Artist Nikki Freeman’s life should be a novel – the kind you can’t put down, filled with twists and turns, tragedy, scandal, and skeletons that, rather than stay in the closet, dance around in full view. She makes no apologies. She knows that no one is immune and everyone has secrets. Her artwork is a representation of all that she knows about being a woman, including the secrets that they keep.
Freeman, 27, was born in Yakima and then traveled with her parents, who were both in the Army, to Germany, Texas, and California where she attended a school in Sacramento for pregnant teens. About 10 years ago, she ended up in Spokane and graduated from an alternative high school. She went on to Spokane Community College to pursue a degree in criminal justice. “I wanted to be an animal cop,” she said. Upon taking a drawing class, she changed her plans, receiving an associate of fine arts degree in 2010.
A mother of three, Freeman has worked as a tattoo apprentice, at McDonald’s, as a peer mentor at a school, and in security at Spokane Falls Community College. A few years ago, more lucrative work came along at an oriental health spa and in adult films.
“Everything I thought I’d never do I’ve found myself doing, not for fun or myself but to ensure the health and happiness of my daughters,” she said. “People always say they’d do ‘anything’ for the ones they love, but are the quickest to judge someone that really does do anything. No one wants to walk a mile in my shoes. Stilettos are quite uncomfortable.”
Freeman’s artwork is her story. Using big tag markers, Sharpies, rattle cans, collage, acrylic paint, and an acrylic gel medium, Freeman draws seemingly beautiful women and “tags” them with words like “Plastic Makes Perfect” or “Liar.” Her series of “Pill Popping Princesses” recognizes iconic women who have died as a result of their addictions. Other pieces include rambling and heartfelt journal entries written from the top of the canvas to the bottom with the addition of the feminine form, posing almost defiantly.
These “journals” tell her story, like the one about being kidnapped as a child that reads “I was once kidnapped by a clown. He was our gymnastics coach. He stole us out of the front yard and promised my sister candy. She was a greedy little fat kid so after an hour he had to take us to Safeway so she would shut up about him lying about candy. We were recognized as missing kids and rescued. I always wonder what would’ve happened if she wasn’t so hungry that day. I’m still not scared of clowns and she still cries for candy bars.”
Her stories are poignant and even funny, illustrated with strong colors and pretty women in fearless poses who clearly have stories of their own. Her messages are simple: to “give people the chance to understand someone they may normally never speak to,” to perhaps laugh in the face of tragedy, and to be brave enough to face our own personal skeletons.