An Apartment Fire Burned My Art—I’m Still Healing
Jan 2021 - 4 Min read

An Apartment Fire Burned My Art—I’m Still Healing

stream Artist Undisclosed Gen X

A visual and performing artist shares how a traumatic event has impacted her creative process. 

I was preparing for an art show. 

The SoHo one-bedroom apartment I had lived in for more than 12 years certainly looked like an art studio—paint and paintings strewn everywhere. Huge canvases I spent years working on layered the walls. The pages of my handmade book channeled words and drawings, some of which I remember. There was a self-portrait with the words, “I am a song” and a drawing with the words, “I’ve made my own self happy. Thank God.”

In 2016, I had decided that, instead of keeping a typical Passover Seder with my family, I would make a one-take documentary film. I gave out holy matzah from Israel under the white arch of Washington Square Park while the camera captured magical encounters with passersby who stopped for matzah and talked with me, revealing themselves and interacting. Around 5:30 a.m., while watching Youtube videos of Prince (who had recently passed away), I looked behind me and suddenly saw flames shooting out of my bedroom. 

I quickly tried to put the fire out but got burned. It was already out of control. I woke up my neighbor, he called 911 and then I ran from apartment to apartment, banging on doors to wake everyone up. I lived on the sixth floor, and by the time I got to the fourth floor, I noticed people bringing their computers with them, so I quickly dashed back upstairs to get mine, which was loaded with tons of original music and art, and none of which was backed up.

Words became imprinted in my mind: “Getting over you is what I have to do. Will take it till I’m through. I know I will get through, getting over you. We all go, round and round around with the one beyond a sound.” Smoke filled the stairwell. I got burned trying to put out the fire on my left arm. The scar looks like a teardrop, an angel marking of a survivor. A phoenix. 

Ultimately, numerous firemen came to put out the fire. In my apartment alone, 40 years of art and music burnt to ashes. Dozens upon dozens of journals from my youth. A wardrobe that I was notorious for having. All forever lost.

I quickly tried to put the fire out but got burned. It was out of control.
A charred building and fire extinguisher.

I Channel a Higher Power With My Art

I have never had a nine-to-five job. I’ve always led the life of an artist. I have performed in front of thousands and in small crowds, in psych wards, in parks, in clubs and so forth. It is a vulnerable thing to sing your own songs. To expose your truth. To imbibe your essence on stage and to truly engage. I am brave. 

I have had many incarnations as an artist. As a little girl, I began in musical theater. I grew up with a single mom and older sister, and the summer before third grade, my wealthy aunt and uncle sent me to a girls sleep away camp. I auditioned for the upcoming summer musical, Annie and got the part of Annie’s brother, Rooster. 

I was a natural. My mother, my hero, soon put me in a local musical theatre troupe where I starred in musicals. One highlight occurred during a summer tour, just before fifth grade. I starred in Alice in Wonderland.  We performed for those with special needs and, after the shows, I would talk to them in the audience. I have always, in some ways, been an empath. I have a lot of compassion and have a lot of love for humanity. 

I once wrote in a journal, “I stand for instrument.”

I am a conduit, creatrix, antenna, a vessel of expression. When I perform, I channel. I connect directly to the higher power. I am aware that I am eternal energy, a spirit, a soul living in and moving this body, this instrument, this vessel of expression. I am somewhat of a tortured artist. Prolific. Talented. But I’ve suffered and endured a great deal. 

Mental Health Has Impacted My Career

Some of the best songs I wrote on my first album helped me “heal and deal and get to what’s real,” helped me get over an extreme heartache that I still live with to this day. I do feel privileged to be an artist. I want to uplift others and inspire others to do more than survive. To overcome. To prevail. To transform. To thrive. 

I have always been a natural performer. Always known how to sing and conjure up melodies, harmonies and words. I must have learned such skills in a past life. I am not a wife. And my great love is unrequited. 

A graduate of Juilliard, I had the best management, starring in independent movies, doing commercials, voice-overs and television shows, and even understudied as a lead female role on Broadway.  

At the peak of my career, I was hospitalized and diagnosed with bipolar I. I have entered states of hypomania, mania and deep depression. I have been institutionalized many times. My mental health sabotaged my blossoming career as an actress. 

Since the fire, I haven’t painted as much.

I’m Beginning to Recover From the Fire’s Blaze

Some blamed me for the fire. I have no memory of lighting anything. At the time, the building was undergoing electrical work.  The blaze remains a mystery to me. A trauma I am still healing from. 

In the hospital, I received my second round of shock treatment. My first came after a suicide attempt in 2011 that landed me in the hospital for months. I wasn’t speaking. I thought I would be forever institutionalized. It was a lot to live through. I have overcome much. 

Since the fire, I haven’t painted as much. I want to. I just ordered a lot of art supplies. I love drawings and expressing myself through visual art. I also reconnected to my voice. In a matter of days, I am releasing a new album, and after the new year, another one is already ready to go.  Like a phoenix, I am “back in the flow, in the know, getting back my glow.” 

I’m in my 40s now, and I’m not on a path to becoming a typical mother. I am content that my art and creations are my children. 

stream Artist Undisclosed Gen X

Discover Themes

Going Places

It's about time we all got out of the house, wouldn't you say?



This should be fun. We’re talking NSFW fun, okay?


Head Space

Chances are you’ve been on your own rollercoaster ride with mental health recently. The Doe is here for you. 

Mental Health

Common Ground

The environment is a constant in the news, but even more so of late. Climate change, the Australian wildfires and, of course, the spread of a global, animal-borne disease have most of us thinking about our planet in unfamiliar ways.


Game On

While the sporting world has been rocked by the pandemic, it looks for a major rebound this spring: March madness, indeed.



Some folks have family trees that go back generations, others don’t know who their birth mothers are. No matter what, the human desire to know where one came from runs deep.


Hi, Society

Okay, so how many movies did you see in the theater last year? And live concerts? Yeah, that’s what we figured. And yet!

Pop Culture

And Beyond

The year is 2020. Science and technology influence everything from day-to-day tasks to our health and longevity. And yet an ocean of advancement still awaits. The question is, how do we dive in?

Science and Tech

What's Good

To say this year has sucked would be an understatement. But amidst the hot dumpster fire that is 2020, we're looking for a silver lining.

Acts of Kindness

State of the Union

It’s perhaps the most contentious and consequential election in modern American history: As Biden and Trump square off, The Doe jumps into the debate.


The System

George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Portland. Chicago. Lafayette Square. As cities across the United States grapple with protests, unrest and rebellion, The Doe takes a deep dive into justice and the system.


Subject Matters

Reading, writing and arithmetic ain’t what it used to be a decade ago—or even a few months ago.


What She Said

It’s difficult to articulate what it's like being a woman. Hell, even the spelling of the word is cause for discussion (we see you, womxn).


Four Letter Word

Love: A lot of songs, poems and multi-volume treatises have been devoted to the subject. So, in these strange days when we could use it the most, what’s left to say about the strongest of human emotions?  Plenty.


On the Record

We’re very proud of our particular and deliberate themes at The Doe. They cover a broad range of topics, ones that we feel are crucial to discourse in the world today. But still!