Memories and Demons
essay by Zoe Crook
“You’re either a victim or a victor.”
Kathy Curtis Cahill stood before me, a mere five feet tall with jet-black hair, draped in layers of beads, her demeanor strong and convincing yet completely candid with nothing to hide like bulletproof glass.
Kathy was a victor. It was how she survived. Two years ago, well into her adult life, she bravely revisited her shadowy past comprised of distant memories of domestic violence, loss, and neglect in hopes of bringing awareness to the common abuse that leaves young innocents scared and alone, depleted of love.
It began with her inherent connection to abandoned vintage dolls she found left behind in second hand stores, she tells me. Child abusers will not leave you unscathed but instead chipped away, just like the aged, fractured patina of the dolls.
Their faces shaped sourly with grotesque expressions of fear, loneliness and emotional trauma undoubtedly expose our buried memories where wounds from past infractions remain unhealed. Inside of us, there is a damaged child and childhood trauma lives with us for the rest of our lives, shaping our adult selves.
“If there is something wrong with your reflection, you don’t fix the mirror, you fix yourself,” Kathy tells me. “Your children are your reflection.”
Kathy spent over 30 years working in film and television as a Set Decorator earning an Emmy Nomination in 2001. She retired in 2011 to pursue photography fulltime and has since earned a name for herself in the art world, possibly due to her raw, honest depiction of our inherent desire for love and connection, and the result when unrequited. Reflecting our deepest fears and most private wishes, Kathy’s artistry echoes that of renowned photographer Diane Arbus, famous for her eerie portraits of New York outcasts.
The Memories and Demons series is not a sequence of photographic images, but rather a narrative of the incomprehensible demons we faced as children and carry with us as adults. How terrifying our memories remain. Each doll was manipulated, burned with matches, given mismatched arms, legs or heads then shot over one hundred times to accurately narrate the irreparable mutilation to ones heart caused by misdirected hate.
Zoe Crook is a writer for the Huffington Post
From Kathy’s new “Play” series.
“Imitating parents is a natural role playing game that teaches children how to be caring people. They imitate what they see, good and bad. It’s important to remember they are imitating YOU.”
“All young children dress up trying on different personas, play house, imitate Mon and Dad, as well as other role models they find empowering. My own experience growing up with brothers whom I emulated prepared me for my son dressing as Superman and Supergirl. This new guy is trying out the role of being a mom. And who doesn’t like to feel pretty?”