For sale privately, contact the artist at pamwagg@yahoo dot com c.20″by 30″ (will be framed and matted so measurements will be bigger)
This piece and many others will be on exhibit at the Wethersfield, Connecticut public library from May 1- June 30, 2012. Another new small sculpture below will be in the display case, along with The African Queen of Paranoia, which may be seen if you do a search for it on this blog site or go to my photobucket artwork site, and small jewelry or pill boxes I made with reproductions of my artwork on the tops.
I made this bird because I wanted simply to make a hummingbird. But after I did so, it reminded me of the poem “Of Mere Being” by Wallace Stevens.
Of Mere Being
by Wallace Stevens
The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze decor.
A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.
You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.
The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird’s fire-fangled feathers dangle down.
Speaking of Wallace Stevens, here is a poem I wrote that one of Stevens’ lines inspired. It will be in my next book, LEARNING TO SEE IN THREE DIMENSIONS (saison d’enfers means “season of hell”)
THE SONG OF THE ANT
by Pamela Spiro Wagner“For the listener, who listens in the snow…”
In those days I was always cold
as I had been a long time, mindful of winter
even at the solstice of my high summer days
always, always the crumb and crust of loss
and near-loss of everything held dear
before the saison d’enfers and the ice to come
But there was the wind
There was still the wind making music,
and I, at one with the quirky stir of air
bowing the suppliant trees
bowing the branches of those trees for the sound
of songs held long in their wood
Changes change us: rings of birth, death, another season
and we hold on for nothing and no reason
but to sing.
Here is the sign I posted above the collage as it was finally presented today at Artspace:
REFLECTIONS ON ROOM 101* IN WARD D
Collage, available as is or finished with bound edges
I started this collage at Natchaug Hospital in Willimantic, using scraps torn from magazines and glued onto a large sheet of brown paper. This was my effort to deal with the emotional trauma associated with other hospitals where I had been far too frequently shackled in four-point restraints. Although I have tried to depict a seclusion room realistically, I have also taken some artistic license: in a real such situation, the restraint bed would be facing the door, so that an aide or nurse monitoring the patient would be able to see his or her face clearly. And here, of course, the window is neither heavily grated nor closed. Instead, it has been opened (how? by whom?) and we see a winding path that leads far away…
*In George Orwell’s book 1984, Room 101 in the Ministry of Love is where recalcitrant prisoners are tortured, the instrument being whatever it is they are most afraid of.
You really need to stand back from it to get the full effect, but this wasn’t possible, despite my wall being on a T intersection of hallways as someone had planted a bright torchiere lamp down the perpendicular hall. This was helpful for other displays but unfortunatley caught the light in such a way as to cause my collage to reflect it, leading to glare and poor visibility of necessary features. Ah well, live and learn, live and learn. Had I known this would happen, I would not have used a gloss finish on the mirror section, even though I wanted to in order to make it look “mirrory” compared to the non-mirrored “flat” or matte parts…
I have a few other things to say about my experience at the OpenStudio show and sale today — I was quite uncomfortable despite appearances. Or at least I think I presented a comfortable and at ease appearance. But in point of fact there were three or four women in my hallway who were talking about me and who did not want me there. I think the woman who was almost directly across from me, except for the space where the T opened up to the other perpendicular hall, was particularly upset with me and trying to marshall support from others against me. I don’t know what I did to bother her, but she clearly had conceived an antipathy to me. She was the one I believe who won the award at the group show. I thought her paintings, decent, glowing and colorful, and skilled to a nice degree, though not all that creative to my eye. Highly colored oil paintings, likeable but somehow a bit lifeless I cannot quite say why because everyone else seemed very impressed.
Be that as it may, I do not trust her and frankly I believe she is likely bad-mouthing me as I write this. I had the distinct impression that she was enlisting support from those others to get rid of me at the exhibit, and even harm me in some fashion. Every time I left for one reason or another, or walked down that hall to get to the stairs, I felt watched and heard them whispering. Damn her and damn them. I could have had a reasonably okay time, had they not taken to tormenting me…though in point of fact, had not a few visitors talked to me a bit, I would have sat in silence all day long, except for when my family came. No other neighboring artist spoke to me all the day and no one even so much as introduced themselves. If anyone did anything — conversed with me, introduced themselves, started a conversation, it was I who had to do it, and then it seemed as if they responded only reluctantly.
However, I should cease and desist at this for now as I left out my “business” cards, and so I guess any artist there could have, though I doubt it, picked one up and could now be “listening in.”
In any event, I am doing a little drawing at the moment, small cards, “trading card-size” drawings. Dunno if I will give those away, trade them, or not. But it is fun to work on such a small scale nonetheless.
The only thing I would give away free this time for sure, though I have given and donated a lot previously, is Christabel, the portrait collage. If the real Christabel came along and introduced herself (with proof that she is who she is, because my amnesia for that hospital stay is such that despite my remembering her kindness I do not actually remember her face or anything else about her) if she came to see the show and saw her portrait finished, I would happily give her the collage wall-hanging for free. So Christabel, that is my offer. (I won’t know you, but if you remember me and come to the show, find me and find your portrait.)
Enough for now. Just wanted to let my readers see the final “product” in case it sells. Fat chance of that though. It looks as if I will be going home with literally everything I brung with me…Well, it is a learning experience. And it has been that to the max.
Still working on it, frantically. Much changed, but better I think. I hope so at any rate. My friend told me that the curtains are actually close to being done since at a distance they are perfect. Only need height fixed and a curtain rod. THe left one needs a bit of work, but not a lot. So now I need mostly to straighten up a few lines and clean up the mirror or decide whether to keep it a hand mirror or recapture the original idea of a mirror standing on the lawn as my original drawing had it. So in case I haven’t posted it before here is the preliminary sketch first:
And this is the collage as it is now, and nearly finished. I see now that I also need to add back the second set of restraints, and a top molding for the window, as well as the sill molding and certain shadows. Also clearly the mirror needs to be fixed and other things, but you can see what it will be like when done. If, however, I do not finish it completely in the crunch to Friday, well I will exhibit it as a work in progress!
NOTE: this is a link to the finished collage, sans border of which I have no photo: https://wagblog.wordpress.com/2011/11/13/reflection-on-room-101-in-ward-d/
I now call this Reflections on Room 101 in The Ministry of Love, as a reference to Room 101 in the book “1984” by George Orwell. The place where recalcitrant prisoners faced torture with the things they feared most in the world.
I want to post today some photos from the progress I have made on my large collage of the restraint room (seclusion room) in a psychiatric unit. I must say that it gives me the shakes whenever I work on it, or at least whenever I look at it afterwards, and certainly when I photograph it. But I think that the fear and heart-racing palpitations are slightly diminished compared to this time a month ago. Possibly. That is what I am hoping for at any rate. The process of doing this is my attempt at “exposure therapy” I suppose, because I cannot live with what feels like PTSD any longer. (I know, I know, according to the New Rules, you cannot, by definition, have PTSD unless your life was mortally threatened; unless you experienced a tsunami or earthquake, mass murderer, or Hurricane Katrina, it does not count as “real trauma,” so say the doctors, and they should know, right? After all, they are the ones who defined the illness, and keep redefining it, and who made it up! Well, since they have the initials MD after their names, standing for Missed Diagnoses, I dunno if we can trust them on anything as important as deciding for us what it is that counts as traumatic. It seems to me that WE ought to be the ones telling THEM, no?) Be that as it may, let me change paragraphs and resume the discussion I left off so abruptly above.
Whatever the case, I do suffer with heart-racing fear and sweats and tremors that make it difficult even to take a clear photo of the collage after working on it but whether it is PTSD, I care not. All I care about is 1) communicating the experience, or at least what the rooms look like, and 2) purging myself of the residual fear.
I don’t want to go on any further with that. It truly does cause me great anxiety. And I prefer to work on the collage and on forgiving the specific people who did those things to me. It is likely that they had grown to hate me, forgetting that I was a troubled and profoundly ill person because I was also loud and frustrating and violent…(treated with violence didn’t make me any more docile, I might add). So things only escalated and escalated, when from the start their goal was to have a quiet unit that ran smoothly and had everyone get discharged in a matter of days, no questions asked. They did this by helping no one, by talking to no one, and by questioning no one. All they cared about was making sure that everyone stayed “safe” for as long as they were in their clutches. And that they would say so until they left. BUT I said I was working on forgiving them, and trying to see them as tired human beings, flawed but human. It does me no good to get all riled up again.
so I will leave it here, with the photos of the art. I will add only that I plan to redo the curtains, since as it is the blue competes with the sky. Also there will be a curtain rod, and such…But as you can see, it is still a work in progress!
As may be obvious from the brown paper at the sides, this collage is very much unfinished, both as to content and as to medium. What I mean is, this is a kind of painting with paper, so I am so far dissatisfied with, say, the blue curtain with yellow lining, because it still looks rough and is not clearly a curtain blowing in the air coming through the open window. Ditto, the open window, which is not clearly even a window, except by virtue of my titling it such. But when I finish with it, I hope all these mysteries will be clearer, including the surreal placement of a hand mirror outside an upper story window! (I said it was surreal, didn’t I?) But what I cannot help is whether or not the viewer recognizes what it is that is on the bed. Some people simply do not know what restraints look like, and have variously interpreted them as guitars or snakes or what have you. To me, it is obvious. But I guess most people have not been in such a situation, and have no conception of what they might be looking at. Perhaps a more suggestive title would help?
Another important feature of the “painting” is the frosted glass window, with the mysterious something going on behind it, again left up to the interpretation of the viewer. If you understand that this is a restraints bed, and that the window is open…what could be going on outside the seclusion room? And why is the window open? Should the bed be empty? If you could see this very large collage – 5 feet by 5 feet — up close, you would see that the mirror overhangs a very detailed garden, with all the trappings of well designed backyard floribundance, so to speak. There is a little table and benches and other accoutrements, but also a path leading up to — a garden gate, which opens onto a field and freedom.
As I worked on this collage, I was in a state of acute anxiety — with tremors and shaking and palpitations I did not understand. And every night I would weep with bodily but not conscious memories of the recent brutalities I experienced at Manchester and Middlesex Hospitals. At Natchaug they understood how degrading and traumatizing such treatment had been, and indeed how re-traumatizing. Because indeed, I had already been traumatized many times before in the 80s and 90s and early to mid 2000’s by what I thought was SOP use of such measures. Instead, when those recent hospitals used them, cruelly and inappropriately, at a time when I knew their use was frowned upon and had been severely curtailed, it not only re-awakened the original trauma, but in a very real sense put me in emotional touch with it, the pain, the terror, the horrendous humiliation for the very first time.
I am not by any means over it. As I work on my memoir sequel, BLACKLIGHT, I am also slowly going over my hospital records with Dr Angela, aka Dr C, and it is a gut-wrenching task that leaves me drained and tremulous. But if it succeeds in returning my memories to me, all of them, I shall consider it worthwhile.