Vai Trask was amazed that she lived through it.
Trask had earned an undergraduate degree in cultural anthropology and political science from the University of Arizona before heading to Los Angeles to pursue her dream. She wanted to write about music and own a record label.
“I was into a lot of hip hop, a lot of prog-rock, very unorthodox, fringe underground experimental, electronic Lo-Fi types,” Trask said.
Trask finds beauty in the darkest of places, inspiration among the broken, the wrecked and the wasted. Along the way, she met the wrong romantic partner.
“I found myself, you know, in a very violent domestic partnership,” Trask said.
Five years ago, her abuser pushed her out of a five-story window, putting her in a coma. It was a surprise she survived. The same could not be said for her unborn baby. Trask lost her pregnancy in the assault.
She continues to undergo reconstructive surgeries here in Tucson, where she moved to recover with the help of her mother.
Trask is giving the world a glimpse into her experience as a domestic violence survivor through her art exhibition (UN)DEAD, a five-year retrospective of the murdered woman, which will be on display at &gallery, 419 N. Fourth Ave, from Jan. 8 to Jan. 24. The exhibit opens with a reception from 6 to 10 p.m. on this Saturday, Jan. 8.
“It is an experience, it is intense because it is honest,” she said. “Beauty out of chaos.”
Trask found herself drawn to painting and mixed media, taking inspiration from Frida Kahlo, the Mexican painter known for her autobiographical work that incorporates surrealist elements. Many of Kahlo’s paintings explore her own experience of chronic pain caused by a bus accident when she was 18.
“I really do feel as if I had an opportunity to step into one of Frida’s shoes during her recovery using painting as a tool for evolution, for healing, for a reckoning, for self conservation, preservation,” Trask said. “And as my art progressed, so did my healing.”
Trask’s recovery is evident in the show. The 30 paintings on display show how her technique and subject matter progresses with each piece. In earlier works, her color choices are very dark with abstract subject matter. But as she recovers, color returns to her work.
“Color was the most ambitious because color represented my outlook on life,” Trask said.
Trask jokes that the opening reception is her fifth birthday party; the fall from five stories killed her old self, but she has been reborn in a new life filled with exciting opportunities.
“I’ve been so blessed meeting people,” Trask says, “and what I say to myself now is like, ‘You’re fucking dope.’ I am good enough.”
The reception will include a live musical performance by Tommy Will, scheduled to start around 9 p.m.
“He’s bringing in the music and that’s initially why I got into all of this,” Trask says. “I moved to Los Angeles, I could write about music, I could tell you about it, I could tell you what I think of it, but I didn’t make it so to be able to have him as an agent for this other dimension of my artwork is more than a blessing.”
Cynthia Naugle, who will take ownership of the gallery in late January, said in a culture that obsesses over true crime, there isn’t enough light shed on survivors or victims. On a recent afternoon at the gallery, she told Trask that her story was “very important.”
“I think it’s important to acknowledge honesty in the art world,” Naugle said. “Your art is beautiful but it’s not safe.”
In fact, Naugle said she would be putting a trigger warning on the show due to its subject matter, drawing an excited “Yes!” from Trask. Naugle responded with cheerful laughter.
Although she doesn’t view herself as a role model, Trask hopes telling her story will give others the tools she never had. She wants anyone who may be in a similar situation to know there is always someone there for you.
“We need you and I know you feel like you got nothing, but trust, you got an army,” Trask said.
&gallery is located at 419 N. Fourth Ave. Visit andgallery.art for more information.