I came across a video today – that was actually shared by a friend when we were discussing mental health issues. Kim Noble is an artist afflicted with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Following years of childhood abuse, her mind split into various personalities, in its way of coping with the trauma. Noble’s mind currently has twenty distinctive personalities in one body.
What made this video stand out was that it emphasizes Kim’s potential as an artist rather than a patient of mental health disorders. Kim turned to painting to better manage her multiple personalities, and found that her various personalities coped better with their complex behaviors through painting. Presently, over a dozen of her personalities paint – each with their own distinctive styles – and this has helped Kim understand the various aspects of her multiple personalities more effectively. Each personality’s paintings showcase their own experiences and behavioral patterns – the trauma they have faced, their coping mechanisms – and by interpreting each other’s artwork, they can understand each other and live in harmony, without Disrupting one another’s behavior in society.
Earlier, Kim was the submissive personality, and would appear two or three times a week. Presently, she is very much in control, and describes the feeling as “sleepwalking” – when the other personalities do something that she has no recollection of. It was Kim’s therapist who had suggested art therapy as a mode for healing. Initially, four or five personalities used to paint, and then more joined in. There is a room allotted for all the paintings, with each personality’s work placed separately to identify them. One of the personality’s paintings depict the Kabbalah – replete with the Hebrew script that Kim does not understand. Rhea’s paintings depict graphic abuse – the trauma of which Kim has no knowledge of. Susie’s themes all focus on mothers with babies. Some of the personalities are unnamed since the rest of them haven’t yet decided on a specific name – Anon pours out the paints giving the canvas an embossed texture, Missus uses only three colors in her paintings. Kim identifies the takeovers from her personalities by the memory gaps she experiences, and uses their paintings as a way of understanding each of them better when she resurfaces.
Kim’s daughter Amy is now twenty years old, and in a heartwarming revelation Kim has no memory of her birth – she was born out of another personality who was dominant at the time, and for Kim she has birthed her and not birthed her at the same time. “I didn’t give birth to her but I know that the body did“, she says matter-of-factly. Amy is a part of her just like her other personalities. None of the other personalities ever tried to harm the baby or Disrupt her growth and well-being.
I am attaching the video to this blog-post. Do give it a watch, though it is a tad lengthy. It’s beautifully presented by VICE, which focuses on arts and culture. It takes us through Kim’s early years understanding the multiple personalities in one physical body – Ken with a fascination for trains, Judy who believes to be overweight and is constantly on a diet, Kim herself who loves cooking. In addition to covering Kim’s growth as an artist, VICE also meets her on the eve of her show at the Zebra One gallery in London, aimed at raising awareness of mental health through art. The exhibition is for the Mental Health Foundation and Kim “pulled up all her contemporary artists to participate“. Kim Noble as an artist has no distinctive style – each of her artworks appears to have been painted by over a dozen “people” – that’s how different the painting styles of her personalities are. Other exhibitions had turned Kim away on account of this seemingly lack of distinctiveness from one artist. This exhibition is Kim’s way of highlighting to society that mental disorders don’t have to be a barrier to anything you want to do; her achievement of “being known as an artist rather than somebody weird” . DID is not a weakness but an extremely strong desire to survive – the mind splits in an effort to cope with traumatic experiences. Every personality is exhibited in one room. Kim doesn’t aim for neural integration either, as she humorously proclaims she needs all her artists.
A line from the movie “Split” comes to mind – “The broken are the more evolved“. Have a look at this amazing story and extraordinary artist.