Every artist dips his brush in his own soul,
and paints his own naure into his pictures.
- Henry Ward Beecher
Shirley received a Master’s degree in Art Education from Columbia University's Teachers College in 1956 and later taught art at Rio Grande College in Ohio. She moved to Lexington, Kentucky, in 1974 and became a highly regarded and commercially successful artist. Before and during her therapy for DID, she would often find in her apartment pieces of art that she did not recognize as her own. Not knowing where they came from, she refused to sign them. Presumably they were created by one or more of her alternates. Viewed as a whole, the combined art of Shirley and her alternates reveal the path Shirley traveled through dissociative identity disorder. The art is startling in that certain themes and images repeat themselves across all of her personalities. Some are unexplainable. For example, the appearance of utility poles most easily seen in the several paintings of boats where many of the sailing masts look very much like utility poles. Also prominent in the art are trees reaching up as if she is grasping for help and houses without windows or doors, suggesting she felt she had no means of escaping her world of abuse.
Interpretation of Falkirk Forest
footbridge in georgia
Shirley wanted me to have one of her paintings. She gave me several choices and I picked Footbridge in Georgia because of its peaceful colors and tone. It brightens my day when I look at it and serves as a reminder of my friend and mentor who inspired me when I felt lost; who raised me up when I was down. Shirley made me realize that creativity lives inside each of us.
This is my favorite piece of Shirley's art. I feel it depicts Shirley's relationship with Dr. Wilbur and also the relationship that I had with her. For that reason, I chose it for the cover of my book.