My name is Valérie Gerard,
And art, in a large sense, saved my life.
After a ten year long break, I finally found my way back to my creative roots in 2016.
…without a doubt, the most turbulent year of my existence…
My life was twisted upside down and a terrible emotional tornado kept on gaining ground.
I felt powerless, and started thinking of ways to tame all these annoying thoughts that were flying around my head in circles.
That’s when I reached back to something that used to give me piece of mind when I was a kid; drawing!
I used to share that passion with my dad, Vincent Gerard.
But sadly, the turbulence that hit me in 2016 was also caused by his brave choice for euthanasia.
My dad fought an intens battle with the A.L.S. monster; that horrible paralysing disease that kills your neurons and muscles bit by bit…
Not only did it attack his health, it took away all of his passions;
photography, drawing, painting, travelling, etc.
Right before he passed, he gave me his painting amenities; easel, brushes, paint, canvasses, etc.
That’s when I decided to go forward with this form of expression; I adopted the artist name VALRI and started painting everything I felt,
good or bad, happy or sad… I just needed to get it out.
Losing my dad made me angry, bitter even. I couldn’t accept that there was nothing we could do,
I felt helpless and that feeling slowly pulled me down into a very dark ditch.
I didn’t understand at first, cause I was one of those loud and ignorant girls thinking:
« Depression will never happen to me, I love life way too much.. »
Obviously I take that back :-)
Depression found the little cracks in my confidence and started moving in slowly without being noticed.
It got me so confused, and out of balance…
I could feel something was going wrong but I COULD’NT and WOULD’NT admit it to the outside world…
that would just be weak.
The more I held back… the more it backfired on me. It got even darker,
I was anxious, couldn’t leave the house anymore, locked myself in… i felt sad and lonely, but my loneliness felt safe.
During that time, it was me and my pencils. So i drew a lot, painted a lot, wrote poems, made sculptures…
drew imaginary friends that kept me company, made sketches of the « depression monsters » in my head, etc.
With time, patience, and a lot of help and support from my wife, my therapists and my family, I slowly got out of my ditch, …
I’m still camping right next to it (figuratively), so that if I feel overwhelmed,
I can just jump crawl back into my safe zone…
but most of the days I enjoy being in the real world again, meeting new people, starting new adventures.
I decided to organise and exhibition in Antwerp, Belgium, with both my works and those of my dad.
The purpose of the exhibition is to break the social taboo about depression and other psychological problems
and help people see there is nothing to be ashamed of.
To do that, I decided to share my entire story, explain every sculpture and painting I made,
and try to inspire the visitors to reflect a bit around the subject, talk with one another, listen to each other, and try not to judge.
If anything, it’s obvious that when you are feeling bad… you are your own worst critic…
so please people, be gentle, with your friends and family, and with yourselves!
Looking back, I learned a lot from this journey, most importantly, I don’t need to be strong all the time and tell every one I’m doing okay.
I can have a bad day, and I can share that without being ashamed. T
hat’s what my work and life is all about now;
the pursuit of authenticity …