Art on the Street: KJ Anderson, From Cults to Murals

Many

of Miami's creatives are transient, showing up on our shores and

disappearing as quickly as the tides. The Art on the Street series will

document this overlooked and ever-changing element of South Florida

culture.

KJ Anderson paints on walls in Midtown
KJ Anderson paints on walls in Midtown
Camille Lamb

Camille Lamb
KJ Anderson paints on walls in Midtown

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KJ

Anderson says people are surprised when they hear her story. Her

Jessica Rabbit-like hips and ass, blue-black dyed hair, and her

enthusiasm for the night life may make it difficult for some to believe

that she escaped the confines of a Nebraska-based Baptist cult just

three years ago, at the age of 32. But it doesn't come as a shock to me.

It shows when she speaks, as her wide-set brown eyes contract in an

infinitesimal wince. She dutifully tells me, a stranger and a

journalist, things so revealing and painful, most would reserve them

only for carefully selected confidantes.

Now she's perched at the top of a ladder painting flaming vodka

bottles on a wall on northeast 24th avenue. She's used plumber's caulk

to adhere empty plastic vodka handles cut at odd angles to the wall as

well. The piece was requested by the wholesale liquor distributor who

owns the building she's adorning. Watch this video to meet Anderson and

learn why she paints.

Anderson was born in a small town in Nebraska in an isolated Independent Fundamental Baptist

society, and until 3 years ago, she had never left. Women were required

to wear modest, long-sleeved dresses, blouses, bobby socks, and tennis

shoes, and to keep their hair long. There was no television. There was

no music. Strangely enough, she was allowed to attend public school

until she was in eighth grade, but it was actually a relief when she was

pulled out to finish her education "on the compound."

KJ Anderson
KJ Anderson at 19, dressed in full Independent Fundamental Baptist garb

"It was kind of good, because we were no longer subject to the people on

the outside making fun of us," Anderson says, still painting. "It was

hard for us to be in a long dress and look the way we did in a normal

society. People look at you like you're an alien. They want to torture

you, taunt you, throw stuff at you, call you names. So I'm used to that.

I'm used to people wanting to attack you for different reasons."

Quasi-arranged marriages were common in the cloistered society, one tradition she was not able to escape.

"When

I was 21, I wasn't chosen by anyone who was a single male at the time,"

she says. "That's kind of been an issue throughout my whole life. I've

never felt like the person who's been really chose. Chose to be

someone's wife or chose to be someone's girlfriend. I've always felt

like I'm either the second choice, or the one that's not quite good

enough," she says.

Then her ex-husband came along. The one big snag was that he was eight and a half years younger than Anderson.

"My

ex-husband, his choices for a wife were kind of limited," she begins.

"It kind of comes down to this: If you only had three girls to choose

from, and we go into a building and pick the first three women, guess

what? Maybe none of them are pretty. Maybe all of them are pretty. But

there still is not much choice. But even though I was a lot older, he

was like, 'Why can't I like that one?' Because I was the best looking of

what was left," she says, casually speaking of the whole process as

though it had been a horse auction.

After they

said their vows, the two lived together under platonic conditions. They

became close friends, and found common ground in their rebelliousness

and their desire for life beyond the cult.

"He

knew that I was going to escape. He believed, like me, that things

weren't right. He knew that our marriage was not what a marriage should

be. It was like living with your brother. We were friends, but the

thought of whatever comes with marriage was so disgusting. We don't have

kids, which is a good thing. But when I ran away I was on my own for

six months when he got kicked out for disobeying the rules. Like trying

to date a girl on the outside, which of course is a no-no. And I think

he was smoking cigarettes."

She connected him

to friends she had met while studying massage in Omaha, and they helped

the ostracized young man to fulfill his lifelong dream of joining the

army, Anderson said.

"So both me and him, we

faced the same struggle. We're both trying to do these good things.

We're both trying to be helpful people. He's trying to protect the

country. And I'm trying to like be somebody that people can look up to.

We will accomplish these good things. But our families are still gonna

look at us and shake their heads and say, 'They're doing wrong. They're

gonna die and go to hell.'"

Anderson's family

has completely disowned her. She says she continually sticks her neck

out to meet people in hopes that she'll stumble upon good ones. She got

the gig painting the walls of these buildings from a friend she met out

on the nightlife scene in South Beach. But other times, as one might

expect, her experiences have been less than stellar.

"I

do like to go out," she said. "I don't like to drink that much, because

I like to watch. It's your biggest opportunity to see a lot of people

and meet new people. People I meet, that's all I have right now. That's

all my family. People I grew up with, I can't call family anymore. I

take a chance sometimes. You take a chance and talk to people and make a

new friend sometimes, and I've been burnt, several times. But there's

amazing people out there, and I like to find that. There's still people

out there, that, when they say they're going to do something, they do

it. And that's what I look for."

Follow KJ Anderson's artwork on Twitter at QueenOfTheArts.

Follow Cultist on Facebook and Twitter @CultistMiami.


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