Art has always been a way for me to understand myself and the world around me. My name is Adriana Rimpel and, for the last four years, I have been performing as a vocalist in the Twin Cities under the name Lady Midnight. There has never been a moment in which I didn’t sing, as cliche as that sounds; it has come as naturally to me as breathing. As an infant, I would hum and lull myself to sleep, no doubt imitating my mother, who often sang to me and my older sister every night and on long car rides. I was fortunate to have come from a musical family that valued the arts and praised me for my creativity equally as they did for my academics.

Even though I was supported within my nuclear family, I spent a lot of time feeling like an outsider among my peers and the communities I lived in. Writing, sewing, painting, dancing, singing, sculpting, you name it – if it was creative, I did it. It became a way for me to understand myself and define my own identity, my own beauty in a world constructed to eradicate my very existence. Art was a way for me to process difficult things in the world and in my life, and I suppose it still is.

When I was a child of about seven or eight, I remember going to the Walker Art Center with my oldest and late sister Merla, who was a painter visiting from out of town. As a family, we often went to the museum as a special treat. I entered a round chamber of Kara Walker’s silhouette cuts and fully felt the visceral experiences of racism, assault and perversion. It would be the first time I felt the overwhelming atrocities inflicted on my people within my own small body, and the experience forever changed my perception of myself in relation to whiteness. It was the first time I understood the power and the responsibility of art.

I was 13 when my father was murdered. My sister Merla sent me and my older sister, Leah, some photographs of him that she had been holding on to. Among them was a small certificate for a photography course he had completed. I think when you lose someone like that, you find ways to feel connected to them, and taking up one of his passions made me feel like there was some sort of ancestral memory guiding me. During my first course at Minneapolis College of Art and Design, where I would later earn my BFA in photography, we were assigned a self-portrait assignment. At the last minute, I took some portraits of myself without thinking and hurriedly put them on the wall to be critiqued. The first question was, “What is your relationship with your father?” The second “Is he living?” and the third “How did he die?” Unknowingly, I had recreated his death years later as a way to define myself, and that part of me I had little capacity at the time to process became a marker of my identity.

I do believe we are defined by our experiences, and trauma is a major force in shaping our existence. I began writing songs when I was seven, but more seriously when I was 13.

As a young songwriter, I wondered how much loss and emptiness I would need to experience before I could sing with enough life to wake the dead.

Billie Holiday sang that way and stirred a feeling inside of me I could not name. Music became a way for me to express what was not possible to formulate in speech, but I could sing it. I was able to express the feeling without having to figure out where it came from. To this day, I’m still not always sure why I make what I make, but I know when it’s time, it will reveal its purpose to me and teach me what I already knew deep down.

I was raised by strong women, and my mother taught me the importance and the power of one’s own voice through her activism against domestic violence and sexual assault. For the past 17 years, I’ve worked with young people in the arts to help them address what is locked inside of them through self-expression. Through my own experiences, I share how to use the energy of fear and pain for love, guidance and healing. I remember praying for the answer to how to heal on a night a young man was found with a gash on his forehead in the woods. He was conscious, but unresponsive. I sang to him, and at the end of the song, he spoke his first words, “You have a beautiful voice.” To which I replied, “Thank you. Can you drink this water and tell me your name?” And he did, and he was okay. My answer to my question was song; it was music and my own voice. That is how I heal and can share healing with others.

It’s important for me to remind others, especially young people, that they have the capacity to heal, love and guide themselves. I don’t think there will ever be a time I won’t work with young people, just like I hope I will always have mentors to support and inspire me. Witt Siasoco is one of those people, and it truly is an honor to be included among such important voices. I hope to be able to present my work in a way that will allow others to form connections inside themselves and convert pain into power, hate into compassion, and fear into hope.

See more stories from our multi-media series Art Is…

Production Team: Ryan Klabunde, Kate McDonald, Jim Kron, Eric Pagel, Terry Gray.

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“I am Witt Siasoco, a community-based artist working at the intersection of art and civic life. For over 20 years, I have been creating visual art that reflects on community conversation and engagement. What ties all of my artwork together? Art as a tool for engagement and community conversation.” Discover more about Witt’s passion in binding together art and community.

Whether it’s Women’s History Month or any other month, we offer up a salute to all the Minnesota women who carve out a space for artistic endeavors. If you ever find yourself needing a little inspiration to bring to life that dream in your mind’s eye, then this collection of local women artists is sure to give you that “get-up-and-go” energy you need.