“This is what I mean when I refer to self-expression. I do my best to share my personal truth but people will not always interpret it the way it is meant. This is why I refer to artwork as a mirror. When I create it, it’s my mirror, but when someone else views it, it’s their own mirror to see as they see fit. This is why I don’t believe two people can truly understand each other, but in essence we are all the same, so if we understand what makes us human then we really understand what is essential about each other perfectly.”
– Erica Xenne, 2013
“On a deeper level, I live to expose my true self through my work. I feel I’m a vessel through which songs and stories emerge. The content serves as a mirror. It exposes parts of myself that are buried deep within my subconscious, and which might otherwise remain unnoticed. In sharing my work, I hope to function as a mirror for others. What success means, to me, is knowing that my fight to sing on my album, despite speaking in a whisper, has inspired someone else to create her own artwork. Success is hearing someone quote my lyrics or reference my stories because it expresses something SHE is feeling. I want people to see themselves in my work, rather than merely seeing “me.” I want to touch on something universal. And, through bearing my own soul, I hope to inspire others to express themselves honestly, and to pursue their dreams against all odds.”
-Erica Xenne, 2012
“I am driven to channel and embody all that I am. I feel I’m not really alive unless I know what I’m willing to die for, and this is it – to be a vessel through which passion emerges. By ‘passion,’ I mean the Life Principle. Fire, Anima, Life, Erosia. Passion, for me, is a Force of Nature. It also has a dark side; one’s ‘sins’ – and I don’t run from that. I aim to lure my demons out of the closet to dance with my angels and merge. If I suffocate them, isolate them, shun them – they will destroy. That’s why I am Animal and not Anima. So Carnal it’s Spiritual.”
-Erica Xenne, 2019
I’m talking about a challenge so difficult it borders on torture. Someone so brilliant.. always twenty steps ahead. Someone who sees right through me, all the way to my core, and accepts me. Someone who never hesitates to one-up me, outwit me or call me out on my darkest, deepest flaws, with a loving smile. Someone whose cryptic challenges bring me to my metaphorical knees. Someone complicated, deep and twisted who loves this game just as much as I do. Beautiful, fulfilling, satisfying torture.
I would inspire him. My relative simplicity would be comforting to him. My admiration would motivate him. His mind would be as powerful as my passion. Inspiration. Together we could do anything.
I’m not attracted to what society generally finds attractive in terms of personality. Looks plays a part in that too but I will get to that.
Example 1: I need a guy who is friends with his rage. I want to taste his anger and I want him to taste mine. That does not mean picking petty fights. I do want respect and patience, but I can’t stand it when people do not feel their own emotions. That said there’s also a balance – I have a zero-tolerance policy for violence. In my experience, someone comfortable with his rage is less likely to be violent. People who bottle it up might get violent at unexpected times.
Example 2: I am drawn to men with sad eyes. I love that release of emotion. I don’t like things that are fake and contained, and I don’t like people who are dead inside, unable to feel their own pain.
Example 3: I’m not attracted to politeness, though it has its place, like at dinners with stuffy family members (not my family though, we like to laugh and argue). Out of all the people I’ve been most crazy about, any one of them would tell me when my logic makes no sense, what I’m wearing doesn’t look that great, my plot was too predictable in my book, or my song was too long. I need honesty, and I don’t want my toes sucked. I am all for praise, but I won’t buy it unless I see that it’s honest and earned.
Example 4: I don’t want him to be too polished, or to expect that out of me. I love obsessive eating habits and workouts, but I can’t stand superficial status symbols. I am ‘so carnal it’s spiritual’ and I need someone who can appreciate that. Although I can clean up nice, it’s very hard for me to pretend to be classy and prudish on a regular basis.
Example 5: I don’t like men who are overly sociable or involved with a social life. I need someone who sees through a lot of superficial bullshit, like social expectations, television, propaganda politics and drama between other humans. I want him to be more into himself than other people.
Example 6: I don’t want to be overloaded with attention. I need space to do my hobbies. If I can’t sit comfortably in a room with a guy ignoring each other on our separate laptops, I will not fall for him.
Now, what I do want.
My descriptions might sound like I am into rude emo assholes, but that is absolutely not the case. In fact, the guys i have fallen hard for, most people would call adorable and innocent. I fall for the sweet ones, the ones with tons of compassion, huge hearts and lots of feelings. Yet this is why I emphasize honest expression: it’s impossible to know compassion without knowing one’s own darker side too.
I need someone who loves animals, feels connected to his true nature, who loves his fantasies, who ravages his thoughts whole. I need someone alive, who appreciates life. It can come in the form of sex, being in nature, art, questioning the meaning of things, trying to understand physics, hunting their own meat, building their own home or a myriad of other things. I don’t care what his passion is as long as it breathes life into him.
So, my fascination with Native American culture might make sense then. I love the connectivity to the Earth, the openness to nature. I love the concept that they use every part of the animals they hunt and appreciate what they are consuming. I love that sensitivity. I love crying flutes and wild tribal drums and warrior dances that express darkness. There are ideas about releasing rage. I love the connectivity with our true nature and everything that makes us human and animal.
Everything is symbolic. Nothing is just looks.
That said I am very attuned to beauty and what it evokes in my mind. A strong jaw feels manly to me. Big lips are sensuous and inviting, like he could caress me or devour me. I love big hands, how they feel. I love how a certain body type fits against mine. I love how motion expresses who people are, in general, and I am attuned to how a man moves. I love long hair, an extension of one’s wildness. I love any expression of honest sadness, fear, shame, rage or hope. I love expressive eyes. I love life.
I was resurrected from the undead about a decade ago. I was a vampire once myself, feeding on the blood and innocence of the living. I hungered for life even then, but I could only find it outside of myself. I could drink it in, but I could not give it back. I know too well that it is not a state you can rescue someone from. Someone has to make that choice, on their own, and resurrect themselves by the very light of their own dreams. Of course, others can inspire and help along the way – but life has to come from within.
Anyone who is dead inside cannot understand me. Nobody can understand me in full because they have not been where I’ve been, but at least the living can understand me now. I don’t want to date most of the human species because most of them do not taste life the way I do. They do not feel the rhythm of the world, the depth of their pain, the fire of their appetite. They resent me for being too sensitive, for bleeding, for having blood at all.
I have serious blocks against making myself vulnerable to rejection, so I need to be with someone who inherently understands this, without too much ado, because he is the same way. If I am not seen, and loved, for who I am, I would rather be alone.
Much like God is a personal experience, I acknowledge that Love is a personal experience.
If you believe in God, then, God is real to you. And I accept that you may be right.
Likewise, if you believe in Love, it is real to you.
Love may exist for others.
And I don’t doubt that your love is true.
I believe you. I believe it is real because you name it, you embrace it, you own it and you believe it.
It is simply the most sacred thing on Earth and it remains sacred in my eyes as well.
But, I do not believe I can be loved.
I can be admired, seduced, chased, adored… but not loved.
The moment I love someone back, they can’t handle my passion.
I am like a wildfire. Everyone watches from their windows as it consumes the faraway mountaintops. Their minds are filled with dreams and fears as they stare in awe at the beautiful chaos before them. But if that fire comes too close to their home, they will go to any length to put it out.
I have suffered a lot in my life. I’ve had my heart broken beyond belief, twice in the past. I lost my voice, my passion, my everything. I lost my autonomy. But through all my losses, I still believed in love. I still believed that one day, I would find love.
I cannot believe it anymore. I can be admired, and men can obsess over me and praise me to the skies, and believe me, they do. But the moment I become vulnerable, and I am no longer an exciting chase, they are turned off, gone. I am no longer beautiful in my honest, bare, bleeding form. My vulnerable emotions, my caring, my tears, my will to give and give, to merge, to BECOME this passion that consumes me, to be there for him when he falls, to admire him, to sing his praises… it arouses terror and hatred.
I know how to play chase-me. I can win that game every time. But I do not know how to share my true, honest, vulnerable heart without scaring men away.
Please, if you believe in love, do not let my musings implement doubt in your minds. You are not me. You can be loved. I cannot.
How can you convince someone that it’s logical to choose an intensely difficult path simply because their heart pulls them toward it?
If it isn’t logical to follow my heart to the ends of the Earth, why does it feel so right? Why does it feel so wrong to do otherwise? As a human animal I have the capacity for passion, emotion, and reason. Nothing feels quite right unless all of those components align. If something feels so right, then it must be logical.
I can’t prove that my heart always leads me to the right place. But I know it does. I believe it, and trust it, and so it leads me exactly where I need to be. It’s impossible to convince anyone that this is logical. The only logic behind it is that there is no other point in being alive. What is the point of life if we let love slip from our grasp? What is the point of surviving if you aren’t living? What makes you want to get out of bed in the morning? What gets you through a hard day’s work? What is it all for?
My dreams are logical because they exist. Because my desire is more tangible than the bed I am burning in. My dreams are my reality and reality is what you make it. Life imitates art and art imitates life. My dreams are life.
When my heart sings, it screams. It howls and bleeds and burns. There is no mistaking that song. My body tells me what I feel and my feelings tell me what I am.
Somehow, some way, I follow my heart and beat the odds senseless. Someone who is fit to be my partner would do the same. If his heart burns for me, it would be logical to seize me at any cost. I am far from perfect, but I am irreplaceable.
I am animal, human, and symbol at once. Animal is my instinct, appetite and desire; my will to survive. Human is my mind, ideas, and imagination. Symbol is my identity and legacy; my place in the world. Symbol is the only one that will transcend mortality but in and of itself, it’s out of my control, as it is dependent upon how other people view me. If Animal and Human harmonize to attain clarity of purpose, then Symbol would reflect my sense of self.
There was a time in my life when I was stripped of my goals, my dreams, my youth, my independence, my pride. All that was left of me was my will to survive. I battled imminent death for months, unable to move or swallow, then emerged with most of my faculties, but not my voice, which was my passion, purpose, identity, and lifeblood. Beyond that, I knew I would be dependent on expensive medicines indefinitely, unable to work much. My IQ was lower due to brain damage from high fevers, I lost my hair, I had arthritis which made walking difficult, and I could not sleep without an onslaught of medications.
I was stripped of my humanity and laid bare. My photography and self-expression was the only thing that made me more than just an animal at the time. At the very best, this turned me into a symbol. The art represented what I really was: a naked, scratched and bruised animal, with nothing to love but its memories of being human. My photos displayed this. Outside of artwork all I wanted was to feed, fuck and compete. I had no friends, only allies and adversaries. I had no love, only flesh and innocence upon which to feed.
What it means to be an animal, stripped of your humanity, is: fearless, shameless, apathetic. Fearlessness is not courage, shamelessness is not confidence, and apathy is not strength. These states of mind are emptiness, nothingness, animalism. Some people reach this state and don’t want to live but, having fought for my life, I was in touch with my survival instincts. I wanted to survive, and I had this tiny modicum of hope that one day, I would live again. That the ghost of my past would be resurrected.
I crashed and burned until the phoenix burst and I was reborn over and over… and each time, I came closer to finding my passion and purpose, until finally I sang lead through my whisper on my album which was the last piece of the puzzle that made me human again. Human: compassionate, vulnerable, scared, ashamed, angry, open, wounded, alive.
In my case, this episode of animalism has been deeply incorporated into my understanding of myself and the world. For a while, I tried to reject the animal altogether, but then it came back full force, twice as hungry. The only way to move past it was to stop hating it. To embrace it. To love it. To know that it is part of me, but there is also more to me than just that. I am animal, human and symbol at once.
Embrace the animal and you will know what makes you human as well as what makes you you, what gives you identity and place in the world. When someone rejects their inner animal – or mine – honest communication is impossible.
I thought I would feel like ‘enough’ when I finished my album, but then I finished it and it wasn’t good enough. I was proud of myself that I did it at all, and that I fought the good fight, but the quality and expression couldn’t measure up to what I heard in my head. The next one will be closer, I told myself. And this is the cycle with all of my work that I will continue for the rest of my life. The day my work is enough is the day I’ll stop working and then I will lay down like Yoda on his death bed, smile, and merge with the cosmos.
My life has been full of difficulties. I’ve had the kind of life where I lost everything through no fault of my own, fought for my life and survived, was driven to the bottom of the darkest parts of my psyche, got a taste of what it feels like to live for many years with absolutely nothing to lose and thus no fear, no shame and no sense of regret until I started building myself back up again. When asked about my personal difficulties, I could easily write a novel.
To sum it up, I was musically gifted at an extremely young age, basically a child prodigy, writing full songs by age 8 and selling songs to directors for shows by age 11. At that young age I wrote my first 400 page science fiction novel as well. I was performing, piano and vocals by age 13, and on my way to a Broadway career at 16 when I was afflicted with an illness that made me unable to walk, so confused I didn’t know who I was, couldn’t move, in so much pain I couldn’t swallow food, lost most of my hair, and lost my voice. I emerged after a while – about six months of immobility and another few years of intermittent disability. Many of my IQ points never recovered and I lost my voice forever; I now speak in a whisper. On top of that, my first boyfriend who was my hero during all of this, devoured my virginity and my innocence and ultimately broke my heart.
My entire life was spent working my hardest at school and music, only to have it all taken away. With my voice I lost my identity and sense of purpose. With my boyfriend I lost my faith in love. I started living life as a symbol of myself. I could no longer do music, and expressed myself through very intense photography in college.. nudes of myself covered in blood.
My outfits were extreme; what was left of my ruined scraggly hair that fell out from illness was dyed bright pink, and I was a vampire, sucking the innocent blood from beautiful men who loved me, hungry and thirsty for even a momentary taste of something pure, someone else looking at me with love, another artist looking at the world with wonder, another musician playing his heart out. I was on my knees for such childlike wonder and aimed to devour it as though I could recover but a modicum of my own dreams. Once I had sucked him dry and become the main focus of his attention I would toss him out and aim to devour the next innocent.
My creative outpour was extreme – I slept once every other night or every three nights, had no real schedule, though I always made it to class and aced everything – and constantly created; had no real friends, just outpoured photo after photo, and other projects, which were hung all around the school. Within months I was in charge of the photo department but was sneaking in through a window I propped open after hours, to blast Marilyn Manson and NIN and have all four enlargers to myself so I could super-impose dead cats over my naked body and exploit my losses and my rage. I had to take copious amounts of LSD and force myself to play piano in order to cry; the rest of the time I was angry, lusty, hungry, empty. My masochism was directed mostly at my body – I would starve myself and eat nothing but vegetables for weeks – not because I thought I was fat, but simply because I wanted to prove I had enough control to do it. Everything was about control, control, control.
I would work out alot, barely sleep, barely eat, make my body into a perfect sculpture and a symbol of my own pain, deprivation, loss and suffering. I took a lot of self portraits. I conducted experiments on myself, taking LSD and trapping myself in various scenarios (like on a mountain with nothing but a notebook, in my room but not allowed to use anything for expression except a keyboard that was being recorded)… to ‘see what would come out.’ My body was a vessel for self-expression and I had to force it to cater to my whims. My sex life included violence so extreme that I’d be full of cuts and blood and could not even shower because the water hurt my scratched up skin too much. I had an alternate name, Anäeia, which I called myself only in my photos, and it was my ‘vampire name.’ Short for “Annihilate.” Everyone knew me as a legend, because of the power of my work, but I hardly spent time with anybody, and prowled around the campus late at night with my giant headphones, my pink hair and long trench-coat making love to the wind. Anyone I spent real time with was either an artistic collaborator, a mind-game opponent, or ‘prey.’
I came out of that by spiraling even lower, into cycling through downers and opium and other things..until finally I hit rock bottom and drank half a bottle of acid. I saw the underside of hell and worse. Luckily I blacked out for about 8 hours of that trip. When I woke up, it took some time for me to have any idea who I was, and I had to build myself back up from scratch. My best friend & nemesis helped me by challenging me to do logic games and arts.. pushing me hard so I could remember who I was, and not just continue living as a shell of myself. After that, I cleaned up. No more drugs and wild sex and escapades. I wrote two complete novels and parts of others. Ultimately I became very focused on writing a fantasy novel and slowly started writing songs again, singing through my whisper. Somehow during all of this I managed to graduate from a great college with straight As.
After college I worked for a few years then moved to the city to front my own band, singing through my very undependable whisper, and building a healthy lifestyle around the aim of sustaining as much vocal capability as I possibly could. I wrote all the songs, arranged, auditioned the band members, played keyboard and sang, managed, promoted, did websites, ultimately produced the album. I also managed an apartment where roommates came and went, and invested lots of money into building rooms in the loft so my rent could be lower & I could focus on music. My life became full responsibility, living my dreams, chasing my childhood dreams at full force, and no interest in men or drugs.
Now my health has betrayed me again, and I was forced to move back upstate because my chronic illness did not take well to the city. My whispery singing voice evaded me again and my band fell apart through no fault of my own. But I am contentedly and calmly writing my book in a gorgeous location upstate, taking long walks, exercising, single, solitary and independent, and completely in love with life. None of my friends are local, and I am happy spending most of my day on my home planet in my novel.
As long as I feel like a human, an animal, and a symbol at once, I feel alive. I am being true to myself. Every shower is so carnal it’s spiritual; every motion connects my body with the cosmos; I am true to my instincts. I embrace my tumultuous emotions; they are fuel for my work and my purpose. My body is my canvas, my clothes are my paintbrush. Everything I own, wear, and do is an expression of self. I am a vessel through which music, art, stories and messages emerge.
This is always the case, regardless of my state of health. But just being me isn’t enough. I need to stand for something, to express something; my battle against the odds, my rise from the ashes. Even my dedication to expression in and of itself is something to stand for. Having something to express, a passion and a purpose which means something to me, gives me a sense that I am living rather than surviving. But regardless of the shape or meaning of my expression, strength comes from only one source: integrity. As long as I have my integrity I’m living; without it I am surviving. The loss of integrity is the only loss that is truly devastating. As long as my expression, my purpose, my existence, my friendships, and my choices are connected to my sense of integrity, I am whole. To me, integrity is, simply, being true to myself. The world can take my assets… my health, my work, my money, my hair, my friends… but if it wants to take my passion and integrity, it will have to kill me.
I don’t use charm. Charm uses me. When I’m really into someone, I can’t stop my heart from throbbing and my cheeks from flushing. I’m suddenly self conscious in ways I never was before. I feel exposed. I’m stumbling all over myself and can’t think. All I want to do is crawl into his arms, or have wild animal sex, or know everything about him but I feel rude asking, so I putter around trying to think of something acceptable to say, and barely end up speaking at all. Some people find that helplessness adorable (like a wet mouse?), some find it oddly fascinating (like a bald peacock). If I manage to avoid conversing, I stare like a hungry tigress with my eye fixed upon the prey, studying his every nuance, seeking his tender and vulnerable spots, thirsting to pounce. The less words are involved, the more likely I am to seduce, because my body language and hunger speaks for itself, and yet makes no demands.
The rest of the time I’m comfortable in my own skin and don’t think to chase or please anyone; however I am genuinely compassionate and interested in listening to what someone has to say… if I’m not, I won’t talk to them beyond being cordial. So my honest interest in them, along with my openness and natural vigor, can seem anything from charming to clumsy. I need to practice if I am to learn how to wield my charm rather than let my curiosity, ardor, and moods wield me.