University of Illinois at Chicago
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journal contribution
posted on 2019-07-30, 00:00 authored by Cecilia Villarruel
This is an abstract portrait of me. It is graphite on paper drawn by the artist DADA obscura. His real name is Paul; he is my boyfriend, and he is a heroin addict. For decades, he has struggled with addiction; intoxicated and anesthetized, he saw the world through a distorted lens. For decades, the US has struggled with the War on Drugs; ill-informed and biased, our country has looked at addicts through a distorted lens. Like this beautiful, twisted image of my face, my writing invites people to not only look at the familiar from a different perspective, it invites them to examine their own distorted lenses as well. Addiction is one of the various subjects I write about. Through personal interviews with addicts and their families and research on evolving drug laws and new treatments, my work tries to access the human thread the runs through us all. This image makes me look at myself carefully, and it is surprising to find my likeness in something so warped. Using story to represent the familiar and unfamiliar makes hard, divisive issues accessible and digestible; story enables people to examine others, policy, the world, and themselves through new lenses.


This exhibit competition is organized by the University of Illinois at Chicago Graduate College and the University Library.


Publisher Statement

English; Second Place; Copyright 2016, Cecilia Villarruel. Used with permission. For more information, contact the Graduate College at


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