Kim Noble Uses Art To Understand Her Dissociative Identity Disorder

You’d have to agree, artists are often more interesting than their art itself. It is their stories of struggle, of conquering the worst of situations, and of finding creativity in adversity that makes us see their art in a whole new light. Interpretation of their work becomes more personal and meaningful, and it’s almost as though we are re-discovering a person through the lens of their paintings. But when over 20 people live inside the same body and their art is the only way they communicate, things get a little more complicated.

The Artist With 20 Personalities 

Kim Noble is an artist and a mother who was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder in 1995. For those of you who may not know, D.I.D. is a psychological disorder wherein two or more personalities or ‘alters’ are present in one person’s mind. It occurs as a defense mechanism to cope with trauma and bad childhood memories. Amnesia, mood swings and flashbacks are commonly associated with it. D.I.D. is extremely interesting in the sense that, while the body and basic appearance remain the same, you may be looking at a completely different identity than the one that body is originally associated with.

Kim Noble- Using Art To Understand Her Dissociative Identity Disorder

While life is certainly not easy with a mental illness such as this, Kim describes her D.I.D. as a creative way to cope with unbearable pain. In everyday life, any personality can take over at any point and will have no recollection of what the previous alter was doing, which is sure to mess with one’s sense of reality and stability. ‘Kim Noble’ is essentially the name on her documents. The dominant alter is, in fact, a woman named ‘Patricia’, while others – like the body-conscious ‘Judy’, a depressed gay man ‘Ken’, and ‘Dawn’, the woman who gave birth to Aimee (Kim’s daughter) – may come and go. 

1 body, 13 art styles

But Kim has managed to turn the situation around by having 13 alters who are interested in painting and have polished their skills beautifully over the years. Without any formal art training, her alters express their identities and thoughts (which can be drastically different from each other) through their own distinctive styles, colors and themes. Each of their works becomes a way for Kim to track life and events when she’s not in control. 

For instance, the above piece is by an alter named ‘Ria Pratt’, a 12-year-old girl who retains Kim’s darkest memories from her childhood. As a result, she paints gloomy and graphic scenes of abuse and suffering. Being a child, her palette is almost eerily bright considering the dark themes.

The primary personality, ‘Patricia’, tends to paint gentle, abstract landscapes, which reflect her calm disposition. On the other hand, ‘Judy Ash’ is an outgoing teenager who believes she weighs 200 pounds despite Kim’s slight frame. She paints bold, powerful portraits, very different from the style of others; ‘Ria Pratt’, for instance. 

Kim Noble- Using Art To Understand Her Dissociative Identity Disorder

‘Anon’ tends to paint in the middle of the night, and her work is shrouded in mystery with its large, monochromatic, abstract-impressionist nature. The paint looks fresh and untouched with the way it seems to have been poured directly onto the canvas. The flowy, gentle scenes look soothing and carry a spiritual feel, but there’s no way to determine the intent of the artist.

There are, of course, other alters who draw and paint in very distinctive styles, making Kim Noble a gold mine of talent and capability. 

Art as a refuge and a talent

As we have mntioned, Kim and her alters have no formal art training, which means that all these art styles are developed and perfected by them using their experiences, thoughts and feelings, and a need to communicate with each other.

After spending some time with an art therapist in 2004, Kim’s alters got into art, initially using children’s paints but later shifting to more elaborate mediums. Now, all of her personalities combined have had over 60 exhibitions, nationally and internationally. Kim has appeared on many T.V. and radio shows, including The Oprah Winfrey Show. She published her book, All of Me, in 2011, illustrating her story and her artwork as a medium to express not only her internal conflicts but also mental health issues in general, which need to be portrayed accurately in all media. 

Living with D.I.D. is difficult and disorienting, but Kim has proved it to be a creative asset a medium of catharisis.

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