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The Story Behind DK Hillard

The Name, The Brand, The Business, Me

Hear this read aloud below

The art that I create is my passion or perhaps more accurately, the expression of my passion for the quest I have been on most of my life, a quest for truth and freedom.

DKHillard as a brand, a business, and an identity, has a story behind it and that is the story I hope will provide some insight into what you are about to discover through my work.

the beginning

Each initial, D. K. H. links me to a period of my life and each of these has its own story to tell. D, for Debra, is my given name. I was born into a Jewish family of immigrants who escaped the pogroms in what was once Latvia, Lithuania and Russia. In Hebrew, Debra (Devorah) means “judge”. I didn’t know it at the time, but as my adult life has unfolded I have found myself in the position of “truth teller”. A judge is someone who filters through the story in front of her to find the truth and then rules accordingly. She is a truth teller. Debra is paramount to who I am today.

When I was in my early twenties, I married and decided to take my husband’s name. It never felt right. It said nothing about me, except that I was doing my best to create a sense of family.

During those years I also gave up pursuing my art. This was something else that wasn’t “true” to who I was, but was what I thought I had to do. In 2000 I had a serious car accident which challenged my physical abilities going forward. I couldn’t use the right side of my upper body for 18 months as I endured surgeries and rehab in an attempt to regain function.

At that time a friend suggested that I start painting again to help me heal emotionally. Being right-handed, this proved to be not only a great challenge, but also the beginning of discovering a tenderness in my heart that the awkward attempts at painting revealed. With no control my expression ran free. Without fear of judgement I found myself discovering the feminine aspect of myself that I had hidden away since I was a child.

These paintings were flowing and soft, tender and intimate. I began to see things about myself in them that I had no idea were there. The turning point came when I bravely showed a few to clients who only knew me as a tough, no nonsense, strong woman. When my work brought tears to their eyes and they began revealing things about their own experiences to me, I had a sense that my mission was shifting and that my art had value beyond my own healing.

In the ensuing years I continued to paint. Even after regaining the use of my right hand, I found that my style of painting had transformed for good. I was in touch with something much deeper than I had ever been before. Other worlds opened up to me spiritually. They began to appear in my work and it became a practice to sit with my paintings once completed and allow them to “speak” to me about what they were revealing. I was awakening to a new reality and unable to fully accept the old one any longer.

After a few years I ended my marriage, and left everything behind to start a life more in keeping with who I knew myself to be.

I took back my maiden name, hence the “K” in DKH.

And next....

Now as a single mother with a business to run, clients to attend to and an aching heart, I didn’t entertain the idea of being a full time artist. There was barely time to breathe, but when I could, I painted.

A few years after my divorce, years of struggle and much heartache, I found myself with a new expanded awareness. I realized that I had not found love because I only knew how to give it, not receive it. I didn’t believe that I was worthy of the kind of love that I knew others had. My role models were poor. But one New Year’s Eve as was my custom, I finished my annual reflection on the past year and set my intentions for the coming one and as I did I found myself standing up, alone in my apartment, saying to no one in particular, “I am ready to receive love”. A few years of being on my own, in limbo in many aspects of my life, had readied me for the next phase of my life.

I found that painting and writing were the paths to my deepest truth and that without them I floundered. So hidden away in my bedroom I painted at night and stored my paintings away. Being Debra K still didn’t feel right to me, but I had no idea what name would settle the emptiness in my gut and feel like it was mine. I played with picking a new name, but everything felt contrived. My childhood had been a difficult one, my family unaccepting of me, so my name brought only reminders of pain and betrayal. I was lost, but still seeking, always seeking.

And to the joyful "now"....

And that brings me to the “H” in my name. I did find love that following year, a love that I never knew was possible to dream of, let alone have in my life. We fought to be together, to rekindle the flame that had lived in us both since we first met when we were 15 years old.

And when we married, I chose to take his name as my own, to be part of a family that loved and accepted me, to feel like I finally belonged. Though I still don’t belong entirely to one family, one tribe, one identity, I know that I am an integration of all three of the names I have chosen to take as my own. Who I was born and raised as, who I attempted to be, and who I am now as a product of all three. I am a complex woman with a multi-dimensional awareness. I live in more than one reality simultaneously. These three initials speak to my roots and the journey I have been on, the life I have forged out of the pain and heartbreak of my past, and the love that infuses all that I create and share.

DKHillard is a symbol of me. All that I create is part of a business I now call by my name. Nothing fancy. Just me and what I have to offer from my heart and soul to yours.

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