The story of a misunderstood artist trying to get by
■ By Kyle Selby / Reporter
This person has received a lot of attention around town in the past couple weeks, and it’s no doubt due to their bizarre appearance. But before you judge this book’s cover, there are three things you should know about her from the start: One, she wouldn’t hurt a fly; two, she feels most comfortable identifying as a female; and three, she’s an artist at heart.
Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of talking with her for some time, then afterward shared a brief version of her story on Facebook. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and hundreds of people wanted to know more about her.
She and I discussed everything from her life growing up, to her aspirations and dreams for the future. However, the way things are going, she may not live to see them come true. The first thing she told me was how she was physically assaulted earlier that morning near the Home Depot at the intersection of Florida and Sanderson avenues. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the first time.
Physical assaults are occurring more often
“This is the fourth time I’ve been attacked,” she told me. She’s been punched in the face several times, she’s jumped fences to escape attackers, and she’s been called more profane slurs than anyone would care to tolerate.
“He pulled up in his car and jumped out,” she described. “He broke a branch off a tree and started hitting me, and I kept telling him to leave me alone.” She showed me the bumps and bruises left behind from the morning’s encounter. The man told her to leave town, calling her a pervert and other derogatory expletives. I asked her if she fought him back, and she shook her head.
“No, I don’t want to be a violent person. I’d rather not live my life in anger.”
This was the third time she had encountered the assaulter. The last time they crossed paths, he threatened to beat her with a golf club. He kept telling her to run, but she says she didn’t want to keep running any more.
“I’m not going to run from this guy,” she explained. “But I’m also not violent, and I can’t hurt people. If people want to hurt me, I want them to feel bad about it. I’ll let God balance the scale.”
Family hardships and alcoholism led to the streets
And that was only the beginning of her heartbreaking story. When she opened up about her family, a look of shame washed over her. She is the youngest of two sisters and two brothers.
“I’m the least successful, least established of them all. I’m like the broken egg, or the runt.”
She has a father she never knew, and she currently lives with her mother. This took me by surprise, since the popular speculation in town seems to be that she’s homeless. I asked about her relationship with her mother, and all she could say is “we’re good.” She told me her mother doesn’t know about the beatings she receives on a daily basis, nor does she think either of them will be staying where they are for much longer.
“I have possessions there now, but she gave me a little basket, and I’m thinking of putting all of my stuff into it and just coming out here and living in the street,” she said. “It seems like everything is falling downhill there.”
While her mother may be concerned about her plans to live on the street, it isn’t her first time. Four years ago when they first moved to Hemet, she suffered from an extreme alcohol addiction. Trying to help, her brother convinced her to stay at a shelter in San Diego, where she lived for six months without booze. The shelter had a strict no-exit policy, but her addiction eventually consumed her. One day she gathered her things, walked out, bought a bottle of vodka, and lived on the streets for two years. Eventually, she moved back in with her mother and overcame her drinking problem. Soon after, she began applying the white paint all over her body.
“The way I live my life, I don’t think it would be a good influence to [my nieces and nephews],” she said, explaining why she chooses not to live with her siblings. “I don’t want to be a burden to anybody either. It’s honestly an aspiration of mine–to figure out how to live on my own, and without having to be affiliated with my birth name. I’ve had horrible memories associated with it, so I try to forget about it,”
It makes me feel like a blank sheet of paper, and blank sheets of paper are inspiring. I want to draw.”
– Bezr Kautlzt on why she paints her skin white
What’s in a name?
In the past, she’s gone by the moniker Yaris Fiat, but these days she would like to be known as Bezr Kautlzt (boz-zer kott-lizt). Derived and inspired by the German language, she draws similarities to “Besser Katalysator” which translates into “Better Catalyst.”
“Basically saying like, I’m trying to be a better person,” she explained. “Better change.”
Not all interactions are negative
Interestingly, two separate vehicles pulled up to our location during our conversation. The first time, a woman walked toward us and asked me if Bezr was a street performer. Before I could let her answer, the woman announced, “whatever it is, I love it!”
It was a touching sentiment, but the next one was even more so. Two men pulled up the second time, and one got out. They were the owners of a local barber shop, and they offered their services and facilities in case Bezr needed a haircut or a place to hang out. She told them that she would gladly take them up on their offer.
An artistic expression – her skin is her canvas
“My heart gravitated toward being an artist,” said Bezr reflectively. It’s the explanation behind her image, and her strategy for the future. “My plan is to be able to find a place where I can create art, and maybe have a showroom some day.”
Right now, she carries a sketchbook everywhere, creating sketches and paintings that she gives away. Her inspirations include Vincent Van Gogh, and Hokusai – a Japanese artist during the Edo period.
The oil-based paints she covers her body with are bought at Michael’s. When I asked her why she paints herself the way she does, she drew a little doodle with her finger on her left arm and held it out for me to see.
“It makes me feel like a blank sheet of paper, and blank sheets of paper are inspiring. I want to draw.” She further elaborated, clarifying that it isn’t a racial statement, rather an artistic expression. “One day I put the cosmetic on, and I felt so happy. I always want to feel like this; I felt like I was shining.”
If you see something – say something
Bezr says the compliments and the insults come about half-and-half. People often laugh at her and take her photo, but others commend her style. Even so, she understands that her appearance sometimes draws unwanted attention, and has even tried to justify her assaulters’ actions.
“Have I offended them? Maybe I deserved it,” she wondered.
The more we talked, the more I realized she wasn’t so different after all. Sure, she may look odd, but her mind was intellectual, and her goals and aspirations are set in the future. She may look different on the outside, but Bezr is a person that has taken physical beatings in the name of self-expression, and it’s almost admirable in a way.
The following message applies to everybody, for everybody: IF YOU SEE A PERSON BEING PHYSICALLY ASSAULTED, DO SOMETHING. It doesn’t matter who they are or what they look like. Bezr and plenty of others live in constant danger, and there could easily be another homicide victim in this city if we do not step in when we can.