrage whether through beautiful art like you shared here, or through words. Bang on words – racism lied dormant, it never went away, only waited for someone vile to come and unleash it. 😦
It’s a great comfort that great art, poetry, music and writing can come even out of difficult situations. Perhaps this is what lies behind many of the greatest creative people. By the way, we who live in Sussex UK are especially delighted to have Meghan as our very own Duchess!
I’m so glad to hear that, Richard. Thanks for your kind response, and for the lovely writing on your blog. I always feel better for having read one of your stories.
These are great. I almost despair with the world sometimes, we seem to be going backwards, there we were a in the 1950s looking to science, to the stars, now scientific discovery is held back by money – or lack of it – everywhere we look and instead of living on the moon already, we are trying to convince idiots that the world is round. It’s like we’re going backwards. I still can’t believe how much shit the Duchess of Sussex has had. I notice they kept her out of Trump’s way for the State visit. It drives me chuffing buggy.
There is nothing better than taking the feelings inside us which long for expression, and turning them into something creative and meaningful, and which transcend all the external judgment and bias people send our way. Brava, JJ!
That was so inspiring! Thank you for sharing JJs story and artwork
JJ has found a way to channel anger at injustice into beautiful artwork that speaks of unbridled love of life. Thank you for sharing her story, and her work, Cynthia. She is an inspiration to all of us!
I hope she reads this, Lavinia. Coming from an artist such as you, I bet it would be greatly appreciated by JJ.
Wow Cynthia, this is simply impressive and elegance, inspiring and amazing collection…
Thanks, Mihran. She is very early in her career, but showing talent. I am expecting great things from her as she grows in her art. the fact that people are buying it now says others are seeing talent there too.
I love the ideas through art, togetherness art to the farthest
Such lovely way of channeling frustrations and passion 😍😍😍