A Harrowing Tale of Redemption …

Artists find inspiration everywhere. Why? Because they are open to receiving it in whatever form it might appear. Open mind, open heart, open spirit. They receive subtle messages that a lot of others might ignore. They see things and feel things that are sometimes imperceptible, the sublime. Other times, they are influenced by horrific events, tragedy and, perhaps, near-death experiences. 

Such was the case for artist Voltaine Annon. On a hot summer day in Bakersfield about 10 years ago, she and two friends wanted to cool off in the river at Hart Park. It was so hot outside. They couldn’t wait to feel the cool waters of the infamous river. They knew the perils; they were aware of the risks. In fact, Voltaine, who worked at a local sign shop, had just finished preparing the death toll signs that are prominently displayed on Route 178. The number of people who drowned that year was accurate … for the moment. 

The friends parked their car and raced for the water. Two jumped in first, then Voltaine. Before she hit the water, she saw her friends swept away and slammed against a tree. Immediately, she was submerged in darkness and tangled in a network of branches and roots. The underwater prison was black, and the more she struggled, the tighter the roots seem to constrain her. Initially panicked, Voltaine says she lapsed into a sort of peaceful acceptance.

Her friends found their way out and were safe on the riverbank, but they could not see Voltaine. She was lost in the darkness. Her mind thought she heard someone say, “Hold on, I’m coming.” Then all of a sudden, wham! A force, whose source is unknown, propelled her out of her constraints.

“It felt like hands on my chest, pushing me out with tremendous force,” she says. 

But no one was there. She could see the light and heard some young boys rushing over to help her. To this day, she has no idea how she escaped. Was it divine intervention? 

She has not spoken about this incident in 10 years or given it much thought. Suddenly, when she was working on a new series of paintings, the memories came flooding back. Perhaps therapeutically motivated, she revisits the experience in a new series of paintings. Voltaine shows no signs of psychological damage. She is, however, wary of uncontrolled rushing water and has a special respect for the Kern.