Artist, Erika Funkhouser has become well-versed in the hardships of life, the pain they bring, and the way they can bloom into expression and empathy. Her art is the shadow of the scorching sun behind her, and that shadow is a cooling relief to the fertile ground ahead of her, encouraging the flowering of those she encounters. It is that very scorching sun that has instilled in her the realization that past pain can be metamorphosed into the care that others are in need of.
Erika found herself in want of a hobby during her sixth grade year of middle school, and began taking art classes as a result. It was at this point that she discovered in art something healing; it was something she grew attached to, something she loved. She continued in her art all through high school, and still continues.
Indeed, her experience of loving art was no coincidence, in that she found herself in need of healing after she was raped in the ninth grade. She clung to and found solace in her previous hobby, now lifestyle, of creating art. It allowed her to get away for a while and to liberate her lamentations. The rest of her high school experience proved to be ever painful and exceedingly difficult as she lost friends, but art was there to confide in and give her heartache to. Encouragement has also come her way in the form of her best friend Michael, who has, “always been so supportive of it and always wants me to make him something,” which reveals not only Erika’s support, but also her gift and ability to reach others through art.
Through the years, Erika has experimented with and embellished her life through the use of various forms of art. Art is often viewed as something that is created from the blank originality of one’s mind, and Erika has challenged that view. When asked what kind of art was typical of her, she responded, “I like to paint canvas, but using pastels and sketching is fun as well. But if I base a picture off what I want to paint or whatever, I change certain parts of it to make it mine,” illustrating her sentiment toward the art of others and what it means. In fact, her favorite masterpiece is one that she found online and personalized.
This bittersweet painting is the result of Erika’s experience throughout high school. It features a male and female watering the gardens of each other’s minds with the caption: “Help each other grow instead of destroying each other.”
That is a message much needed, and much empathized with in a world where people are weeded out, trampled upon, and left to wither in the heat of life often by those close to them.
Now, three years after her horrible experiences, Erika is still pursuing art though to a lesser degree. She explains, “lately art has been there to help with taking time for myself and anxiety release, so I guess it’ll be in the background but still a part of my life.” After graduating from high school in May, Erika has plans to attend school for nursing or to be a surgical tech. What she desires to share with others through her art and through her life is this message: “Keep progressing, accept yourself, and don’t worry about what others want from you.”