Artifacts of a Storm
Art installation by Kristin Smith, an interdisciplinary artist from Aurora, Colorado.
When a raindrop hits the earth, the measurement of its impact is minuscule; a moment of respite to a dry terrain. The single drop of rain is not an indication of an impending devastation – it is the hailstorm, a barrage of frozen pellets and intense rain hammering down amongst tempestuous winds that wreak havoc on a landscape. The single dose of a prescription opioid-based painkiller is akin to the raindrop; a moment of reprieve from post-surgical pain. The development of a life-threatening addiction is not anticipated upon the single dose – it is the continued use and resulting physical dependency that, like the hailstorm, changes the landscape of a life.
Artifacts of a Storm is a representation of a weather-beaten landscape. Each element connotes narratives of symptomatic abuse and neglect associated with those affected by addiction, i.e., addict, family, and friends. Seemingly banal objects cast aside and weathered become artifacts that exemplify a breaking-down of life, home, childhood, mental stability, and career. Five earthbound, hail-battered kites depict lives, once vibrant and precious, that have been lost to prescription painkillers; reduced to statistical data of 433 deaths in Colorado in 2013.1 Each kite represents an age group, with the length of its perimeter correlating with the number of lives lost. I could have been one of those statistics. That same year, while suffering from residual back pain following three spinal surgeries, I found myself in the throes of an addiction to which I was unaware. I had fallen into a debilitating depression during which I neglected self- care and family, lost my job, and spent much of the year in bed. By the end of November, I ingested approximately 2,880 doses of Vicodin before attempting to take my own life through an intentional overdose. Each one of those doses has been realized in slip-cast porcelain as a creative counterbalance to devastation; their pill-form denoting hail and its destructive nature. It is through the healing power of artmaking and collective efforts of my community that I am still here today. This dynamic pairing is what makes the collaboration with local addiction-recovery clients so crucial to this project. Their paintings, which flank the installation, depict individual representations of a stormy sky as it relates to their experiences. Artifacts of a Storm elevates collective narratives above disengaged statistics to provide a space for empathetic connection.