Man 'laughed and spat at' finds peace by 'burning picture'

Abstract artist Gary Harper
-Credit: (Image: Gary Harper)

A man has found peace by burning a picture which represented some of the darkest times in his life.

Gary Harper, from West Derby, found himself in a dark place after the breakdown of a relationship. The 31-year-old said at times he didn’t think he would “make it through” what he was experiencing emotionally.

Coupled with years of doubting his self-worth as a result of high-school bullies, the NHS worker said he was actually suicidal at one point.

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The occupational therapy assistant told the ECHO: “I was so unhappy, literally lost and didn’t know what to do with myself from day to day. I was self-employed at the time, I just opened a barber shop, so juggling everything was chaotic for me.

“Looking back, I’m surprised I managed everything. I’m proud I made it through that dark time in my life because there were points I didn’t think I would.”

In secondary school, Gary said he was “taunted for years” with homophobic slurs and was “laughed at by groups of friends” as he walked the corridors. What started as mainly verbal, eventually got physical.

Abstract artist Gary Harper
Abstract artist Gary Harper -Credit:Gary Harper

The mental health worker added: “Growing up, I was never one to be tamed. In school I struggled with bullies who targeted me for being different and grappling with my identity as a gay individual only added to the challenge.

“For a long time, I tried to fit into the mould of being straight, suppressing my true self out of guilt and fear.

“I was slapped in the face, spat at and punched. It made me really think about my self-worth, and I don’t think I had any at that time. As a teenager, I didn’t know who I was.”

Gary said at both these stages in his life, he was always able to find solace in his art.

After the breakdown of his relationship, Gary painted a picture of everything he was going through and burned it a week later in a fire. He said it was a cathartic means of letting go.

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He said: “Art has always been my sanctuary, my escape from the world's constraints. Despite everything, the urge to create never left me. I found motivation in the midst of my struggles and picked up the brush once more."

Today Gary’s art is displayed in local markets around the city and this year he is part of the Royal Liver Building’s Art Far for its 10th birthday.

He said: “I poured my heart into a piece dedicated to men's mental health. It took a while before I felt ready to share it with others, but that step was transformative.

Through the darkest times, art found its way back to me, saving me in ways I never imagined.”

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