Jennifer Rondinone, decided to express her frustration using something that came very natural to her- art. In what began as a cathartic exercise to cope with her feelings and foster personal growth after her abusive marriage ended, has led this Vermont resident and artist to use her art as a medium to raise community and legislative awareness about narcissistic abuse.
Jen Rondinone spent 13 years in an abusive marriage. She was isolated, berated, threatened, gaslighted, and told how she should spend her money. She tried to leave many times over the years, but like many abuse victims, she returned out of fear or the lure of promises of change and a better future.
Now, she’s using her talent for visual expression to convey what control looks like, why abuse victims stay, what love bombing is, what gaslighting feels like, and many other forms of abuse that are often challenging for victims and professionals to describe and for juries to comprehend only using words.
“I admit I did not initially set out to specifically raise awareness for narcissistic abuse. “The first piece, My Electronic Leash, began out of frustration."
My Electronic Leash is a 4’ x 5’ painted canvas with 55 pages of a phone bill mounted to its surface showing the incessant texts and calls Rondinone’s abuser would make to keep tabs on her and increase his grip of control.
“I had been looking for a document to dispute something my abuser had claimed. While looking through the files, I found a phone bill from February 2006. It was 26 pages long and almost exclusively texts between my abuser and me. It brought to mind an Interaction with an associate from the cell phone carrier. We were upgrading our phones and he pulled up our account. We were asking about an increased texting plan as we had gone over a couple times. He said something about the fact that our texts were almost exclusively between each other and that it was “weird” or “odd.”
I continued through the files. The next month’s bill was 29 pages. Then 33, 35, 40, 38, 42, 38, 43, then 55. By that time, I was dry-heaving. I wound up curled up in a ball on the floor of my bathroom for 15 minutes trying to calm down. I recall there being bills well over a hundred pages, but considering what seeing these had done to me, I was content not seeing them.”
Another canvas, which is a companion piece to Rondinone’s My Electronic Leash is an unnamed red and blue piece with a series of time stamps on it.
“He occupied every spare minute I had, Rondinone said. “He knew where I was and what I was doing every minute of the day.”
Using her mixed media pieces to illustrate behavior that rises to the level of abuse and coercive control, Rondinone hopes to reach and educate individuals either about to enter in or already in a narcissistically abusive relationship.
“I want people to really see what that type of control looks like," Rodinone said. I couldn't have just painted these." Even though Rondinone has painted her whole life and her preferred medium is oil, she believes these pieces call for more and that's why she chose to create mixed media pieces.
For instance, in her piece titled, The Breaking Point, she decoupaged a broken knife blade and its pieces against a stark white background. Rondinone believes that had she just painted the blade and broken pieces gray, they wouldn’t have the same impact as they do with decoupaged notes correlating to my experience from the book, Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, by Lundy Bancroft.“It adds to the depth of the meaning of the piece,” Rondinone explained.
Rondinone’s art is not currently on display, although recently it was featured in her local newspaper in a series about domestic abuse. As for the future, Rondinone has a bright outlook and is thriving. She credits her recovery to an excellent therapist and employing healthy coping and self-care techniques. And, she already has plans for pieces depicting gaslighting, isolation, financial abuse, compulsive lying, and mirroring, and hopes to have a gallery space to show them in the future.
I Buy My Own Clothes Now
"This is a depiction of my closet after I cleared out all the clothes my abuser had purchased. It represented 80-85% of my wardrobe."
My Electronic Leash
"This piece highlights a portion of the day and the times of the texts, showing how incessant the texting was. It was during work hours for both of us. He knew where I was and what I was doing every minute of the day."