A cozy, lived-in arm chair with the painting “Survivor” by contemporary art activist Layla Messner.. A whimsical and abstract expressionist painting in shades of pink with playful teal handprints.
A bright teal bathroom with the painting “Survivor” by contemporary art activist Layla Messner on the wall. A whimsical and abstract expressionist painting in shades of pink with playful teal handprints.
“Survivor” by contemporary art activist Layla Messner, displayed over the bed in a modern apartnment with lots of windows. A whimsical and abstract expressionist painting in shades of pink with playful teal handprints.
“Survivor” by contemporary art activist Layla Messner, displayed above a comfy sofa. A whimsical and abstract expressionist painting in shades of pink with playful teal handprints.
“Survivor” by contemporary art activist Layla Messner, displayed in a living room. A whimsical and abstract expressionist painting in shades of pink with playful teal handprints.
“Survivor” by contemporary art activist Layla Messner, displayed above a side table. A whimsical and abstract expressionist painting in shades of pink with playful teal handprints.
“Survivor” by contemporary art activist Layla Messner, displayed above a staircase. A whimsical and abstract expressionist painting in shades of pink with playful teal handprints.
“Survivor” by contemporary art activist Layla Messner, a whimsical and abstract expressionist painting in shades of pink with playful teal handprints.

Survivor

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This is a painting of the trauma healing process. 

When I think of the word, "Survivor", it sounds scrappy, like a warrior. But in my experience, being a survivor of trauma is a lot more about playfulness than fighting. 

Early in the painting process of this piece, I encountered some frustration thinking the painting wasn’t the way I wanted it to be. I was tempted to paint over the whole thing and start again - but then I realized the paint already on the canvas was part of the process. Healing from trauma and abuse involves a very similar realization: it’s common to feel broken and like something is wrong with us. It can be tempting to try to restore ourselves to an imagined blank state, untouched by our histories. 

Our histories are part of our stories, though.

Healing isn't about fixing ourselves or restoring ourselves to a blank slate of perfection: it's seeing the truth that we are already whole and beautiful, no matter what we've endured. 

By focusing on the details of the painting I liked, and by leaning into play, I completed this whimsical piece, and in it I see reflected three healing facts:

Nobody is a mistake.

Our scars are just part of the story.

Playfulness is triumph over trauma.