Photos by Casey Joiner.
HEAVY METAL ; heartburn

HEAVY METAL is a series of 7 paintings that mirror what is left after peeling back the layers of healing physical and emotional trauma. Like an onion, the closer to the core one gets, the more raw and pungent pain feels. With that comes uncontrollable tears and unavoidable discomfort. I spent 7 years trying to manipulate my healing by pulling off the first few layers of a whole batch of onions but pausing when tears welled up.

It was 7:57 AM on April 24, 2015; I saw a flash of the heavy metal bumper of an 18-wheeler headed straight at my driver’s side window. It looked like death, enormous, terrifying, yet somehow still glistening in the morning sun. Sometimes I feel like I died that day, or the me who survived isn’t the me who got T-boned on the way to work. I chose to swerve. Whip lashed. It was loud. I felt the weight, I still feel that weight. That weight feels even more ominous when I consider what would’ve happened had I not swerved, even more so when I wished I hadn’t. I chose life that day, unaware that it wouldn’t be easy.

In Parable of the Sower
, Octavia Butler says, “All that you touch, you change. All that you change, changes you. The only lasting truth is change. God is Change.” If the only truth is change, to survive, one has to adapt with change. On April 24, 2022, a heaviness came over me when I acknowledged that I had spent 7 years adapting with change. And adapting to what hasn’t changed because of that day.

Having a metal plate in my cervical spine makes me feel heavy. Not heavy in the sense of weight, but heavy in the sense of not feeling light and free. Heavy in the sense that this metal plate holds my neck upright. Heavy in the sense that this metal plate reflects being unable to heal myself fully on my own. Heavy in the sense that even though it supports my head, I am still in pain. Heavy in the sense that it took having my throat slit open to utter the words “I’m gay.” Heavy in the sense that I had no control over the accident. Heavy in the sense that I am forever adapting to this change. Heavy in the sense that this is a lot to carry.

My body gives, I take. My wise mind knows I owe her, but my wrong mind wants to punish her for it not being easy. 7 years of taking extra care of myself. 7 years of pain, at a level 7 out of 10, 10beingtheworstpainyoueverfelt. I am exhausted. I am angry. I am grappling with the chilling truth that this is my life. I have spent the most recent of those years trying to figure out how to feed a body that is starving for so much more than food, face to face with a choice again. Unaware again, that it will not be easy. In these works, I am (finally) peeling to the core; to the poignant moments that changed my life, chopping them up, allowing myself to become consumed by their harsh aroma before throwing them into a hot pot of oil.

Ann Haley



heartburn utilizes nudity to showcase the vulnerability that myself and my subjects often don’t share with the world. Opening up about deeply personal emotional trauma and approaching emotional healing is a complicated experience that we often don't have the necessary tools to navigate.This body of work is a means to capture myself in a delicate light, exposing my insecurities and embracing the parts of myself I’m often afraid to share in fear of rejection.

Working with nude models is a raw experience where the model exposes intimate pieces of themselves. This series started with the self-portrait titled The Fool, a piece that is empowering for myself and my body. Using old paint collected from my palate to create a flower-like crown, surrounded by tarot cards placed strategically, my gaze falls upon the ones most ripe with personal meaning. Each painting boasts a color and textural element that resonates with my subjects and their essence: they’re gay, femme, or both. As a queer woman who has only embraced coming out in the past few years, I feel connected to models who share a common ground in that self-exploration. This collaborative installation shows the repressed darker side of myself. It is the depression that I live with, depicted on the walls, on paper, on canvas and put into physical form.

Chloe Harrison-Ach
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HEAVY METAL; heartburn explores the common ground in collective pain, queerness, physical and emotional trauma, and the self-doubt we share, yet experience alone.


© 2013-2022 Ann Haley.
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