By Nikki Valenzuela
In an attempt to self-medicate, artist Krista Nogueras coils her hands around the muddied; through toying with dirt, she grounds herself. In the night’s black flood and quiet, a woman tries to make sense of things by kneading the knots in her stomach. Like throwing an excruciating blow of alcohol on a wound, personal demons begin to take flight through the aid of pressure.
She is “speculated” to have chronic anxiety, as suggested by their family doctor; what other word can steer safe someone short of being clinically diagnosed? Such conditions are tricky to set in stone unless officiated by a specialist. Mental health, is after all, a nebulously soft science; and its conditions, acutely subtle:
Shoving a little dust under the rug never hurt anyone; if we turned a blind eye towards smut, would it clean itself up eventually? Amongst the norm, it’s enough that facades cater spick and span towards how others perceive us. If they think and assume we’re sane, then maybe we are; we set ourselves aside and secondary over long periods of time until the filth accumulates. Then one day, we not so surprisingly wake up to a monstrous bleed infecting the airways, overwhelming the very atmosphere we breathe. Now the dust we once contained so comfortably inside seeps into exteriors. That same smoke begins to invade our surroundings, and we can no longer hide. What was once a dismissible, paltry dose of soot has slowly graduated into a beastly pollutant yelling in our faces, demanding whether we have what it takes to survive.
“Not today,” was once the artist’s automated response as her being repeatedly begged for some breathing space. Krista is after all, a single mother with a multitude of responsibilities that have never cared to ask whether her shoulders felt up to it. Urgent things needed to get done before accommodating tiredness. In a landscape of grit, others go as far as describing anxiety as a first world problem; who amongst the financially struggling has time to deal with such an elegant predicament? It wasn’t until an actual panic attack stemmed forth that placed the artist in a cusp between freezing and fighting: into paralysis or the compulsion to heal. Chronic anxiety menaced Krista’s body, hounding the artist to confront what had been long buried over the years: stressors that her doctor claims perennially rent space in her mind. Despite the stubborn will to execute life on a mechanic daily, Krista lay down her arms and conceded to self. At first, the artist repelled viewing herself integral, insisting on the stark separation between her mental state and bodily conditions. In an attempt to stay strong for too long, the sculptor admits to having shoved vulnerability out of the way, placing herself as the last of her priorities.
In her late twenties, Krista had serious plans: crucial work that required overrunning sleep in order to attain them. Never mind having the body suffer; don’t all big goals require aspirants to steel and self-sacrifice anyway?
The artist describes the intense pressure one feels upon nearing the end of such a pivotal decade: the unspoken societal badgering to have all things figured out by the time we hit thirty. Juggling betwixt freelance stints and setting groundwork to pursue a life abroad, Krista assumed all things functioned under control as her scheme trudged in motion. Traveling to a place where life would finally be deemed ‘fixed’ or grown-up was only in a moment’s reach. All would be well after a severe, but temporary sprint of reparation. It was only a matter of a minute’s toil before she could revel past the deadline—and so Krista believed; not until life thoughtlessly disturbed that definition. All plans fell shattered as seismic shifts took space in between; under the change of weather, the artist could no longer piece what was crumbling inside.
Sculpting clay didn’t present itself to Krista as this glamorous medium that would catapult her into the art world, but as a dark knight that would pull her through the day. As proficient as she has evolved with the medium, its substance was initially a softness calling the artist to unfold the bruteness of her grip to. For the very first time, healing was now in Krista’s hands; and to the lightness of touch, she surrendered. Such a medium has taught Krista to be kind to herself. During these intimate exchanges, she releases upon the clay a brew of fear and love, describing the opposing emotions to be correspondents of the same sword. While oxytocin is regarded as the love hormone, it doubles as a crisis chemical, prompting fear and anxiety during episodes of threat. Not only does it rear its cautionary trigger when we are frightened but brings us to relive dark memories from tragic or heart-breaking events. A substance roaming both shadow and blaze, it’s the same chemical that bathes us in overwhelming ecstasy when our minds are perfumed with romance. Responsible for concocting this deeply intense bond with another human being, it’s a tonic that can cradle us safe or consume our hearts foolishly drunk. Without an awareness of how we choose to ingest something conceivably beneficial, we fall exposed to chugging too much of a good thing, proving a fragile line between remedy and poison. Science proves that love and fear are two sides of the same entity, and it’s this fascination with paradox that draws Krista towards such convoluting dualities. How can something so grotesque be conversely beautiful and pleasing?
Have you ever stared off with a wild snake? Reliving serendipitous bits throughout her life, Krista vividly narrates a brush or three with such harrowing creatures. Pulsating with both dread and intrigue, the artist would find herself in a split-minute’s snag of paralysis before coping to flee from such jolting encounters. Serpents, she relates, evoke fear as they do enchantment; so much so that their enigmatic presence graces so much of history’s mythical stories and religious records. Snakes are creatures notoriously known for their cunning ability to sting and kill, but also revered for their potent healing properties—even hailed as allegories of transformation. Embodying rebirth, snakes illustrate the highly uncomfortable process of shedding one’s old skin in order to transcend evolved. The artist describes molting to be an intensely distressing phase for the creature, as it temporarily leaves the snake’s vision impaired, leaving the once powerful beast weak and susceptible to danger—an allusion Krista affixes to the disconcerting journey of bloom and growth.
Krista Nogueras’ “Lake Predicament” runs until February 9, 2019 at Art Informal Gallery, Makati