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  • Michael Billie

Mending and moving forward




Many Blessings To Help The Healing

12 floating panels that are 24 x 24. It's on display at the Algodones Gallery in Algodones, New Mexico.




I was working on a grant helping Native artists around the Four Corners area of New Mexico when I got a call from Rollie Grandbois. He was a stone sculptor living and working in Jemez, NM. He had heard about the grant that was helping Native artists with booth fees and building websites so I setup a time to drive down from Farmington and visit with him at his studio in Jemez. He ended up getting help with a new website and getting his booth fee funded for the summer Santa Fe Indian Market.

A year had passed after he had gotten help from the grant when he invited me to visit him at the Algodones Gallery. The gallery is off of I-25, Exit 248 North of Bernalillo, NM. I found out he was now living and running the gallery and he had moved his studio from Jemez to Algodones.

He invited me to be part of the gallery and wanted me to do a giant encaustic painting to be hung in the gallery. He was going to have a big panel built for it. The idea of making a painting the size that he wanted was quite large and I had never done anything of that size. I was concerned about getting the piece to the gallery so I asked him if it would fine if I did it in 24 x 24 inch grids. So the size of the piece was going to be four panels across and three panels down. I was honored to be gifted this opportunity and the challenge of making something that size. I started working on the design and general idea of what the piece was going to be and what it was going to be about after getting home. It ended up take a couple of month to get it finished and hung.





Childhood


The piece was about the journey I had been on since childhood. When I was a kid still living at home on the Navajo reservation the nightmare of being molested happened for several years. It got to the point where I was having nightmares almost every night with the fear of knowing what was coming after bedtime. I was too afraid to tell anyone and it drove me to the point of leaving home to live with a foster family in Utah just to get away from the abuse. I finished off my high school education off the reservation and went onto higher education in Albuquerque. I only came home once after that but it was for a short visit and I vowed never to spend the night at the childhood home for the rest of my life. When something that like happens to you at that young of an age you carry that scar with you for life. It has taken me years to realize that I didn’t invite it and it wasn’t my fault. Sometimes I feel like I’ve gotten over it but it always comes back to hunt me.

The piece that I made for the gallery was about trying to free myself from how much the abuse had traumatized me. The panels go from dark black to turquoise to signify going from a dark state of mind and finally into the light. The bundles are blessing of the countless kids who have experienced the same abuse. I kept breaking down into sobs as I was working on it. The positive thing is that it did help a lot with the healing. I’ll always be thankful to Rollie for giving me that opportunity mend some of the hurt.




Coming back from L.A.


Rollie was teaching a week-long workshop in L.A. and he wanted to stop by my place on his way to see how I was coming with the piece I was working on for the gallery. He said he would call me on Wednesday to let me know what time he’d be in town. I never heard from him so I called the gallery at the end of the week. The gallery owner told me that Rollie had passed on. He had left L.A. after he was done with his workshop and he wasn’t feeling well so he stopped and got a hotel room. The situation got worse and he had to be taken to the hospital where he didn’t survive the night.




Installing the piece


The gallery owner still wanted the piece since the panel where it was going to be hung was already made and waiting for the install. The piece still lives at the Algodones gallery.





Hearing from a relative


A month ago I heard from a relative that had also been molested by my older brother. We exchanged information on what she planned on doing and she was tired of keeping quite about it. It was hard to hear the abuse she had been through but I just listened and told her she had to do what was right for her. I still had reservations on when I was going to go public with my story. She went public with her story and deep down inside I felt like I needed to do something myself.




A dream to end it


A few nights ago I had a dream where I was home on the reservation and my brother came up behind me and tried to shove something up my ass. I was pissed but tried to keep calm. I walked into the kitchen and he followed me and we got into a big physical fight and I ended up slamming his head into the wall and cracking his skull open and killing him. There was no remorse but satisfaction for stopping him from ever touching another kid. I felt it was something that needed to be done to keep the innocent kids safe. I walked into the living room told my story to everyone about how he had abused me this was the only way I knew how to stop him because the family never really dealt with it. I knew I was going to prison for this but I didn’t care. I think the guilt of not going public like my relative with her accusations was giving me great guilt to move forward with my story.





Healing with art


Art has always been a big part of my healing over the years and it’ll always be a part of it. I find myself getting emotional on nights when I just finished a new piece or if I’m close to finishing one. I love the challenge of making it and I’m always pushing myself to experimenting. My best days of working are when I zone out and let it all flow. It feels like getting help from others beyond my own being that come in to push the work into a different and new direction. Days like that always gets me filled with chills, happiness and excitement.




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