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A World of my Own • by Lisa Loria

Lisa LoriaMany children have make-believe worlds. Mine was born as a place to escape the realities of a tumultuous family life. My imaginary friend was Peter Pan and I created elaborate stories for us to escape into. Memories of my father sitting on my mother, hitting her, his verbal abuse toward her, the cheating, drinking, gambling, lying ... too much bad to list. One Christmas Eve that they were fighting as usual, my mom made us pack our bags so we could flee him. On Christmas Eve, age 7, having her try to leave as he grabbed her, myself, and my younger brother by the arms and dragged us back into the house. So many days, birthday, holidays, wrecked.

We did finally escape and never saw him really again, nor did he ever help my mother to financially support my brother and I. It was a stressful childhood. My younger brother had severe A.D.D., almost died from going through a plate glass sliding window, and was a really hard kid to raise. Much of my mother’s financial and emotional resources went to raising my brother. It had to be that way and I am not bitter. She was stressed, angry, tired, and a lot of it was taken out on me, being the oldest. It also left me a latch-key kid at 8 years old and during those years, I changed elementary schools four times. She did the best she could — being a single mom in the 1970s was still a bit taboo.

When mom remarried my stepfather, it was for the wrong reasons. He was a means for her to escape the brink of poverty and provide better for us financially. He had issues though — drank too much, was a strict disciplinarian, and their marriage was not a good one. Again, it was a marriage and life full of fighting, yelling, slamming, hitting, and just ugliness. Too old now for my Imaginary Friend Peter, it was here that I spent hours in what came to be called my Sanctum Sanctorum ... my bedroom. I painted, drew, wrote poems, made jewelry, sang, and wrote short stories. There was nowhere else I wanted to be in the world other than this place, door shut, music on and alone. Other than my Nana’s house, my bedroom, or a girlfriend’s house ... I didn’t feel safe and content anywhere. Art and creating got me through these years — it saved me.

What Had Happened to Me?
Fast-forward to my twenties. My first child was born when I was 19 years old. I married, and by age 26, my third child was born. I’d like to paint the picture that marriage and childbearing is all yummy glam and roses, but it isn’t always. My kids were and are my world, and I sacrificed everything to be with them. For the better part of those years, I poured myself into my roles as Wife and Mother with everything I had.

At the same time, I was caretaking for two alcoholics in my life and their children’s grandchildren. At 28, I was lost, staring at the face of a woman in the mirror that I no longer knew. Who was I? I wasn’t “Lisa, the Woman,” ro “Lisa, the Artist,” or “Lisa Anything. I was Gregg’s wife and the boys’ mother. My marriage was a wreck, my husband emotionally, verbally, and occasionally physically abused me. It was October of ’94 that we fought and he broke my nose and went into counseling. I blamed myself for him hitting me. What had happened to me? Where was the girl who wanted to travel the world? Study music, art, and foreign languages? She was beaten down, afraid, and felt as if she had no value. My counselor encouraged me to write and start creating again. I carved a little niche for myself in the garage. Here I would sneak away in the evening after the children were asleep to just be alone with my music, my thoughts, and to create. Again another Sanctum to escape to. Escape the reality that I was MISERABLE, with no formal education or career to fall back on.

Life was repeating itself.

An Encouraging Start
Art again saved me and was my escape. I began selling my creations at craft fairs; I hired a sales rep and sold to some little boutiques. It was encouraging. Although my husband verbally said he supported me, he did not. He was always critical and negative. In reality, he was threatened by it and tried to sabotage many of my moves. I decided to teach myself to paint, and did, painting little scenes and poetry on over 600 terra cotta pots in one year. They were called “Poetic Pots” and were in about a dozen stores. It was at this time that mural painting was just starting to take off. Wanting to paint some murals in our tiny condo to practice and see if it was something I could do on a large scale, my husband refused to let me practice on the walls of OUR condo. Family, however did support me. My cousin hired me to paint a mural in her daughter’s room and an uncle hired me to paint multiple murals in his home. At the same time fate found me a tiny studio above a coffee house in San Dimas that I moved my business into. This got me out of the garage and out from under the thumb of my husband. My youngest son had by this time started kindergarten and I was beginning to feel some freedom from 24-hour mothering. The referrals for mural work poured in and within six months I filed for divorce.

Art saved me and gave me the freedom to leave an unhappy life.

Believing in Myself
It was in this very studio that I met my second husband. John and I were a perfect match. He the contractor, fine woodworker, and craftsman. Not to mention cute and a down-to-earth cowboy, too! We antiqued together and could collaborate on projects. He cut signs for me to paint/sell. We built benches from head/footboards, lots of really cool stuff! We even built our daughter’s cradle; it is a large crescent moon. The cradle rocks on the curve of the moon. It was during this time that my artistic wings began to really expand, and business took off. Having this wonderful and talented man to support me in every way lifted me up. He believed in me, which helped me to believe in myself. It wasn’t even until this time in my life that I would call myself an artist. He would surprise me with a new sewing machine, digital camera, tools (I love power tools) ... anything he knew I needed to pursue my art. Our daughter Emily came out of this love. But only four years into our marriage, at 41 years old, he was diagnosed with lung cancer and died 24 days later. I was devastated. I was 37 years old with four children at home, ages 18, 13, 11 and 3. What was I going to do? Pulling myself up by my bootstraps and moving on was my only option. It was what he would want me to do. I painted and began to experiment with many mediums. Again, Art saved me. For the past 19 years, Art has helped me pay the bills and enabled me to be here for my children before and after school, which is where I wanted to be.

Art has saved me so many times. Art is not just how I make my living, it is how I have made my life.

To learn more Lisa Loria, visit


Thank you Jenny and the Crescendoh team
for what you are doing.
It is an honor to be here amongst so many inspiring women.
Much Love.

Thank you lisa. I know this will inspire so many women who are in unhappy situations. Whether it's work, marriage and family, whatever problems we encounter along the way, our art seems to heal. Reading this, I realized you broke the chain of events in your familys' history. You raised a wonderful family and well, that little Emily is a prize! I feel blessed to know you!

Your blog is beautiful! In reading your Art Saves story I see our childhoods are very similar. Jenny put our stories on at the same time, I think that makes us Crescendoh Sisters <3

Poignant story. Thanks for sharing. You are a survivor!

Wow Lisa. Not only do we have similar tastes in art, but we share a somewhat similar story. Crescendoh and Jenny really are a blessing. It really helps to be able to explain how we became the people we are today.
I think we are kindred spirit sisters :-)
Proud to call you friend!
Love ya!

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