Project 2017 :: The Neighbor

February 18, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

My Project 2017 continues. To remind you,  I am deconstructing a YEAR of daily collage making and sharing the stories and themes that evolved.

Posts so far: 

Cry For Help

Black And White 

Project 2017 :: The Neighbor

This will be the hardest story I tell from this past year. It will also be the most comprehensive. 40 collages created all told. It is a long rather complicated story. For 5 weeks, during the Spring of 2017, my collage work narrated the story of bullying and harassment. As the collages revealed themselves I felt their validity and creative witness. One can not make this stuff up. 

At the core of some of these pieces are images of men that really looked like this person - this bully, or they portrayed an essence of him. How that could possibly occur from a random stack of magazines? Yet it did. The collages revealed fear, and my seeking help. They shared an emotional sorting, as I endured this person, his lack of boundaries and mentally abusive behavior.  They illustrated my taking my own stand and finding my own inner strength.  I didn't plan to tell this story though my art. The art became spontaneously as I got to the other side of one circumstance at a time. Once the neighbor was evicted and gone from the property I felt such relief. Months later he meddled in my life once more, and a collage was there for me again. 

Larger views of these collages are in this album #30-#72 

The 13 collages below illustrate him in likeness and or in essence.

 actual notes on the back of each collage are at the end of this post. *denotes these 12.  


1. We spoke of the cities we liked, his love for horses, he told me he was a homosexual. 


2. He told an epic and very strange tale of his mother and his sister. obsessed with that story. he said he was a writer who was going to author this tale of his family. he loved pasta.



3. the house before he moved in was deplorable. he had no boundaries re: my personal space


4. shared meals, and happy hour, him on the dinner plate judging me - my trying to detach and re-establishing my own space.


5. when he met me he said i looked like a deer in a headlight ( upper right hand corner ) I felt like my living circumstances was becoming unstable ( house of cards ) and divided - there were two sides - the collage looks like a dark butterfly. flight.


6. falling on deaf ear, things got so weird so fast, i felt who would believe me. we shared a meal the day we met, his treat, at the restaurant, there was a lady of guadalupe, that was the beginning - i began to fear homelessness. i was afraid



7. i was in a creek without a paddle - in between two men, the landlord and the neighbor



8. a man who loved pasta, surrounded by circles of oysters, creating protection



9. news of him being evicted, i could see his farewell - there he goes off into the sunset. relief



10. the day he moved out he choreographed a spectacle. drama. he reported the landlord to the county, spoke about me outside my door loudly to this inspector, he told her that i had sexual relations with the landlord. the things he said. on the back of the collage i wrote - flabbergasted.



11. once he left, i again felt like who would listen to me, who would i tell and what would i even say - in one ear out the other.



12.  this was the first day of harassment, in this collage I took elements of him - ice cream, salads and salmon ( he ate a lot of the same foods ) and they morphed into a protecting mermaid, at least that's how I interpreted it.



13. the resemblance to his actual self in this collage is frightening.


Imagine a house on an acre of Washington county land set back from the road, nestled in the foothills. Beautiful? At a glance perhaps so. The house -- was a two story home.  It had an attached 500 square foot storeroom converted into an apartment.  The transient Canadian landlord and his wife, called the studio apartment "the suite." The market for apartment living in this area is saturated and competitive. When I viewed the studio, I had been looking to move for several months. The storeroom was filled with debris and had no plumbing, but I saw its potential, and more importantly I really needed an apartment. I asserted myself with an offer of cash for the unit and was awarded a casual contract. Handwritten receipt and terms.  When I revisited the unit a few weeks later to see it's progress and to secure my key, things were not finished. I had per our previous agreement committed a truck, movers, as well as notified my soon to be former circumstance of my leaving. I was not turning back. 

The day I moved in was a bleak February day.  I arrived to a bathroom that needed a bucket to flush the toilet with, no kitchen sink or stove, and electrical challenges. The landlord stayed in the house when he was in town ( a thin wall and adjoining door divided us ) He, and a handyman were IN my apartment for the next 12 days. I witnessed remarkable ineptness, poor materials and shoddy workmanship. This was to be my new home.  The rent was within my means. I called it my Country Studio and did what I could to make it mine. The challenges turned out to be many, including dealing with the landlord, his use of the property as a dumping ground for building materials and garbage, living far from the city, and an apartment that had a mice infestation problem.  I lost respect for the landlord pretty early on, he was arrogant, not truthful and he was weird. Very very weird. I was an asset to his circumstance as a paying, loyal renter. 


I had now lived there a year. The landlord was in Canada, and had asked that I clean his side of the house to prepare for a bank assessment and a potential tenant, when he asked me to open the house for an investor I witnessed deplorable living conditions. I had a key because the router was on his side for shared internet. As transient as the landlord was I requested the key to get to the router to reboot it incase the internet failed. I had not needed that in his absence thus far. When I let the banker in -- it was my first time actually inside the house. The space was a construction zone, just filthy and furnishings etc were of very low quality. There was open food on the counters, dirty dishes, and rotten food in the fridge. There was rodent feces everywhere. I declined the cleaning job sharing that it wasn't light cleaning but more industrial in nature. A job beyond my abilities. It surprised me that he lived that way while there.

In February someone knocked on my door. The man at the door said he was there to see the apartment for rent.  The landlord had not told me he had placed an ad to rent it. The property as I mentioned was remote, so someone knocking on my door was unusual.  The man was insistent. I felt like I wanted to be of help to the landlord - if he had another paying tenant then my rent would stay the same and my terms would be more secure. I showed the house to this man.

This man became my new neighbor/shared housemate so to speak. 

He later turned bully, and harassed me. His treatment of me had me seek legal help and call the sheriff. At one juncture this person disconnected my internet, and my electricity. The verbal abuse reached a pitch that frightened me. I felt threatened. I started taking notes. I began to feel that what I was experiencing was surreal or that noone would believe me. 

In the beginning, the landlord agreed to rent to him without meeting him. They took his money. They rented the downstairs part of their house full of garbage to this person.  The man saw an opportunity to pilfer funds from the landlord - first, for cleaning the apartment to make it suitable for living, and then to help with clean up on the property. But then the man began to play games with the landlord, including criticism of me. The landlord finally came from Canada with his wife. They had no loyalty to my year of tenancy or the fact that they knew me - they listened to this man they had never met before. The way they treated me that day was deplorable.  Later, the landlord said he realized that this man was mentally ill from his first meeting of him. He apologized to me.  During this time the county was trying to serve legal papers to the landlord, and at one point the utilities were turned off for lack of payment. The landlord began building a staircase to the upstairs part of the house - for shared living.  He expected to rent the downstairs, to live upstairs when he was in town and share the kitchen and shower with said tenant. If only you could have seen the inside of this house. The landlord was not an honest man. He had been renting illegally to me, and now to this other person. In the end my new neighbor was evicted. He was also afraid of the landlord. 

When the man became a renter, I admit I helped him, I gave him my opinions - the situation was pretty weird, I had the key to let in a housekeeper, there was no landlord so, I was the contact person - i did this to be helpful, to be neighborly.  However this person became too close too fast - he was in my face each and every day, knocking on my door with questions, or relentlessly emailing me or borrowing my stove to make his dinner, and again I felt to be a good neighbor I should be helpful. What he did to clean that apartment was a very very large undertaking - one I would not particularly wish upon anyone. Yet, very quickly I felt I had lost my personal space and privacy.  When he had settled in -  I tried to share that with him - I wanted my privacy and boundaries -- that is when his flip switched. He became angry and volatile. This is when the bullying began. 

Larger view of collages #30-#72

 #4 #3

 #4 & #3   #5  #6  #7 #8 #9  #8 & #9 #11 #12 #14  #15 #16 #17  #18  #19  #20 #23  #26 #27  #28 #29 #30  #31 #32 #33 #35  #36 #38

( actual notes from the back of the collages )

*1. i have a new neighbor, he likes horses and the city. he's gay 2/19

*2. small scrap pile piece, unexpected elements, seems like it's my neighbors mother, circles and pasta

3. solitude, shadows, beauty, framing, pointing - season and light shifting. losing my privacy 

4. solitude, shadows, beauty, framing, pointing - season and light shifting. losing my privacy 

5. he talks a lot. not much room for others to speak

6. seems to have a lot of personal battles. keep things simple. dream man. whatever

7. wooded land winter bleak

8. bridges to the other sides of ...symmetry, not my usual presentation 

9. bridges to the other sides of ...symmetry, not my usual presentation. neighbor said - i don't like that one

*10. dark eyed neighbor, as if he's looking at me all the time. in my face

11.the night of the oscars, female divide/no interest in awards. fascade

12. stormy, bang trim, comfort food, film

*13. outside of myself, him on a platter staring, don't look at me, the man sure liked to drink

14. blue chair grounded, protecting myself, cosmic, centered, universal woo woo woman

15. missing my kids - wolf, kate, train is transient, watching over my journey film=story

16. lets rewrite the crowd, the youth, next generation , the view from here

17. headless father

*18. the first day of bullying this creation appeared, "things got fishy" the neighbor liked ice cream, salmon and salad. this collage looks like an alter ego mermaid, encompassing said bully and asserting my own personal power.

*19. the first day of bullying this creation appeared, "things got fishy" the neighbor liked ice cream, salmon and salad. this collage looks like an alter ego mermaid, encompassing said bully and asserting my own personal power.

20. international womens day. takes a crowd. leaders or followers. cult. fashion 

*21. on top of old spaghetti, surrounded/protected by oyster circles. he was a stranger/danger. 

*22. deer in headlights, he said, neighbor, house divided, house of cards, poof/gone dark butterfly, wings open wide fly

23. weekend of no electricity, food bank trip, no internet stupidity. coven. each other, tribe, circle

*24. another no internet day. lies. frustrated. up the creek without a paddle. my plea, in between two men. landlord and neighbor

*25. falling on deaf ear, solo, homeless, street scene - lady of guadalupe, view from the car - uncanny ( dinner ) 

26. envision the other side of harassment, something forward, my tribe, my flock around me 

27. take a stand, stand on your own two feet, stand, walk your talk

28. stranger lurking behind the winter scenery, wintery cold, the nose knows

29. nature rides out the storm

30. i wondered if i needed to protect myself. realistic props from film

31. tension, stress, finding my ace, ace up my sleeve, sourcing my win, eat a burger

32. spring nesting altered paper,species birth egg, pink 

33. the chicago orchid show was happening. blur, solo, regaining self, strong, tide

*34. the view from here - he was supposed to be leaving. just go 

35. royalty, deserving, solid steps, bit of green, spring

36. my life is alien, like another planet, shaken, be tall, find my pillar of strength

*37. neighbor moved out today. witness, report to county, drama, he said she said - just flabbergasted. 3/27

38. inside/outside i don't know who i am, divided, multi-dimensional

*39. in one ear and out the other, lip service, made for it's vibrancy and color

*40. when maniacal enters your world once more, months later 6/8 puppet strings, meddling, and a collage manifests itself - the paper is crumpled and you say no - throwing it all away.

Once all of this transpired the landlord for my country studio gave me notice to vacate. He then told me to stay - that he needed me to stay, and then he gave me notice to leave again. Even when said neighbor was in house, I had begun a search for an apartment. In hindsight I probably should have kept a journal for all of my apartment hunting, the things I saw, the high rent for apartments filled with mold and other deplorable conditions. I ended up at The Loft for 6 months, moving one day prior to my notice. Since I've moved to a city studio. ( I've been there 2 months now ) and I hope I NEVER have to move ever ever again!

Where ever I am, I am collage making. That is probably the happy ending part of this story.

That, and that I sold one of the collages from this time period!




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Photography = a never ending opportunity to capture visual celebrations. 


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