A Few Of The Athlete’s Favorite Things
By Janice Carter Levitch
As a professional bodybuilder, Autumn Cleveland is mostly known for her expertise in fitness and nutrition. She recently earned her IFBB Professional Figure Competitor title and status, which took her 15 years to accomplish through intense discipline and training. However, she has a private side that is beginning to open up through art. Painting has always been a part of Cleveland’s life, but she packed that talent away for several years as she focused on fitness as a full-time career.
This focus changed when a close friend battled cancer. Cleveland began expressing her feelings with a canvas, paint and brushes. The painting she created is titled, “Phoenix,” and shows a woman screaming in silence as her hair bursts into flames. Through her art, Cleveland has found a way to communicate emotion, and her talent has been revived.
“Music and art are two of the things that pull me together at moments when life slows down,” Cleveland explained. “I can open up to my own expression in art and recreate that on a canvas with my paints. Sometimes I sink a little low in my thoughts, and I can’t express that in fitness, but I’m able to do that with my art.
“I’ve also painted portraits of Arnold Schwarzenegger because I see him at fitness competitions that I participate in,” she continued. “He actually autographed one of them and I have it hanging in my home as a reminder of the artistic side of my personality and to keep nurturing it.”
Cleveland recently welcomed The Voice-Tribune into her home to share a few of her favorite things.
1. ‘The Road Less Traveled’ by M. Scott Peck, M.D.
“My dad had this book in college and read it so many times (that) it’s coming apart now,” Cleveland said. “He told me it helped him get through his college days, and we relate very much in our college-life struggles. It’s so cool because at times when I was seeking self-growth, I would go back to this book and read certain chapters, specifically targeting discipline and love. No matter how old I get, it’s a book I can go back to for inspiration. I feel like it helped my dad become who he is, and it can help me, too.”
2. Handmade cards
A simple cigar box holds handmade cards and thank you notes that Cleveland keeps as mementos from special family members and friends. “This box holds a lot of time and thought from other people. These are handmade cards that my mother lovingly took the time to create and send to me. It’s rare that someone will send you a card in the mail because it’s just so much easier to text these days. There are also cards from friends and other family members. It’s a box of time, energy and love from other people that I keep in my dad’s cigar box,” Cleveland said.
3. ‘Phoenix’ painting
Cleveland’s original painting was created on a day when she felt overwhelmed. “This painting is the process of evolving because change is painful,” Cleveland said. “There’s a lot of loss you have to face sometimes, and you don’t know if you can handle it. There are times when you combust and fade into the ashes, but some people combust and regenerate. So, this is the painful process of regenerating to evolve into something stronger.”
4. Airborne Patch
“This patch was given to me by one of my clients who I’ve coached for three years. It’s from his Army uniform when he was leading the 82nd Airborne Division into combat in Afghanistan. Symbolizing leadership and a thank you from him. It’s the most meaningful gift I’ve ever received from a client,” Cleveland said. “This reminds me that I’m doing a good job.”
The scrapbook contains the souvenirs from Cleveland’s relationship with the love of her life, Derek Sawyer. On the inside cover, she’s written the story of their relationship. “Ticket stubs, funny greeting cards, special notes and so many other memories are kept here. We are business and training partners, he supports my art, and he’s always there for me. He’s my best friend and I just love keeping all these little things as a reminder of our unique relationship,” Cleveland said with a smile. VT