|Artist Cory Bilicko|
As an artist with misophonia– a condition in which certain everyday noises act as triggers for extreme anxiety– I fully understand the feeling of not belonging in this often chaotic world. Someone’s slurping of soup during lunch or open-mouthed popcorn-chomping in a movie theater can easily throw me into fight-or-flight mode– meaning that common social interactions such as sharing a meal or enjoying a film with a friend can, unfortunately, be sources of major stress rather than relaxation.
After decades of struggling to understand why I, unlike the vast majority of people, cannot just “tune out” these trigger sounds, I finally discovered that others throughout the world have the same condition. However, whereas many of them still suffer from serious anxiety on a daily basis, as they’re exposed to their own trigger noises, I have discovered the ultimate coping mechanism– art making.
At the end of my daily exposure to a noisy, aggressive world, I put on my Bluetooth ear buds, place a canvas onto my easel, and escape into a world over which I have complete dominion. Whether I create a playful portrait of someone’s dog as a commission, a piece to donate to a local nonprofit’s fundraiser or an abstract work of clean, orderly painted lines upon which I meditate to exorcise my auditory frustrations, I’m inventing a parallel world in which I am finally in control– and able to find peace.
Because that feeling of disconnection from society is so accessible to me, I am able to empathize with others who also find it difficult to fit in. Therefore, my art explores the state of life of those who exist on the fringes. In one mixed-media piece, the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio abruptly separates the poor who live in favelas from the wealthy; a transgender person is draped in a weatherworn American flag, in a fragile, complicated patriotism; and a plump woman rides with abandon on the back of a dragonfly, with her identity concealed because there’s still some shame to overcome. These aren’t the types of folks being used to sell lip gloss and sexy luxury cars; they’re the ones who are being body-shamed on social media and denied the opportunity to serve our country despite their willingness to put themselves on the line. The ones on the fringes are my muses.
However, my interest in these disregarded individuals and groups extends beyond their merely serving as inspiration. I have sought out (and created) opportunities to use my art to directly affect people. My documentary Mojee: A Childhood Lost served as a multiple-day therapy session and allowed an Iranian-born Long Beach artist to share her story of being abandoned by her mother as a child, before moving to the U.S., where she now explores the mother-daughter dynamic in her paintings as she fosters a healthy relationship with her own daughter. When I create pieces to donate to local charities for their fundraiser auctions, I aim to speak to (and for) the communities they serve directly– not just paint a pretty picture to hang above a couch.
Although my reason for becoming an artist was deeply personal– to overcome misophonia– my motivation for continuing my art work is to be a voice for those who haven’t found– or seem to be losing– their own voices.
My art began as an expression of my inner turmoil. It saved my life. Now I hope it can help save others.
State of the Art documentary series (in production by Honest Owl Works) Representing Long Beach as one of 18 artists from around the world who are being profiled, each in his/her own hour-long episode; Cory’s episode is entitled “The Art of Healing” as he fully discusses how art has helped him cope with misophonia
Menduina Schneider Gallery– Los Angeles (May 2017-August 2017) Showed mixed-media art piece; gallery has also invited Cory to display work at Long Beach Comic-Con Sept. 2 and 3
WomenShelter of Long Beach (April 2017) Donated painting for 40th-anniversary auction
The Center Long Beach– Black-and-White Ball (April 2017) Donated painting for auction
Long Beach Memorial, Project HeArt: Heels for Hearts (March 2017) Donated painting for women’s heart-health auction
Museum of Latin American Art (Winter 2016) Lucky You! exhibit
Museum of Latin American Art (Summer 2016) Artists Assemble! exhibit
Mojee: A Childhood Lost (Directed, produced and edited 30-minute documentary about Long Beach artist Mojgan Edalat-McClusky through an Arts Council for Long Beach microgrant) Screened July 2016 during First Fridays at Expo Arts Center; project also gave film-production experience to seven Long Beach residents
Greenly Art Space (Summer 2014) Curator– Relative Aperture group show (30 adult artists and 30 children created their own interpretations of discarded vintage family photos)
Long Beach Open-Studio Tour (October 2013)
Long Beach Playhouse (Summer 2013) New Orleans-themed solo show
AIDS Assistance Thrift Store (April 2013) Donated painting for group-show benefit
Coast to Coast AM talk show website (October 2013) Selected for Halloween-themed gallery
Long Beach Vegan Eatery (November 2012) Solo show exploring people and their relationships with pets
Greenly Art Space (October 2012) Afterlife group show
Gallery Expo (October 2012) Supernatural group show
FreeSpirit Yoga (June 2011) Flying-insect-themed solo show
Self-taught visual artist (beginning in 2011)
Bachelor’s degree in film, psychology and marketing– University of New Orleans (1994)