About THE IMAGe
‘The Untold Story, Bristol, UK’
by Emma Holloway
During the winter of 2016, Trudy was the guest speaker at a church I was visiting in Bristol, having just moved to the city from abroad. That April I’d created a portrait for an art exhibition with an anti-trafficking NGO called ‘Fin de la Esclavitud’ connected to Christine Caine’s A21 movement. ‘The Untold Story’ series was birthed out of a 10 year old prophecy about telling women’s stories who don’t have a voice. When I heard Trudy share her story I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me, saying “you need to be where she is & she’s your next portrait”. So I moved to E5 church, got involved in the ministry she runs called Street Church & started painting her portrait. It’s been a long journey… Trudy & I have become good friends over the last 3 years and it’s a privilege to get to paint some of her story.
Linked here is a list of organisations to help with addiction or abuse.
THE ABUSED LIFE
Mug shot style portrait
The whole left hand side of the painting is based on Trudy’s police mug shots as well as Banksy’s ‘girl with the pierced eardrum’ which parodies Vermeer’s ‘girl with the pearl earring’. In this portrait, the ADT security box represents the desperation of man-made security systems we put our trust in to protect ourselves. It also explores the idea of Trudy having her ear pierced with the emotional noise of constant drama & trauma. The security system (which should have been a loving family) was faulty, leaving her feeling unsafe, vulnerable and insecure.
The Dark Rider
The cloaked figure on the horse represents both the nearness of death and the feeling that Trudy constantly felt of being chased by fear.
This was Trudy’s a regular pick up spot and continues to be for street sex workers in Easton, Bristol.
The Prison Door
The prison door is wide open, as Trudy came in and out of jail over a period of 13 years, including Holloway prison & Eastwood Park.
A Needle, Spoon and Drugs
These became regular apparatus after a journey from hash, weed, amphetamines to heroin & crack cocaine.
The skimpily dressed woman with her head in a car window tells her own story. First it started in a brothel, then it progressed to the streets, where Trudy would be picked up by drivers passing by.
The Monte Carle Café
This was significant because of a post rape incident, being located at the end of Stapleton Rd. With its F1 flag of black & white squares, it also references the craziness of Trudy’s life – like a racing car speeding from one pit stop to another.
This is the short name for the Community of the Sisters of the Church (nuns) who run a compassion ministry to the poor on Ashley Road. They are known for their ‘Fishes & Loaves’ food project, but for Trudy, they were the bridge between the streets and rehab.
The Stripy Snake
This reptile running through her hair represents the thread of deception that grew to be her survival technique on the streets.
The Crack Pipe
The hand holding the crack pipe at the top of the head could also be turning a door handle to a new way of thinking.
Her eye has shards within it expressing the distorted view of self that developed in Trudy from an early age due to the emotional & sexual abuse.
A Bruised Face
The black eye and tear show the regular physical & emotional violence that became a normal part of Trudy’s life.
THE RESTORED LIFE
Pre-Raphaelite style portrait
The whole right hand side of this painting is based on a Pre-Raphaelite style of painting which sought to merge realism with symbolism, often exploring biblical or mythological themes. The gold in the background represents the presence of God.
These beautiful British butterflies (small white, common blue, and peacock) represent the 3 main areas of transformation, hope & new life which Trudy has experienced & continues to experience. The two pairs of eyes on the peacock butterfly represent the ability to see spiritually – looking inwards & outwards.
Traditionally flowers of remembrance, particularly for soldiers who died in the war, in this case they remember the areas of the past that Trudy literally ‘died’ to. She came off heroin with no side effects enabling her to embrace a new path of life & freedom.
Giant Yellow Gerbera Flower
Yellow is a colour of joy & celebration. Gerberas are like fireworks bursting from darkness to light. In this painting the giant gerbera represents a new source of joy.
Small White Flower
This is a tropical plumeria or frangipani flower which often represents tenacity & perseverance due to its ability to withstand extremely high temperatures without getting burnt. For Trudy, this small white flower particularly spoke of purity, that God could restore everything that was stolen and has became a significant symbol of hope.
These green leaves embrace the white flower and represent the healing leaves for the nations (The tree of life- Revelations 21).
Giant Pink Rose
This is a symbol of romance, pursuit and love… a reminder that relationship with God is not just an intellectual exercise or a decision of the will, but a heart response to God’s eternal pursuit of us & demonstration of his love on the cross.
The creation of a natural pearl involves a small grit of sand (an irritant) working its way into an oyster over a period of time. As a defence mechanism the oyster coats the irritant in layers of lustrous fluid which creates the pearl. Many oysters die in the process, which explains the use of pearls as a symbol of the martyred apostles in Revelation (being the gates of heaven). For Trudy, she is this pearl of great price, beauty created through suffering, as are all who overcome (parable of the hidden treasure & the pearl Matt 13 v 44-46).
Dove on Shoulder
A symbol of peace, the dove looks back over the shoulder to the abused life, seeking to make peace with the past. It’s position on the shoulder near to the ear signifies its role in guiding & leading Trudy in her journey of restoration. She is not hounded by fear (the dark rider) any more, but led by peace.
Gold Olive Branch with Olive
Olive trees are wild by nature, but to produce high quality olives they need to be cultivated (nurtured, trained, enlightened). Olive trees are ever greens and can last for thousands of years and still produce fruit. We are the wild olive trees that need cultivating so that we can produce edible & meaningful fruit. An international symbol of diplomacy & peace making, in this painting the olive branch also represents the call to not only make peace with each other, but also with God, which is the hallmark of Trudy’s ministry. They have been made gold to recognise that true peace-making is only capable with divine wisdom.
Within the acorn seed is the possibility of an oak tree, which represents strength, endurance, stability & knowledge. In this painting, the acorn symbolises the potential each person carries to bring these qualities to the world. For Trudy, it also specifically references Isaiah 61 v 3 ‘beauty instead of ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of a spirit of despair…. they will be called oaks of righteousness.‘ She is this growing oak tree as she trusts and follows God in all her ways.