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Artist in Focus IX - Kim Noble

LDBTH909 Coming or Going Man 2008 c

LDBTH909, Coming or Going Man, 2008


Kim Noble was born in 1960 on the 21st of November. Her parents were unhappily married. She was placed in the care of various childminders, including family members, friends, and neighbours.  Some didn’t take care of her as they should have, and she was subjected to child abuse from an extremely early age. Sometime between the age of one and three, she could no longer bear the devastating trauma she was enduring, and she experienced a shattering of her personality, which functioned to protect her from reliving the memories and trauma she had experienced. This also meant that for many years of her life she had blank spaces. For example, she would find herself working in a job that she didn’t even remember applying for.

From the age of fourteen until her mid-thirties, Noble found herself in and out of hospital, until she was finally diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (D.I.D.) in 1995.

D.I.D. has been described as a coping and protective mechanism to help people who experience severe trauma escape the belligerent memories and flashbacks associated with the trauma experienced by sectioning itself of into separate identities within the body. According to the Sidran Institute, these separate identities are “all manifestations of a single, whole person”, notwithstanding that they are experienced as separate identities by the subject. [i]  Many people diagnosed with D.I.D. tend to have a dominant ‘alter’ who is typically the one mainly in charge of the body and who tends to spend the most time ‘out’. It took Noble a long time to accept her diagnosis, as she had adjusted to regularly ‘losing time’.

Noble gave birth to a daughter, Aimee, in 1997, but one of her ‘alters’, named ‘Patricia,’ knew nothing of this. “One minute I was enjoying a glass of wine in August”, ‘Patricia’ later wrote, “then it was winter, and I was with a little girl people claimed was my daughter”[ii]. It took ‘Patricia’ eight years to accept her daughter as her own. For the first seven or eight years of Aimee’s life she was raised primarily by the ‘alter’ Bonny, who started to fade away once ‘Patricia’ had accepted the D.I.D. diagnosis. ‘Bonny’ showed “signs of cracking up"[iii] after the “long and arduous campaign to keep Aimee got the better”[iv] of her, and ‘Patricia’ began to take over as Noble’s dominant ‘alter’. 

‘Patricia’ then made it her mission to understand the ‘alters’ that shared the same body as her and recover the time she had lost. Over the years, she pieced together bits of information that let her learn more about them. When ‘Patricia’ started to paint in 2004, she found that some of the other ‘alters’ had done so as well, each with their own style and flair. This helped her understand what they were like and what some of them had experienced. ‘Coming or Going Man’ was painted by the alter ‘Abi’.  The painting, as described by ‘Patricia’, is an illustration of “fragmentation”[v], depicting, as it does, uncertainty as to whether the figure is leaving or arriving at a place. The isolation of the figure, on one side of an otherwise empty canvas, symbolises the sense of isolation felt by artist, figure and viewer. 

[i] Dissociative Identity Disorder vs. Schizophrenia | Psych Central (accessed July 2023)

[ii] Noble, Kim. (2011) All of me. London: Piatkus, p.297

[iii] Noble, Kim. (2011) All of me. London: Piatkus p 306

[iv] Noble, Kim. (2011) All of me. London: Piatkus p 306

[v] Information held internally by Bethlem Museum of the Mind