This is the finished portrait STUDY of my friend Mott’s grandson Dylan (the final portrait will be in oils but this one is a study done in my note book in acrylics, with the background still a bit wet):
I love the idea that the two founders of the Women on 20s website want to put a female face on the twenty dollar bill, arguably the most used greenback in American paper currency. And I love all of the candidates they have chosen for the slate. But what I do not like is that they claim to have been unable — unable?! — to find qualified Native American or Latina women who might also be placed on the slate to be voted on.
I don’t believe this for a second. Do you? Come on folks, help me, let’s do some research. Will you help me find the names of some Native American Women, and some Latina Women from the past (the ONLY necessary claim is that they must be deceased) that I could offer the owners of the Women on 20s site so the voting could really be fair to all? Otherwise this is discrimination all over again, and to groups that just get screwed again and again.
PLEASE Help? Then let’s get that site to go VIRAL for real! (I will put the link here next time, after we put our thinking caps on and get Native American and Latina names together to present to the site owners.) THANK YOU EVERYONE.
Jason DeRulo, painted with fantastic CARAN D’ACHE Lumiere pencils, among the most expensive yet worth every penny. smooth and incredibly buttery color that just swipes on…Yet hard enough to keep a point and not crumble under pressure.
Just make sure you sharpen each pencil by hand as you don’t want to waste a smidgen of these valuable tools!
I have loaded a DeRulo music vide (lyrics) to go with my portrait, but who knows how long it will remain playable. ANy opinions on portrait welcome. I had to imagine the colors from a B&W photo, then imagine Derulo again, having reversed the orientation horizontally so his left becomes his right etc.
(Now it might not look like him at all, taken from the mirror reversal of the photo.) Enjoy song for as long as I can keep it here. (since embed buttons exist, I have to assume it is okay to “borrow” these vids.
Would love your opinion.
PS am very very sleepy so not entirely sure I am uploading anything that makes sense. If not, forgive me. I will do better after a nap!
Things really are stressful, not least because this lovely 17 year old cat refuses to eat and barely drinks…
It is too late to write much and I am much too tired, but suffice it to say that I am overwhelmed with sadness for, well, my father, my dying cat, and the stress of a face to face mediation that has been scheduled between me and the people who tortured me at that certain hospital about which I am always writing. You would think I would be happy to be getting somewhere but no, I feel only worn out and sad beyond belief. I wish I could look forward to it, somehow. But I just feel guilty, because I did not do anything to prevent their abuse. I should have refused to lie down on that restraint bed! I should not have gone like a lamb to the slaughter just because I was afraid…I should have just stood there and made them carry me over. Not fought or resisted just done passive non-violence…I feel so slimed that I actually went to that bed and lay down on it, naked (covered with part of a sheet, that they moved away to restrain my limbs so cruelly as to cause me exquisite physical pain…) I feel so guilty and so terribly sad. WHy didn’t I resist? Why did I do what they said to? I had always resisted up until then? Why did I let the fear of their assaulting me again get the better of me?! I cannot forget that, I cannot forgive MYSELF for it. I feel more degraded by that than by almost anything… I feel dirty and scummy and like a disgusting piece of garbage…
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.
I took an image off the internet and substantially changed it (enough so that I made it my own, according to those in the know). I wanted to see how to draw folds in fabric, especially how it draped around the human body. It also interested me to continue to study the hand, and I enjoyed drawing these. Josephine told me they were too big. One person said they made the woman look like a man, even a drag queen, but my response to that was, well, it only adds a nice bit of ambiguity, which is fine by me! In fact I prefer that to the clarity of the following piece, much as I know that my brother will love it, and that is is “better” than the drawing that preceded it in this blog (see the entry below).
Actually, these lovely young women are my nieces, my brothers’ daughters, and I scarcely do them justice here. But rather than their appearances singly, it is the wonderful and loving relationship that I aimed to show more than anything else. Their mutual devotion is so very clear, the younger Adriane on the right and her older sister Claire on the left. I think the photo that this drawing was taken from is surely one of the most delightful I have seen, at least in terms of any recent photo of my extended family.
I am aware of the misalignment of the eyes and of other faults large and small, but to me it is the expression of love and affection between the girls that is much more important than these imperfections (plus, frankly, I have to admit I ruined the original portrait entirely trying to “fix” it, trying to “perfect” the placement of those eyes..I ought to have known better.)
This is the first time I have tried to do a truly realistic pencil portrait, and I guess for the first attempt it is okay, but I can see only the flaws in it! I have been informed that this image may have been taken from a copyrighted photo, so I may have to take it down. But for now, I assume that I have few enough readers that no one will object to my exhibiting such an amateurish attempt, and one done purely for my own pleasure as well self-training!
First, before I start my post today, I wanted to share my newest artwork, which is a colored pencil “painting” of a woman who lives in my building, whom I will call Rose. She did not ask me to paint her; she was simply someone who sits quietly for many hours in the community room, and so was a good subject for a portrait, and a photo. I also happen to find her a very agreeable person, one of the nicer ones here (most are gossips and backbiters, or if not most, then the most vociferous and visible of the residents). I think she will be quite pleased with how it turned out, so long as she does not expect anything but a portrait that is faithful to life, rather than an idealized one. I believe, however, that Rose is very down to earth and knows what she looks like, and will appreciate what I have painted.
Now I want to discuss, yet again, the use of restraints in Connecticut psychiatric units, particularly as it pertains to my treatment there. As I recall, I have not gone into much detail about the last hospital stay, back in April and May, largely I think because it again was so traumatic and in many ways similar to the previous one, that I could not bear to contemplate it.
However, as very little as I recall, I do remember more of the stay than the complete amnesia I still experience for the stay in Manchester, back in October or November of 2009. When I say I have a loss of memory with regards to this other hospital stay in the spring of 2010– in Middletown — I meant it more for the specifics of certain episodes. And for any of the people there who staffed the unit. (Except for Christabel the OT). With regard to much that occurred I believe a lot could be brought back to me, under the right circumstances. I do, for instance, continue to have an overall memory of what the place looks like and where my room was and some details about what happened. What I do not, and did not remember, not even the next day, was most of what precipitated the use of restraints and seclusion during this stay. Or at least, of the two or three incidents of S and R two are jumbled together, so that it takes some mental probing for me to straighten out any of it. but one incident remains too clear in my mind for comfort though even at the time, or immediately afterward, as well as now, I have no idea what was the actual precipitant.
Anyhow, what I recall of that episode is this: I had been taken off Geodon, which I took regularly with my Abilify up till then, both in order to boost its antipsychotic properties as well as to temper any Abilify-induced irritability. The irritability was physical as much as mental — and with the resultant tendency to get into verbal fights and arguments with anyone who, as my mother used to put it, looked at me crosswise. I have no idea why they did this, took me off Geodon, given that I know I explained the rationale for the use of two antipsychotics. But many MDs seem to find this objectionable, however effective. Perhaps they considered the 20mg Zyprexa, which they had talked me into taking on an acute basis, would be an adequate substitute for the calming effect of the Geodon. They had wanted to stop the Abilify, too, using Metformin, a diabetes drug, for weight control, but I had insisted on taking it both in an effort to combat Zyprexa’s tendency to cause weight gain, but also because I believe that it is the Abilify that has so massively enhanced my creativity.
So there I was, on Abilify untempered by Geodon, and taking Zyprexa, which induces its own “upsetness” when my weight invariably increases…I assume that I must have been hostile, loud, and disruptive, for I do not know why else they would have made me go into the seclusion room. I do remember that I could not calm down, and that in the flimsy johnnies they had clothed me in, I was freezing, so that even when the nurse doing constant observation told me to lie down and rest, I was unable to do so for all my shivering. I begged for a blanket, but no deal. I pulled the entire bare mattress over me as a covering. Well, this was apparently seen as a self-destructive act, or something, as immediately they pulled it off me and dragged the mattress itself from the room. Now I had nothing for warmth, except my own anger at having been treated in such a fashion.
I remember that I was yelling a lot, and that I wouldn’t lie down on the cold linoleum and “calm myself.” No, I wanted to talk, and begged the nurse to do so. Instead, she only turned away and told me again to lie down on the floor. Well, this enraged me, and I went to the door to complain again. She said nothing, only stood in front of the open door so that I could not leave. Finally, getting no response, and still anxious and “het up” I suppose you could say, or over-activated by the Abilify, I tried to push my way through her into the opening. Immediately two “guards” pushed me back into the room. I yelled at them, and pushed back. One of them asked me what was wrong with me, why I didn’t just ask to talk with the nurses instead of resisting physically…I looked at him and said that I did ask to talk, and she refused. He seemed somewhat surprised by that. Nevertheless, he ordered me to go back into the room and lie down.
I was having none of this dictatorial behavior on their part, and as I recall, at one point — no, I do not remember what happened. I only know that suddenly the guards were on top of me, and one had pinned my arms behind my back and was pushing my face into the linoleum floor. It was as if I were a recalcitrant inmate of a prison and this was a cell “take-down.” I was hurt and I was furious.
When they let me up (and why they had pinned me to the ground I have no recollection, only that when they let me up, I was finally allowed to talk to the nurse nad stand out in the hall with her. I heard some talking behind my back and a commotion, followed by feet going down the hall away from us. I had a bad feeling about it, and asked the nurse, “What are they doing?” She responded, ominously, “They are preparing a bed for you.” “a bed? what sort of bed? She remained silent and I understood that they were putting restraints on my bed…”You can’t restrain me, I am out here calmly talking to you. You haven’t even offered me a PRN and I will tell you now that I would be more than willing to take one. But I am NOT a danger to myself or others, and you cannot legally put me in restraints.” The nurse continued to remain silent. My heart began to race. I called down the hall, “I will not let you use restraints on me, I am calm and this is not allowed.”
Some of the staff approached me and told me to come down to my bed room with them. I complied, because I knew that if I didn’t they would have some reason to say I “deserved” to be restrained. When I got to the room, I found I had been correct: there on my bed were the straps and shackles of four-point restraints, attached to the bed frame.
“I am calm and I am not a danger to myself or others,” I carefully declared. I will take medication and I do not need restraints.”
“Lie down on the bed, Pamela” someone told me. I refused, saying that this was punishment pure and simple and that they had no cause to do this nor any legal right. “I will ask you one more time to lie down on the bed, Pam, or the security team will help you do so.”
At this point, I understood that they were going to use this form of discipline on me no matter what I did. That they were out to get revenge and that they would use any excuse to excuse such measures. So if I “made” them force me into the restraints, that would by itself prove that I “deserved” them. So, more humiliated than I believe I have ever been in my life, I sat down on the bed, then lay down on my back and said out loud, “I am now placing my limbs into four-point restraints, and I want a record of the fact that I am calm and not resisting and that I have asked for a PRN instead.”
It was no use, though, as they went ahead and shackled me, then left me alone in the room, except for a staff member monitoring me through the door, left partially ajar. My heart was racing with rage, and I could feel the pain of such profound humiliation surging through me. But I did and said nothing, I think, because I was going to prove to them that the drastic measures and punishment they had inflicted on me was WRONG. After about an hour and a half someone came back and let me out. I was neither compliant now, nor placated and as soon as I was free and out of that room, I let it be known, loudly that I intended to file a complaint. But no one said a thing, no even spoke to me the rest of the night…
THAT is what I remain so traumatized by, at least with respect to this time: the utter humiliation of what you might call “cutting my own switch,” along with the clear understanding — even mutual acknowledgment — that they were punishing me.
This continues to preoccupy me, that is when I allow myself to think about it, or when I continue to try to read the records of that stay, which records I only a week ago obtained (having sent for them many weeks ago…). I cannot help but re-experience the same brutality and the same extreme and exquisite humiliation, and once again it hurts beyond belief. The worst thing perhaps is that when I told my family about what the staff had done to me they didn’t come to my support, they didn’t unconditionally defend me. They didn’t even seem to care, or to believe, that I had done nothing to “deserve” four-point restraints (as if anyone deserves them). Another family would have automatically come to their member’s defense and declare that NO one deserves such brutality, and that as their family member I should never have been treated that way. Another family would have done –oh forget it! No, my family is always so eager to please the staff and to believe that I am in the ‘wrong” at these hospitals, to believe that I am at fault, (this is the story of my life!) that they simply told me I must have caused their use of such brutal methods of control by my own behavior, I surely deserved it, and besides “what else could they do?” Shackling me, calm and rational, me to a bed was clearly the only option and entirely justified…So much for MY family’s loyalty and compassionate support, huh?
Well, bitterness solves nothing, so I won’t dwell on the last subject, but I will say that if I can, I intend to file an unoffical complaint, or barring that, an official one. The problem with the latter is that I will not then be able to confront my persecutors. whereas if I did so unofficially, it might yet be possible, if only to avoid a messy public affair. After all, I could easily write something…No, I won’t go there. For now, I only wanted to describe what continues to occur at Connecticut psychiatric units, despite the regulations and general disavowal of the use of cruelty in the treatment of those with mental illness. It still goes on, it just happens behind the closed doors of the hospital and the continued use pf seclusion and restraints as discipline and as a salve for frustration, depends on the assumption that no patient will bother, after the fact of discharge, to do anything about it, except try to forget.
My newest artwork is what I call The Painted Woman, for I think obvious reasons.
It is not meant to be a parody or an insult to any sort of woman, just a study of an overly made-up “older” woman who might drink a bit too much and get loose around the edges when she does. I think it is clear that she has had plastic surgery, though it hasn’t done a lot for her, with her artificially plumped lips, which do not work at all with her boozy aged face that the exaggerated make-up only serves to enhance in the worst sense of the word. If her botoxed brow doesn’t disguise her real age, neither do her drawn-in eyebrows, which is something women do that I never did understand: Isn’t any sort of eyebrow better than the kind that are just a line drawn or painted on? even Frida Kahlo’s eyebrows!
I love those eyebrows, full of character and strength, and the portraits, which could be seen as brave and wonderfully lacking in vanity, I prefer to think Kahlo painted because she saw herself simply as beautiful, eyebrows and mustache and all, and painted herself on that account, not at all “in spite of” her flaws…
That said, I do not believe that my painted woman is beautiful, perhaps for much the same reason that I hope Kahlo felt herself to indeed be beautiful: this, my pictured woman, is not only artificial, she is desperate, pathetic and even tragic…I feel sorry for her, who is, after all, my own creation!
All that aside, the reasons that I have not written are several, including my having to get that poetry book manuscript rewritten and out by the 15th of October (not that I have a chance to win a contest that is judged non-anonymously, but it does no harm to try, so long as it doesn’t tie the book up for the next 6 months…). Then I had that Life Drawing class at the Creative Arts Workshop, which is still difficult for me, partly because I cannot see well, and cannot translate what I see to a large piece of paper on an easel…I don’t have any difficulty with the gestural drawing, the loosening up exercises, actually, I have more difficulty with the longer drawing periods. The trouble is that I do not want to take the time to do a drawing for only 30 minutes that I know I cannot do in that short a “long” period, and also, I find it hard to stand on my feet for that long. The class is 3 hours long in fact, and all of it is standing at easels, while when I do my portraits I mostly just sit in my recliner or at a table with my paints and canvas on a table or at most at a little broken table easel that I bought at the CAW tag sale and fixed myself.
Nevertheless, it has been a good experience, if exhausting. I drive to New Haven then stay overnight and drive home on Tuesday morning. So the night spent away from home feels like a big deal every week, not just a mere evening away…though I could treat it as such, I suppose.
ALSO, Dr C wants to see me twice a week for the time being — actually for more than just “the time being.” It is a very complicated situation that I cannot go into here, but this 2X a week set-up may not continue, I dunno, I would like to, and I know it kept me out of the hospital in October, but but but…I am simply getting very mixed messages from certain people (decidedly not Dr C) about it, and it is hard to know what to do. I sometimes think that it was easier for people to have me in the hospital twice a year, despite their protestations, than to keep me out if keeping me out entails my seeing Dr C 2X a week. It is certainly less expensive to hospitalize me, since it saves money coming out of their pockets ( I am not a drain on the “system” otherwise, because I do not need public mental health services or ask for anything from those strained agencies, for which fact they ought to be grateful…though not for my hospital stays, of course).
But no more on that subject, which is utterly confusing to me and frightening to boot. I cannot bear the thought of ever being forced into a hospital again, where I am ALWAYS ABUSED and BATTERED by the staff, despite being tortured by myself and my own demons already. Even thinking about it makes me tremble…
Will be returning to Wisdom House in two weeks, for another weekend. I hope to write some more poetry, and perhaps “fix” the ms, by writing up an introduction and putting in some divisions between groups of poems, rather than the vague segues I have now. I thought they were obvious, but others do not seem to “get” why one poems transitions to another…So I will group them better, and put what feels like artificial divisions between them. That way, readers will feel there is some shape to the book, a clumping, rather than a thread that one must follow…
There is much I would like to say, but it is already 2:45 in the morning, so I needs must cease and desist and get to bed. I will try to write as soon as I can, but if nothing else, I promise to write when I am at Wisdom House on the 19-21 of November.
The following is a poem I wrote last year, and put one version here then, after I went to a vigil for the organization 350.org, a website devoted to the cause of getting our atmospheric CO2 levels down to 350 parts per million, because that is the level at which life continues to be possible…whereas if we continue to let it go up, global warming will continue to such an extent that life on the planet will be impossible.
But that said, here is the poem, for what it is worth. If it sounds familiar, it is, but I have also reworked and changed a lot of it…
FRIDAY NIGHT VIGIL
Shivering in the wind, we fight to light our candles
as we gather in the darkness of an approaching storm.
But the icy blow keeps snuffing out each flicker
so we just stand, our signs alone aloft to passing traffic,
standing for the stand we take: for the changing world,
for a last chance at change. We smiling stand for photos,
taken from across the streaming street –
and smile into the night, display our handmade signs.
One car beeps, a driver gives the V-sign in support.
But most drive on without a single word or sign
that they have heard or seen a thing, or even recognized
we’re standing here for something save a hopeless cause.
My hands freeze stiff, release their glass and candle with a crash,
a glint of shards, a splash upon the sidewalk. Someone
with safer gloves stoops to sweep the shards away…
I think, How lovely is the world today, even dying.
Though it’s all we have (and lord knows, it’s more
than we can handle) we stand here in this freezing dark
against the darkness and light one candle.
This is how the final version of the unfinished sketch that I posted below finally turned out. I managed to print out the photo of the sketch using a photosmart inkjet printer and watercolor paper, spray that with fixative so the ink wouldn’t smudge under erasures, then draw on top of it as if it were indeed my original sketch. In such a fashion, I was able to re-complete it “better” as it were than the original “wrecked” version. And indeed, I believe it is a great deal better than the version as shown below, for all that it is a complicated combination of photographic print-out of the original sketch, combined with an overlaid color pencil drawing. The strange thing is that in the end, because of the rather poor quality of the original sketch-photograph, the background came out this dull, slightly green color (due to the lighting, not the paper it was on, which was actually white. Nevertheless, it turned out to be a perfect background for the finished drawing, and so I did nothing in the end but finish the portrait against that greenish background.
A technique I am learning/teaching myself is one I thought I would never understand, let alone be able to do and that is how to do a kind of underpainting of whites or light colors, the highlights, before adding the darker tones. I do not know, of course, if one is actually supposed to do that with colored pencils, but I did so anyway, figuring it might be time to try it. So given the original sketch to work with, I then heavily applied light peach and white tones where you can now see the lighter areas on the face, and only much later softened them with the darker chestnut browns and darker umbers, though clearly much peach shows through where the light is meant to strike the face on the left.
A “real artist” would know how to do this beforehand, I expect, but I had to learn as I went, so it was all a process of delightful discovery, which is why I hope you will forgive me the foregoing description. It always amazes me to find out how many colors there really are in what seems to be a solid colored expanse, when you really look at it. I used blues and greens in Sophronsie’s skin tones as well as the peach-tones and whites. There are also some yellows and reds. And in some places I even used a silver pencil. It took me a while before I could even understand that the whites of the eyes are not white at all, not even slightly blue all over, but all sorts of colors, and that only if you painted them in a kind of pale multi-color would they begin to seem realistic. What is also interesting is that comparing the “white” skin on the child that I did in the earlier picture, or any of the other “white” portraits compared to the African American portraits, there is really not a great deal of difference in the colors I used. In fact, I start out with the very same peach and white for both skin colors, and only towards the end does this change, when I add darker tones for the darker skin, but it really only takes a little, and then not a great deal. This is so striking because it seems to say, in some profound way, that when you really look at all of us, “under the skin” (which skin people take for being so different) we really are all the same. Of course in every real sense we are the same, despite our differences as individual human beings: genetically this is true, and philosophically, and morally and spiritually and in every other sense that matters, at least to me. We are all human and of the same “stuff” and nothing else matters. Nothing.
(There are not supposed to be any gaps in the following poem but for some reason it doesn’t cut and paste as it should and so it appears with the spaces…ignore them..)
HOW CAN YOU EVEN THINK SUCH A THING?
There’s no excuse for it, I know, there’s none at all, but reading
about the death of the famous poet’s poet wife from cancer,
so cachectic and etiolated her limbs are thinner than a Giacometti
I find myself disgustingly hungry and envious, both.
It is not that I want to die, not even slowly, not even
an after-the-fact-romantic death recalled for years
by other poets. No, I like life, I even like living.
But I want this house, yes, I want this small empty apartment
filled with food rich and fattening as truffles, dark, creamy truffles
made of French chocolate and wrapped in tissue-thin edible gold
so expensive it’s a mortal sin to eat even one as long
as Africa starves and cholera saps the strength of flood victims
in Pakistan. Except that leaving them to melt and flow molten
on the August windowsill feeds no one while I, longing,
linger over my dish of celery and one small onion, lusting
to taste a life I can never enjoy, to taste a lust not for chocolate
exactly, but for the life that rich chocolate represents,
appetite throwing wide its arms and crying, Yes, yes, yes!
Most recent drawing: a portrait (from photo) of Josephine’s niece, done as a thank you to her brother, Megan’s father, who helped me out removing and moving in a recliner chair this spring. Nothing particularly “artistic” about it, just a simple likeness…
Unfortunately, while I loved this stage of the drawing, as I progressed I fear I ruined it…Or at any rate, it changed so drastically that I don’t know what to do with it, or where to go with it now. So I am putting what I have aside, since I no longer have this, to work on some other time. I wish I had taken a better photo of it at this stage, though. Anyhow, for what it is worth. Here she is, as she was…
Then this is the more updated drawing as it got “over-processed.” Actually, what happened was that the watercolor paper did in fact start to wear out under my many erasures, or at any rate the color, the pigment grew so thick that when I erased it piled up under the eraser so that I had to keep erasing more and more of the drawing each time in order simply to erase one spot, because I’d otherwise leave behind chunks of unsightly “solid waste” of clumpy pigment. Eventually I couldn’t even draw on the paper any longer, it had become so mushy under that burden of erasure and redrawings, and so I decided to finally be done with it and decided quickly to do what the erasing suddenly brought to mind: an upside down city-scape, somewhat surreal, floating in the person’s mouth, and on fire…Do not ask me why! It is simply because that is what I “saw” in the patterns left behind by the unerased and uneraseable lines and colors on the paper…
TO tell the truth, I am trying to figure out how to either redo or “fix it” into something that I can work with further, can figure out what to do with as is, or how to cover up without making it look “collaged together, since that was not the effect I started out looking for. I’m eager for suggestions if anyone has any!
And yes, I came back from Wisdom House yesterday, after 2 and a half days instead of 7…I was rather upset there, though the place was lovely and I thought that if the circumstances had been a little bit different I could have loved it…but I will write more tomorrow or today in the P.M. For now, I just wanted to let you know…
Finally I have finished the collage here with the background completed and the candy foil earring (I saved foil from innumerable chocolates…and they have no come in handy as I know eventually they would. What do they say? Everything can be an art supply, looked at with a creative spirit. Who says that? Well, I dunno, I guess I do! 8D
I call her Christabel, who was one of the occupational therapists in the hospital this past April and May (all of the OTs were great.) She was a wonderful woman who was the one person who consistently treated me like a human being at a place where I was often not treated much better than an animal or a bad child. Consequently, I never once, as I recall, had occasion nor impulse to scream at her in rage or frustration. Lkewise she never felt it incumbent upon her to withhold from me such ridiculous items as gluesticks or magazines, the sort of carrots with which the nurses attempted to “tame” me. That is, negatively, by taking them away from me until I ‘behaved’ according to their rigid standards. Never once did they acknowledge what I had begged them to understand from the moment I walked in there, which was that I suffered from Lyme disease-induced schizophrenia, and that both the rage episodes and my impulsivity were uncontrollable, (i.e. literally OUT of my control, and “not me” — as the weekend doc herself, Faye H., who knew me well from treating me for years in the past, noted several times in dismay).
Be that as it may, when the nurses, or one of them, the one who really hated me, refused to grant me permission to use a gluestick one afternoon in order to work on this collage, it was Christabel who came to my rescue, by bringing some from the OT office, without so much as a word or caveat to “not tell the nurses.” She simply handed them to me, along with a handful of new magazines to tear colored scraps from, so I could continue work on my face, which I had only just begun.
Everyone asked me, as it was coming together, if I was modeling it on anyone. But the truth is, though I call it Christabel, it is more in honor of her, than intended to be a true likeness. True, she is African American, and has very close cropped hair, but that is as far as the similarities go. In fact, the face is pretty much imaginary and generic. I took the features from, well, my mind, mostly, though I used various faces from magzines to give me an idea of how the light would fall and create shadows, and how the various contours of the features would look. Also to give me a better idea of proportions. The nice thing about these kinds of collages is that paper is very forgiving, so if I made a huge mistake, and made the nose too big or put the lips too close to the nostrils or, as I did, make the eyes too small and close together, all I needed to do was paper them over and start again. In fact, the more layers I used, the stiffer the underlying “post-it note” kind of thin paper foundation became, which proved a good thing when it came to finishing off the edges and finding a way to hang it. I cannot f rame it, as it is 46 inches by 32inches, approximately, and formally framing it would cost a mint. but I polyurethaned it, one, so it would not distintegrate, and bound the edges neatly, and think I will attach a dowel or piece of thin wood at the top to which I can affix a wire and hang it by that. The person, the woman who runs the solo shows every month at DHMAS in Hartford, said that though everything was supposed to be framed, basically as long as it can be hung by a wire, my plans sound fine.
Well enough of this. I think the new photo shows how I finished the face better. Though I could not get the bound edges into the photo alas.
Sorry for not writing for so long. I will get back here soon, but for now I wanted to post my most recent art work, at least as it stands now.
This collage was made by tearing apart several posters and calendar reproductions of Gustav Klimt’s works then making a collage of my own out of them. If you know Klimt’s works you may recognize some of them in this work, though of course the picture itself is my own…That is why I call it “Using Klimt.” It is 20 inches by 30 inches though I was not able to get all of it into the photo. The head was cut off a bit as were part of the legs…
Oh yeah, I meant to add that the position the couple assumes is based on the famous Alfred Eisenstaedt photo taken on the occasion of VJ Day (Aug 15, 1945) when he wrote that his camera happened to catch a sailor spontaneously grabbing an unknown nurse (Edith Shain just died, 6 days ago, at 91) and smooching her, a glorious photo that is possibly the most famous one ever taken. Certainly, not one person I have mentioned it to has not immediately known what I was talking about. In fact, several people even commented that this collage brought it to mind…How perspicacious! Mine, if you notice, has the couple reversed, though, with the man to the right instead of the left…You would have to remember the original photo to understand this.
The following may repeat some of what I have written before, though expressed rather differently. I “purloined” it from a letter I wrote to someone I once knew, who I hope will forgive me if he ever visits this blog and recognizes it here.
Life continues to present many challenges, which both the poetry book and Mary’s introduction to WE MAD CLIMB SHAKY LADDERS illuminate , I suppose, in some detail. But among the thrills and wonders of these last few years of recovery are two that are related to one another but which I would never have dreamed of in relation to me.
I speak of vision, one — of depth perception — and two, of art. I don’t know if you have heard of the recent science memoir by Sue Barry called, Fixing My Gaze, in which she describes her strabismus and her work in vision therapy. Apparently the book has become quite popular, at least around here, after a review in the Hartford Courant (Barry lives not far from Northampton, MA). Strangely enough, I have been writing for the past year about, among other things, my own experience in vision therapy trying to achieve stereopsis . I believe I must have had “3-D vision” at some point, since I did not have strabismus as a child. At least not to the same extent as Barry, and I think I did when very young “see” what others said they saw through those Viewmaster toys (you must remember those binocular viewers with the “3-D” slides?). My later lack of 3-D vision never bothered me, apparently, and I never knew that I was missing anything, until I developed frank double vision about four or five years ago. My optometrist told me I probably had had unrecognized intermittent exotropia since childhood, but that my eye muscles had been somewhat stronger then and so my vision had stayed single. She could not say however if it had indeed been binocular, that is to say that I had used both eyes in seeing.. In any event, it was only when I was given prism glasses in 2008 and in February suddenly experienced brief, brief flashes of stereopsis that I understood what most people see, what I had in fact gone for so long without seeing. The world was suddenly, achingly more beautiful than — well, than anyone else seemed to recognize:
The first time on the Broad Street Green I passed the huge tree with its bark “sticking out” I was stunned, stopping dead in my tracks to stare at the reddish burnt sienna ridges that had suddenly leapt out at me. Stark, knifelike and jagged, the crusty surface was backlit by an early setting sun in such a way that it all seemed limned with light. A gentle roughness edged the troughs and depressions. Spawned from the cortex wood, the bark strained and stretched. I could scarcely believe how the air gently touched and tasted each indentation and projection of bark — as if saying, “I love you, I love every inch of you and my kisses, my airy bearhug proves it.” Just as surely as I knew the air loved that bark, I knew that space, the “emptiness” that cups and holds everything in its place safely, adores matter. This struck me as neither bizarre nor even uncommon, only obvious. What was strange and unfortunate to me was the fact that no one I spoke to about this experience seemed to know what I was talking about…
I cannot tell you (or anyone else for that matter, except perhaps Sue Barry, or Oliver Sacks) how much “space loves us” and everything it touches. Space is what gives us as a gift to ourselves..And when I saw it, saw space for the first time I fell in love with matter, and with the hollows and shapeliness of everything. I wanted to do nothing but gaze upon the world without touching it or or talking for at least a week…I wanted to walk around in silent solitude, experiencing space without interruption, to see without the interposing of frivolous conversation how incredible it was that you write words with pens held above the paper; that when you see a sign or a billboard, there is — and you are as certain of this as of any delusion —the knowledge that there is flatness to it, and that “more space” lies beyond it…Someone’s nose which reaches out in space is far more interesting than their voice, and the way a hand extends outward can be the most lovely thing seen…Indeed, I would tell people quite spontaneously how beautiful they looked, the way their noses projected from their faces, or their hands suddenly coming out at me…
Oh, it is so impossible to convey the sheer — well, even now there are no words for this, no words beyond that single inadequate word, beauty, for which there seems to be no useful synonym. All I can say is that while I felt no better about myself, I certainly fell in love with the substance of the world! Who can say, What is the matter with the world? Seriously? All is the world is the matter, and that matter is more exquisitely lovely and worthy of being preserved than even many principles — Free trade, capitalism, rugged individualism above socialism in any and all forms etc — Americans feel they have a right to hold so dear…
As for Art? In my cooler moments I reduce it to “medicine”, to symptomatology…thinking perhaps this amazing talent, so unexpected and newfound, has merely to do with the Temporal Lobe Epilepsy or seizure disorder with which I was diagnosed after having ECT about 3-5 years ago. I don’t know. (I read in SEIZED by Eve La Plante that not only are there personality changes but one can acquire sudden artistic abilities and interests, almost full-blown after developing TLE..so who knows?) Perhaps not. In any event, (I should mention that this is my theory little mentioned to anyone at all…Not sure to whom I should talk…) starting in 2007 I took up lifesize papier mache sculpture in a serious way, and just a week ago suddenly, VERY suddenly, discovered that I could paint portraits, just like that…I had never done a portrait before, rarely even tried to draw, had always said I couldn’t draw or paint for beans. Then one instant I felt drawn to paint (with which I had always decorated my papier mache, with swirls and colors but not true representational painting) and to doing “real art”. I “decided” I would paint a young man, and then went ahead and fearlessly did so (see first attachment)…Since then I have done one portrait a day. Some imaginary, some from photos…And I have no idea, had no idea I could do so at all! Frankly, ditto the sculpture, though I am getting used to that ability now that I have several to my name…(see two other attachments for examples of earliest pieces).
I hope you won’t mind all this “Wow is me” stuff…I’m not usually so impressed with myself, I assure you. However, while I am at it, I want to send you three newer poems. I actually dislike most of the illness poems in the book, and want you to see what I have been doing more recently, since the DIVIDED MINDS book was finished in 2003. I hope these poems speak for themselves. The “Epithalamion” one got a lot of chuckles, and ought to, when read properly (best out loud). I read it at my twin’s wedding. “To the Reader” will be the first poem in my second book, the opener, though perhaps not as “welcoming” as “How to read a Poem”. And the vision therapy one is about what I have been doing in order to regain stereopsis. Which by the way really works, vision therapy that is, despite the skepticism of most ophthalmologists, who never bother to try it out, just condemn and contemn it out of hand, because it is done by ODs not MDs….VT has to be continually practiced though or like me you can lose the ground you gained after a while. Now I struggle to gain it back. I vow to keep practicing. I do not think I can go without the exercises not after having gotten my eyes to do what they should do. It is so discouraging now to be back at nearly square one, I must admit…