Artist Elizabeth Mikotowicz was nearly beaten to death while being pregnant, addicted to drugs by the medical system, then sent to prison where she was regularly humiliated and treated as a slave. In this explosive interview, for the first time ever, Elizabeth shares her phenomenal life story with The World Art News! It is an emotional, at times horrific, and unquestionably inspiring account of one woman’s survival against all odds.
“I’ve always been a metal chick”
How would you describe your art style and how do you come up with innovative ideas?
I guess I’d describe it as unpredictable, I don’t even know what I’m going to paint next. Sometimes I have something I’m trying to express or show the world such as with ‘Peace and Justice for All’ – it was to depict every group in America that had been kept down by white supremacy. I also like to bring people peace and add beauty to their life. I love painting flowers, that will never get old. Of course, being from Bangor Maine I’ve done some Steven King themed paintings; you can see the water tower in IT from my house. Sometimes I just look at images online to get ideas and inspiration.
Are there any artists or artworks that influenced you – and why?
Aside from Van Gogh and Picasso, Salvador Dali was always inspiring and interesting. The surreal strange images he created were amazing. In 6th grade when my family went to France and we saw all the great paintings and cathedrals. Davinci’s “The Last Supper” is one of my favorites and the whole mystery behind it and the hidden details like Judas the Betrayer, whose head placed lower than the rest of the apostles. I also love HR Giger, who created the Aliens in the Saga Alien. Everything he has is unique, creepy and dark in such a fascinating way.
Recently in the last few years I’ve found a lot of inspiration from Brittany Spears. I’ve always been a metal chick; I left prison with matching crochet Slipknot luggage so this is like hell freezing over. But when she stood up in that courtroom and finally told the world what was really being done to her in those 13 years, it was like she was talking about me and all the women I was in prison with. At least we could say we messed up and broke the law, she did nothing wrong; my heart broke for her. The way they weaponized medication against her, that’s what they do with us. They give you the wrong medication and for example – it makes you suicidal so you want to stop taking it. They start using words like “inmate is refusing treatment and being hostile and defiant” when you’re trying to advocate for your own stability and rehabilitation, then they drag you to the solitary or strap you to a chair naked for hours at a time or use violence because God forbid you spoke out about them being wrong or something you don’t like.
“I would’ve gone through what I went through all over again before I traded places with her”
She might have had the comfort of her nice things and got to be in her home with decent food, but I would’ve gone through what I went through all over again before I traded places with her. There was a light at the end of my tunnel, for 13 years she thought she would die in that conservatorship. I know how awful it feels having the government profit off your suffering, her family did that to her; I can’t imagine the level of betrayal she feels. I had the community of inmates that became my family, she was alone. I never thought I would ever have anything in common with Britany Speres and in these public hearings where bills are on the table, I’m now quoting her “That’s what sex traffickers do”. I would love for her to do a remake metal chick version of her song ‘Stronger’ she has the voice for it. I think with some sick guitar riffs and putting all her pent-up rage behind it, I loved all the pop gone punk songs, I think that would be an absolute masterpiece.
What materials do you use to create your art and, on average, how long does it take for you to create an artwork?
My favorite medium is acrylic paint and canvas. Sometimes, depending on what I’m doing and how detailed it is it can take me a few hours or a few weeks. I like pastels and chalk as well. I also like painting on furniture, plant pots, lamp shades etc. I’m not in prison anymore so I have access to Hodge podge and lacquer instead of floor wax and I don’t have to smuggle anything and risk getting in trouble. I also have whatever paint brushes I want; I’m not trying to doctor them by trimming them with nail clippers.
“I don’t have to smuggle anything and risk getting in trouble”
How do you decide what size a painting will be and what is the typical size of your artworks?
It depends on what I’m doing. The political pieces, I usually make them bigger. I have done a lot of portraits for families that have lost loved ones due to addiction and those have been any size from a regular piece of paper to poster sized.
There are so many artists today creating amazing art in a vast array of mediums and styles, do you feel the pressure of competition?
I feel more pressure regarding my own goals and feeling like I’m running out of time to achieve them. I don’t stress about competition; I am unique in my story and experience and style; I am trying to create a better world where you can’t profit off human suffering; I don’t care about winning anything. The world is vast for all artists to be seen and heard and appreciated. If I have inspired one person to speak out against systematic cruelty and be a better version of themself and transmute chaos and pain into beauty and strength; I have achieved my goals as an artist. I don’t think it’s a matter of who’s a better artist; we all express ourselves with our own charisma and talent. Sometimes the artist with the least talent is the one that becomes the most well-known and gets the most money for their paintings just because they have a good agent and are backed by money. Van Gogh never sold a painting in his life, and he’s one of the most famous artist of all time.
“I don’t stress about competition”
What advice would you give to new artists that wish to make art a career?
Don’t do it because you want to make money, do it because you love it and let go of the outcome. If you can take a class and learn how to market yourself and get into shows you will have an easier time than me. I was going into this blind with nothing but faith in myself and what I learned in prison – which was nothing about creating an art career. I got myself a business advisor and started contacting people on LinkedIn and other business platforms. I got business cards for networking events. I also donate paintings to non-profits that have auctions to raise money for good causes just to get my work out there. I never turned down an art job whether it’s painting a logo, or a painting for a baby nursery, portrait, plant pots etc.
“Don’t do it because you want to make money”
You believe that art and music saved you and can save the whole world. Can you talk more about this belief and what would you like our readers to take away from this interview?
There have been many studies on sound healing, like binaural beats and ASMR. The vibrations activate certain parts of the brain that either calm you or heal you; if it’s a bad vibration it can even depress and anger you. I play binaural beats every night when I sleep and I had fewer nightmares and felt better. I say this as a recovering addict – there is no better high for me than going to a concert. There have been times I was ready to give up and fall apart and the right song would come on and lift me up just enough to keep going.
“I say this as a recovering addict – there is no better high for me than going to a concert”
Everyone says talk about your trauma and feelings but they don’t realize that by talking about it you are making it fresh in your mind which is retraumatizing. The human brain doesn’t know the difference between a memory and what’s actually happening. People think they’re helping by forcing you to talk about things your brain is literally not ready to deal with yet. I have found distracting myself with music or painting stops all that. I can tell my traumatic stories to 100 different people and it will never make me feel better, it only makes it more real and present in my mind.
The night my young friend from Long Creek slit her throat, I’ll never forget they said “code white” over the intercom which is for suicide; I didn’t know it was her until the next day. Then Papa Roach –Last Resort played on the radio right after, of all songs that This summer Papa Roach came to Bangor at the new waterfront stadium and after all these years I finally got to see them play that song live and it reminded me why I won’t give up on this fight and to not forget all the people still in that situation. Whenever something significant happened in my life I always remember the music I listened to that defined those moments or got me through them.
America makes up 80% of the global population of pharmaceutical drug use, our country is literally doing 80% of the pills on planet for big Pharma’s profit. Maybe instead of drugging all these kids with pharmaceuticals we can teach them coping mechanisms, meditation and artistic outlets to express their feelings. Music could always distract me, if I didn’t like the way it made me feel I’d change the song. In trauma therapy there are grounding exercises in which you name everything in the room with its color to stop flashbacks. In a cell with nothing but cinder block walls that didn’t work. Instead, I would list off Slipknot songs and recite the first line in the song.
I also found writing very helpful and as a result, I’m finally done writing my memoir called “No Justice, Just US” I am in the editing process; I plan on having it published next year sometime. It’s a detailed account of my prison bid and recovery up to now after turning my life around.
“I can tell my traumatic stories to 100 different people and it will never make me feel better, it only makes it more real and present in my mind”
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