An American artist recounts his hard journey from a troubled childhood to a successful career in this debut memoir.
In 1957, when Ecke was only 4 years old, he was sent to live with foster parents, who immediately established themselves as cold disciplinarians. According to the author, he and his two sisters, Gail and Tina, were fed less well than the couple’s own daughter; forced to perform dreary chores; and forbidden to speak unless spoken to or to cry. Ecke lived in that state of affectionless “imprisonment” for 15 months until he finally was sent home to his parents. He had no idea at the time that his mother had suffered a nervous breakdown as a result of abuse at the hands of his father or that she had spent nine months as a “voluntary resident at the mental hospital.” Ecke discloses that his father was an incorrigible philanderer who eventually left the family, and his mother grappled with depression. The author poignantly depicts his volatile upbringing as well as the challenge of fully accepting his gay sexuality (He had “struggled with” his sexuality since he “was a child”). At one point, he even submitted himself to the mortification of “aversion therapy” during a time when his sexual orientation was routinely treated like a curable disease. But he was able to find love in a healthy, stable relationship and finally pursue a career in art, which he always pined for, earning success as a painter. The author is courageously forthcoming about his personal struggles, and his story, though often heartbreaking, is ultimately an inspiring one. He beautifully describes the retreat he took as a child into his own imagination, a precocious sign of his life as an artist: “With no books or toys to occupy my time, I would escape into a vibrant fantasy world, where anything was possible.” And though Ecke has learned he has advanced prostate cancer, he refuses to harbor any defeatism. The book includes personal black-and-white photographs of the author and his family as well as his art and studio.
An affecting account of overcoming despair and triumphing as a painter.