Deanne always called me her "Wings" and is the reason I have them tattooed on my back. I just wish I could have there for her this last time when she really needed me most. I could sense the call was going to come, but it never did, and part of me knew why. I've always felt that I failed her by not being there that last time, though I wanted to be and would have been. I think one of the reasons I work so hard is because of Deanne. I always tried so hard to impress her and make her proud. The last time I saw her, she told me she was. I will forever do whatever I can to keep her spirit alive through my creations. She is now my "Wings" and my angel. I love you Deanne.
Deanne inspired a number of my my best and most personal paintings. I keep reminders of her in my studio, including the last postcard from a tribute exhibition I did for her in 2010 that portrays the very first painting she ever inspired, "Midnight Dancer (Take Me Away)." I also have her handprints from her last visit, which she placed on my "10 Year Floor Canvas," framed and always within view. I will never part with those. The remainder of the paintings she inspired were sent to her family for her children to one day have...happy and beautiful memories of their mother.
Deanne in my studio during her last visit. This is the visit where she left her handprints on my "10 Year Floor Canvas."
Over the years a single name has repeatedly come up when discussing my creative work and although I have touched upon the woman that was Deanne Hastings here and there, many questions have been left unanswered. Some of those questions will be answered now while new ones will arise. I still have my own questions to be answered. The following is a one-sitting stream of consciousness. It is raw, real, and unpolished. It may be erratic, irrational, and riddled with typos & tangents, but I think that’s how Deanne would want it and I think that’s an accurate reflection of our relationship as well. I held off telling this story for so long because it's the one I don't know how to tell...
I still don’t know whether to address Deanne in past or present tense…officially, nothing has been confirmed to my knowledge, so a part of me holds out hope that maybe she just ran away and started a new life. It would have been extremely selfish, but I would much prefer that to the plausible alternative. I sadly have suspicions that this was not the course for Deanne and that her luck simply ran out. Many days I like to think it’s the first idea, but far more days I can almost feel her from the other side…confirming it’s the other.
Deanne was a lot of things, sometimes at different times and sometimes all at once. She was not perfect…though I often looked at her like she was. In fact, she was openly flawed (we both were)…at times pure chaos…and that’s what I loved about her. There was no doubt about her charisma or mystique, and from the moment I laid eyes on her, I don’t think I could have convinced anyone I wasn’t hooked by her allure. She was an artist of a different type…a great story teller I could never walk away from. Though I told stories about her with my art (many of which she saw), I never imagined I would have to tell this story in words…nor do I want to…but the story needs to be told.
Deanne and I met by a matter of circumstance in 2010 at the home of someone who would grow to become a close friend named Amanda in San Diego, CA. Deanne was supposed to be there secondarily because I was supposed to be meeting Amanda, but she was known to have a habit of stealing the show and had a bit of a knack for the theatrics too. I didn’t complain and I didn’t fight it because it was unfamiliar and captivating. She had the spotlight and I was at full attention. I left Amanda’s house that day without any of Deanne’s information…phone, email…even last name to find on Facebook…and not sure if I would ever hear from her again…but I would come to learn that Deanne also had a knack for popping up at just the right (or wrong) times if you were lucky enough for her to want your attention. I say a lot of these things with half a smile because my relationship with Deanne was as complicated as it gets and we often laughed about it…but when it comes down to it, I would have done anything for her (often did) and we always found a way back to each other until we didn’t.
Here is probably a good time to point out that Deanne and I were never officially together, and I think part of that was by design. I think we both felt like we were so damaged that the only way for us to work was to repeatedly leave each other and come back for moments together. I think we were both just so used to being trashed and abandoned by the world…or at least so we felt. Whatever we had, it worked for us. I watched her go through a marriage and then in and out of relationships. She watched me go through a number of relationships…often waiting to show up at my doorstep right until I found one and then serving as a major catalyst to the end of aforementioned short lived relationships…but I allowed it and chose her over anyone and everyone. Was I her first choice? Probably not…certainly not in application…but I was the person she came to when she really needed someone…every single time. That’s how I know that despite everything, we really did have something real…we were probably both just too scared to explore the possibilities knowing our histories and thinking we would inevitably fuck it up beyond repair. By keeping it as it was, she knew I would always be there for her and I knew she would show up as soon as I found a new girlfriend…again…saying with half a smile. We were two fucked up people lacking enough self-love to know how to truly love. Despite that, I gave her every ounce of love I did have and I know she felt it until the end.
Deanne was 4 years older than me…she had just turned 30 when I met her. She had 3 kids, a complicated back story, and more than her fair share of battles with mental health and depression. She sometimes steered to negative and addictive habits in an effort to escape…it’s not my place to state what those were…but that just compounded the issues. Deanne was known to disappear. At first I’m told it was for a short period…then longer and longer. The first time I witnessed this it was several weeks…this was the long range. I did everything I could (how much could I really do?) to try to find her. When I found out she was in a hospital in Idaho, I desperately tried to contact her in every way…calling the hospital and writing her letters. I reached out to her family and they told me that this was a common routine and the men she happened to be talking to at the time would generally reach out so I don’t know they were all too surprised by my presence…maybe more so expected it…though I think the fact that I stuck by her side until the end did prove a lot. Perhaps it proved that I’m just a bit crazy myself, but I think it also offered comfort for them to know someone loved Deanne unconditionally until the end. Back to the story and a little bit of the dark humor Deanne and I had between us…for being such a pain in the ass…I decided to send her flowers, cards, snacks, and stuffed animals every single day in the hospital. Bear in mind that I’m in San Diego calling a hospital in Idaho. I developed quite a phone relationship with the woman in the gift shop. In fact, I think I talked to her more than I ever talked to Deanne on the phone. I remember Deanne telling me months later that she would go to her recovery meetings and would get laughed at because she would be dragging around a bear and a bouquet of balloons in her hospital gown…each day something new. As if she wasn’t dealing with enough, I contributed to the spectacle, but I know she loved it. It was out of love and she could never doubt that someone was thinking of her.
The patterns with Deanne did what patterns do and more or less repeated over the years. Around 2011, I got a call from Deanne that she was spiraling again. She asked me if I would come take care of her so she didn’t let her demons get the best of her and disappear again. I booked a flight within the hour and was off across the country. This was the first time in my life I had ever done anything like that. Most of the trip was spent taking care of Deanne and just sitting in a hotel with her, but all I wanted was to be by her side. I didn’t care about anything else. She showed me around a little bit but would always catch herself when letting me get too close. I knew eventually I would have to leave and we would go back to what we do. That trip was special though and something I’ll never forget. It inspired a number of my best paintings…ever.
In 2013, Deanne showed up in San Diego on the precipice of spiraling out of control. I would always catch her at different stages and the truth is, you can’t save someone from themself. All you can do is love them the best way you know how. I tried not to be an enabler, but I also tried to make sure she was safe and offer the unconditional love I wished I always had. I never turned her away…no matter what she said or did. We had a few fights that trip…she helped end a relationship of mine…then left…then showed up again in dramatic fashion…and then left again in dramatic fashion. This was the final time I saw her in San Diego. At one point I picked her up from the hospital after her release from a suicide attempt and the few photos I have of her/with her show her with her hospital bracelet still on. We would stay up all night talking…me making sure she didn’t sneak out. That visit is one that sticks with me because she left me with several treasures including some words she wrote in my journal and the handprints she left on my “10 Year Table Canvas.” I had completely forgotten about the handprints until 2017 (2 years after she went missing the last time) when I was finishing “Reign Upon Sonrise.” Deanne saw me start that project, but never saw me finish it. I visited Deanne in Washington/Idaho shortly after her last trip here, and that was the last time I saw her face in person.
Deanne and I would sometimes go through periods of not talking, but we were always in touch one way or another. Shortly before her final disappearance in 2015, she contacted me and told me she had to get out of her current relationship because it was unhealthy. Deanne was known to tell stories and bend the truth, but I felt the sincerity in her voice. she had been clean and sober for a long time and really seemed to be turning her life around. The proof was in her actions. She looked and sounded better than I had ever seen or heard. She was asking for help long before it reached the point of needing help. I heard stories from her friends about an abusive relationship and she inched closer and closer to walking away. I could tell that Deanne was on the precipice of showing up at my door again or asking me to come get her and I was ready to accept. I never got the call because she disappeared for the last time.
Any time Deanne would disappear, I would be the first person she reached out to because she knew I would just show up and pick her up without asking any questions. The fact that she didn’t after a month…two months…three months…and now going on four years tells me that something different happened. If it had been a suicide or accidental overdose, I believe someone would have found her body and reported it. There would be some sort of closure. I suspect foul play. I was never questioned or interviewed and I believe the fact that she had a tumultuous history severely limited the depth of her search.
I could write a book about all of my Deanne stories….her stories, my stories with her, the things I want to say to her. The truth is, I know I’m supposed to know I’m not responsible for what happened, but I will always wonder “What if?” What if I had asked her to come to me before things got as far as they did? I may never know now. I do feel like her family and the people that loved her deserve answers and I still hope to find them. I haven’t given up on you yet Deanne.
Deanne was a beautiful and troubled soul. I think of her daily, dream of her often, and she still finds little ways to fuck with me from time to time...like a few weeks ago when her hand prints came off the wall and put a hole in my door. There is no way they would have just fallen as secure as they were. That's who she was and how we were...and so it continues as this love persists from worlds apart. I am the man I am today because you, Deanne. I will continue to share your story for you and other young women like you. May they find their "Wings" on their path to finding love within themselves.
I love you-
The wings tattooed on my back are because of Deanne. She always called me her "Wings." I will never have them filled in because I will always leave them the way she remembered them. In all ways fathomable, Deanne truly did give me my wings and set me free.
Deanne was the only person I have ever let write in my journal. This is something she wrote post-suicide attempt on her last visit.
Deanne's handprints that I unexpectedly discovered unrolling my 10 year floor canvas in 2017. I will never part with these and they will stay in my studio forever.
Exhibition Card: "This exhibition is dedicated in its entirety to you, Deanne, my dear friend and muse. Each painting tells a story placing your soul center stage as we stare into the hazy eyes of love, loss, addiction, recovery, and the eternal struggle with personal demons. Sometimes we have to crawl through hell to discover the pathway to heaven. May I always serve as your faithful wings in times of distress and your light amidst the darkness."
I will always love you and carry you with me Deanne.
Other paintings inspired by Deanne:
Midnight Dancer (Take Me Away)
This is the very first painting Deanne ever inspired.
If I Could Steal Your Pain
This painting was once in Deanne's possession, but it ended up back in my possession in typical Deanne fashion.
On The Broken Road Between Reality And Truth
This painting has Deanne's earring in it as well as a piece of cloth from one of her costumes. It also contains a letter that I wrote her. I created this painting when Deanne had a relapse and disappeared for a short time, which she was known to do.
I created this painting after Deanne broke her clavicle. It reflects a female phoenix rising from the ashes. I modeled it after her.
Getting Back To Where I've Never Been (Coeurd'aleuer)
This painting reflects my overhead view on a trip to see Deanne after she had a relapse and asked me to come help see her through her withdrawals.
You Called Out For Me And So I Came To You (The Dreamer And The Night Terrors)
This painting portrays sitting in the hotel with Deanne while she went through her withdrawals. I remember she called me and within an hour I booked a flight across the country to make sure I was there for her.
As The Caged Bird Sings
Deanne always wanted me to do a large painting with a big pair of wings for her.
Chasing The Gate (Searching For Deanne)
This painting reflects my desperate search and longing for Deanne after she disappeared for the last time.
Beneath The Wings Of Free Swan (Deanne's Song)
This is Deanne's moment in the spotlight...her swan song.