We caught up with the brilliant and insightful CM Addams a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
CM, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. What’s been the most meaningful project you’ve worked on?
Almost all of my projects are meaningful in one shape or form. If there’s little to no context behind it, I find the piece dull and lifeless. Emotion is a very important key element to my pieces because so much can be said about it.
One piece that comes to mind, in particular, is an old piece from my private collection titled, “My Bitterness”. I painted this piece in 2013 after I got out of the hospital for a reason I’d rather not discuss at this time. During this time I was broken. Hollow. Felt raw after being poked and prodded, both physically and emotionally. So I did the only thing I knew how at the time; I picked up a paintbrush and lost myself in a canvas.
It depicted an aspect of myself, in the form of a broken-hearted woman. Most of her body was camouflaged into her surroundings, used to feeling invisible and overlooked. In all of the murky gloomy colors I added, the only vibrance that stood out was her crimson red heart displayed on her chest. The red literally bled out, depicting agony and pain that she could no longer hold back. Looking down in defeat, she had her arms spread open, fists clenched, showing how vulnerable and hesitant she is putting her raw emotions out on display for anyone to see.
This piece holds such a special place in my heart, as it was a therapy piece that I started and finished in one sitting. It was a release of pent-up feelings I couldn’t bottle up anymore. It screamed out, “This is me! This is who I am! I am not okay! And it is okay to not be okay right now!!” It spoke what needed to be said all along.
By acknowledging that pain and bringing it to light, I was able to release it, and start the healing process. And with that, I slowly began to find purpose in living again. That in this lifetime, I was meant to have a paintbrush in my hand.
CM, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
I’ve been doing art for as long as I can remember. Art has always come naturally to me, and I always thrived during school projects that required a creative hand. So, it made sense to pursue it as a career choice. I began to take my artistic journey more seriously in my teen years, frequently posting in online art communities. That’s truly where I felt more at home. being around fellow creatives, and expressing myself in my most authentic form.
During this time, I discovered Guro “Grotesque” Art, a Japanese artistic genre that began in 1929 during the Great Depression. I resonated quickly with it, finding it a moving way to express pent-up emotions like pain, grief, helplessness, fear, and shame.
I later attended and graduated from University with a bachelor’s in Visual Arts and; Minoring in Graphic Design and Creative Writing. There, I was educated on 19th-century Symbolism Art and the 20th Surrealist Movement. I adored the concept of using symbols, dream-like consciousness, and metaphorical images to predict deeper meaning. Isn’t that what art is supposed to be about after all? Thinking outside the box?
With these themes combined, with some absurdities, bright saturated colors, and viola! That is what we call my work! Where I take the gritty concepts of the human struggle and twist them into a story through grotesque symbols. To find the beauty behind that darkness. Pleasure behind the pain. Relief from fear. To unleash that pent-up darkness is how we finally come to understand it. Because horror and the unknown are very common themes of life and how we improve our reality.
I’m aware this can seem to be an overwhelming topic. One that not everyone can confront. By including prismatic colors, I attempt to give it an almost childlike familiarity with it. This stems from my own inner child, being born in the 90s when everything was glitter, bright, neon, and that perfect balance between the natural and digital world. To take an approach of dark humor where we “toss glitter on a flaw”, even the most macabre ones. Maybe that’s why I’ve been so lucky that the art world has been so accepting of my work. I even had a friend and fellow art student who loved my work, despite being squeamish. “I don’t know, it feels different when you draw horror. Like…you make it ‘pretty’ somehow….”
Pretty horror? I guess that’s what you’d call it? Haha!
We often hear about learning lessons – but just as important is unlearning lessons. Have you ever had to unlearn a lesson?
The biggest battle I have had to fight in my life is imposter syndrome and anxiety.
Once I hit 16, I knew that I wanted to go around and share my work with the world. Due to a lot of trauma, I was very introverted with social anxiety. I WANTED to be out there, but I didn’t know the right steps. And to be honest, I was too afraid to ask for help. It didn’t help that I was living in an environment where creativity was not appreciated, and you were sneered at if your goal was creative-oriented.
But that’s the beauty of owning your own life. You don’t need permission to do what you love. A quote that stuck with me for YEARS from A Series of Unfortunate Events; “If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives.”
So I literally dived in blind. My first gig was an exhibit in Atlanta for retro games. I immediately felt at home and walked out with new friends. My second gig was vendoring at a bar. I had no setup like everyone else. I threw my shawl on a bar table, put down some printed copies of my work I had printed overnight, and some wonky business cards I cut out myself. Despite me screaming “amateur hour”, I made more that night on prints alone than I did at my day job the next day.
I knew right away that this is what I was meant to do. I just had to convince myself that I was worthy of chasing my goals. Sometimes the only one holding you back is yourself. So over time, I kept growing. I learned from past mistakes, made friends in the community that gave me advice on how to sell myself better, and eventually learned how to open up and allow myself to be seen. It feels so liberating!
: Is there a particular goal or mission driving your creative journey?
My biggest mission with my work is to show that it’s okay to not be okay. Each of my pieces tells a story and my main goal is for any of them to resonate with someone. No matter who. I’ve had gigs where I walked away with an empty pocket, but a full heart, because someone told me they felt inspired or moved by a piece of mine. That’s the reward to me, is having my work understood.
My biggest overall physical goal is to one day publish a graphic novel. I love storytelling alongside my art, so it just makes sense to take the sequential art approach. Two of my favorite things in one! I have a few stories on the back burner already in production! I just had to give myself my own advice again; You’ll be waiting forever on getting that story out there if you don’t actually get it out there!! I’m really excited about this next step in my artistic journey. If for nothing else, but for me to hold a physical copy in my hands and say, “Hey I made this!” To show that 16-year-old me that her dreams were worth it the whole time!
I’ve also been tapping into storyboarding for animation, but I feel like that’s the next giant step after at least 1 graphic novel is done! An artist’s work is never finished! Haha!