A local art student is on a mission to find out who she is, separate from who she thought herself to be growing up in church. It’s a process about four years in the making, following several years of religious trauma. Now she’s using art as a guide toward her redefined self-identity, and as a way to heal.
“My parents didn’t grow up with a lot of money, so we didn’t go to art museums,” SAIC student Jackie Patino said. “But church became the art museum for me. The glass-stained colorful imagery there — that became the visual language. When I first started practicing drawing, I would do religious figures because I wanted to make my parents proud.”
But Patino said her relationship with religion dramatically changed during her teenage years.
“Catholicism in general is so prevalent in being Latino or Latina; it’s hard to separate the two,” Patino said.
“There was a period of time where my mom thought I was possessed by something,” Patino continued. “She thought our whole family was possessed or attacked by a demon of some sort. It was hard to watch my mom and family in general go through this stage of madness.”
That “madness” Patino describes would soon reach a breaking point.
“After a couple years of going through constantly being told, ‘There’s a demon in you,’ the catalyst was my mom had an exorcism done on me,” Patino said. “So I had to be cleansed, in her words. So much gaslighting and a lot of mental abuse. … After it, for her, it was healing. But for me it was the complete opposite.”
Patino would go on to use her art not only to process what had happened to her, but also to use it as a tool to heal and forgive.
“There's little symbols in my pieces,” Patino said. “… The lime is reoccurring because in the exorcism she had to rub me with lime and there were candles. I kind of used that as a symbol to represent both the exorcism cleansing but also the opposite of cleansing.”
In addition to self-portraits, portraying her pet chickens are another important theme in Patino’s work.
“Animals in general show an unconditional kind of love that I appreciate,” Patino said. “… They really help me connect with that history that I have in Mexico, and chickens have kind of been the one thing that’s helped me connect back to my identity.”
Patino said her journey is still very much a process; she now identifies as agnostic and queer.
“I feel sadness, but hopeful,” Patino said. “In the corner, I’m holding two mice, and I both feel sad but happy for them because that version is a baby version of me. I feel bad for it because I know what the past version will go through, but I also feel happy because I know where I am now.”
You can see Patino’s work at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 33 E. Washington St., through April 15.
Follow Angel Idowu on Twitter: @angelidowu3
Angel Idowu is the JCS Fund of the DuPage Foundation Arts Correspondent.