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):
Aside from the fact that it is really stupid and cruel to say this to a student taking your course on creativity, and I was stupid enough to listen to him without objecting…Aside from all that, when Robert Fritz says artists can’t use art to work out their problems, I say, Balderdash! SAYS WHO? SAYS WHO?!!!
Can you imagine what the world would be like without artists who did NOT work out their problems in and through their art? A world without the likes of, and I am just selecting a few very famous examples from all over the art world:
Edvard Munck’s numerous depictions…
Just in case you doubt that he was rendering his emotional turmoil in pastel and paint, he wrote these sentences on the frame of one of the four known original versions of what the world now knows as
I was walking along the road with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.
And where would the world of poetry be without Sylvia Plath. Surely it would be a milder and less rich place without her magnificent and moving poem, “Daddy”, which I will quote only in part below:
“You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.
Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time——
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal
And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
The poem continues for several more stanzas which are well worth reading before ending with the incredible punch of:
“…So daddy, I’m finally through.
The black telephone’s off at the root,
The voices just can’t worm through.
If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two——
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.
There’s a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.“
A contemporary poet who has for many years mined her life and traumas for art, is undeniably Sharon Olds. But one poet who made art out of exquisite spiritual agonies was the British Jesuit convert,
Gerard Manley Hopkins in the mid-1800s, who wrote what are now called The Terrible Sonnets, terrible because they portray with astonishing depth the suffering and spiritual anguish he experienced as a parish priest going through the dark night of the soul. I do not know of any poet, then or now, who has done it better.
This is one of my all-time favorites of Hopkins. But you really need to read it aloud…
Not, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist — slack they may be — these last strands of man
In me ór, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.
But ah, but O thou terrible, why wouldst thou rude on me
Thy wring-world right foot rock? lay a lionlimb against me? scan
With darksome devouring eyes my bruisèd bones? and fan,
O in turns of tempest, me heaped there; me frantic to avoid thee and flee?
Why? That my chaff might fly; my grain lie, sheer and clear.
Nay in all that toil, that coil, since (seems) I kissed the rod,
Hand rather, my heart lo! lapped strength, stole joy, would laugh, chéer.
Me? or me that fought him? O which one? is it each one? That night, that year
Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with (my God!) my God.
Speaking of artists, does anyone else perhaps believe that Francisco Goya might have been working out something in this painting?
Francisco Goya Saturn Devouring Son
But as Robert Fritz said to me in class, and I stupidly took to heart, “ARTISTS CAN’T USE ART TO WORK OUT PROBLEMS”…
Geee, they can’t? How dumb of me to think they can and do it, all the time.
Remember Franz Kafka? Why do I think he too might have been dealing with his authoritarian father in such books as THE TRIAL, THE CASTLE, THE PENAL COLONY or a story like “The Hunger Artist”…No, that is impossible, right? After all, artists cannot and do not do such things, not real artists…Not according to Robert Fritz, who is the arbiter of all things art!
Songwriters are notorious for displaying their hearts on their sleeves, as most of us know. But VIc Chesnutt, who later committed suicide, did this in spades, with his song, “Coward.” This song is far too raw and painful to me to place it here as a sound file. But I will give you the lyrics and tell you to look for a version of Vic singing it, as no one can do it better.
The courage of the coward Is greater than all others A scaredy-cat’ll scratch ‘im If you back ‘im in a corner But I ,I ,I, I am a coward I, I, I am a coward Courage born of despair and impotence Submissive dogs can Lash out in fear and be Very, very dangerous But I ,I ,I, I am a coward I, I, I am a coward
Anyhow, I think I have made a case for stating that art — which can be used for a great many purposes, in fact can be used in whatever fashion and for whatever use you want to employ it, because truly there are no rules — most certainly one can work out one’s problems in and through using art. What better way to do so in fact? Better than taking a load of guns and shooting up the nearest _________! (fill in the blank with the most recent mass shooting locale.)
I welcome my readers to send me examples of artists who expressed themselves or used their problems to make art. I will add them to the list, especially if you provide a link to an example of their work.
Much love to all,
Pamela Spiro Wagner
Oh, I plum forgot! Here is my own example of using art to deal with problems:
I was left alone like this, offered neither food nor water and given only an apple when I begged for one, for three days and two night at John Dempsey Hospital in the 1980s at University of Connecticut Health Center, in Farmington Connecticut. If anyone remembers having been through this, Please get in touch with me! ( If anyone know whether Jim or Don Steadman, the aides, are still alive, please let me know…or have them get in touch too. I believe they would remember attending to me while the doctor kept me trussed up like this…)
i started this portrait, derived from photographs seen in a National Geographic magazine lying around on Unit D, with the detested Crayola pencils that had to be a requisite 4 inches long or shorter…but eventually i was permitted to use ( and try to repair the portraits) with my Caran D’ache pencils, though it is very hard to try to layer anything over crayolas, especially on paper that is too thin to accept multiple layers…
These are two very different paintings, clearly…The top one is the one most people like. For obvious reasons, as it causes less pain…I did it for them. The bottom one is about me…but no one likes it though I don’t care. Both are for sale if anyone is interested. Please get in touch with me by email or comment box to discuss price and shipping…
Art is all in reverse order of when it was done. If anyone is interested in buying, let me know. (Only some are for sale. Others are taken or donated already.)
Actually, all the above was done in my apartment in Brattleboro, after I moved there. What follows was done before I moved here. Either in the interim, in Sheffield, or while I was looking for a place and living with a friend in CT.
I wrote some or most of this in 2009 but I want to rewrite and update it..
Art, capital A, saved my life. It did more than that. Art gave me a new life, new hope, and something to get up for in the morning. It’s not that I’ve stopped writing. But I had been writing in a vacuum for a long time and needed an outlet for my creative urges that involved more than just my brain. Oh sure, writing involves the hands, too. But not in the way I mean. What I needed was, well, what do I mean? In some sense I needed more activity, if only because my poor brain shuts down and goes to sleep whenever I read, and it simply capitulates to narcolepsy whenever I am sedentary. I have indeed tried standing up while reading and writing, but this doesn’t work for someone whose feet swell very easily. And I find that standing up is just more distracting than anything.
But also I felt an intense to make things, create objects or works of art that could be seen and touched and even smelled and if scratched or thrown to the ground, heard. I had no idea in 2009 that in 2014 I might even write a couple of rap songs before I succumbed to the impulse to retreat into self-imposed total mutism. If I were VIncent Van Gogh, I might even want to taste my art, but I will try to stick to real culinary arts when that urge overtakes me as I do not at the present time wish to be poisoned by cadmium red etc. Nevertheless, despite my lifelong love for words, I still wanted to create something physical, not just an imagined or recalled world in words, however long-lasting.
I have always needed to work with my hands. I once wrote a poem called Hand Hunger which some silly psychoanalytic candidate insisted was sexual rather than seeing the references for what they clearly were, to making and creating and building with the hands, to MANUAL LABOR and not to — (sheesh!) masturbation! I mean, how stupid and dim can you get?
Anyhow, I needed to make something or do some sort of craft or artwork. Fearing/Knowing that I could not do “real art,” (YASS,that was ME only a few years ago, telling myself that I could never paint a face! Listen up all ye who think YOU can not do art!) that I was not the stuff of which true artists are made, I always gravitated towards the crafty side of things. (But pray tell, what stuff is that, Pamela?)
So even when I – on a manic whim – dove into sculpture, creating that llama-in-a-day, Dolly the Llama,
the result was mostly folk art, which is to say, unsophisticated, rustic, and at best a craft-like work. Sure, I was pretty proud that I’d made a lifesize animal that actually stood up firmly on its own four legs. But with a deli-container-head (underneath the papier mache) and huge mailing tube body, scarcely concealed, big enough to have once held a large amateur telescope, it didn’t look much like a llama. In fact, the result was not much more than that tube covered with a few layers of paper and glue, and all of it painted red. Nevertheless, I was happy enough with “Dolly the llama.” I have to confess though that it took me a entire year after the psychosis and mania were treated to finish her. Her saddle blanket have fooled many into tugging at the finge to see if it is real or not. a trompe-l’oeil — eye fooling — success that pleased me no end.
But a year-in-the-making was too much time to complete a craft or artwork, even a life-size llama. I came to dread the work by the time I got to applying the last few strokes of paint. You really need more drive than that to do art, but I didn’t seem to be able to sustain the energy or enthusiasm for much of anything. in fact, I’m not at all sure how I managed to write even my part of the book DIVIDED MINDS given those obstacles.
Then, during my hospitalization in 2007 it seems one obstacle was overcome: on Abilify plus the Abilify-tempering Geodon I suddenly had both energy and stamina* (see bottom of post for a later 2014 discussion of this). Or perhaps it is simply that the medications enabled a “well me” to come out, someone who could sustain an artistic effort, even if it was for the very first time. Given a different life I would have been doing this sort of thing all along had I known it was possible, had I had that kind of stamina… But I didn’t think about this, no, for me there was no looking back.
What I did not know at the time I wrote those words back in 2009, or at least the connection I was unable to make, was that I had actually been on that same antipsychotic drug combination for a several years before this sudden transformation. But in late 2007, however, a small vascular malformation in my frontal lobe hemorrhaged. This was a small bleed, to be sure, but I later felt and some doctors have also agreed this was not impossible, that the timing was such that the bleed itself might in some sense have been responsible for the sudden production of Decorated Betsy
and as my new-found compulsion to do art as well as the felt inability to stop…
Since that time I have jokingly said, “Well, a little brain damage (in the right place) never hurt anyone.” Of course, that is indeed only a joke. because brain damage almost always DOES hurt people. But in this case it seems to have wrought a miracle in my life.
Over the years since Dec 2007, I have created many pieces, large and small, from bowls to two large tortoises and two geese, even a “crazy fruit” bowl. Also a large seated man, a child detachable from her hassock (not quite finished) and several small birds. My female sculpture, the Decorated Betsy, even won a NAMI national contest on creativity and mental illness. But why tell you about them. I will upload a few photos instead.
I am going to try to show you them chronologically, but without the many bowls I have made along with way, except for a few that are particularly special to me. Note that all the sculptures incuding a few that are not shown here, have been donated to someone or some organization, However if anyone is interested in purchasing a new sculpture, I do accept commissions.
This is the Dream Tortoise, otherwise known as Yurtle the Turtle, which is about 3 feet in diameter. It was my second animal, but my first turtle.
The prescription that this brightly clad psychiatrist holds in his hand reads: Dr John Jumoke, Rx: Art, Poetry, Music. I thought, well, that is one shrink even I wouldn’t mind seeing!
*As for Abiilify and Geodon “causing” my stamina and better endurance? I dunno what to say? I have little social stamina even now. But I stopped the Geodon almost as soon as I restarted it. I just feared taking any drug that prolongs the QT interval, one, and isn[t even approved in Europe for heaven’s sake! Why is that? I can think of two reasons. One is that it is NOT effective at all, not even enough for them to fake-believe it, or two, it is too dangerous for the Europeans even to subject their mentally ill to it. There may be other reasons why the European Union declined to approve Ziprasidone, but I cannot think of any other obvious reasons.
As for the Abilify, well, I have taken it, more or less, since I was in Care Bed, largely because they got me onto it and I am scared, frankly to stop it…And yet, I do have to “get myself” to take it each and every day, stop myself from simply removing it from the slot in the pill tray that it is in…I should. slowly, but I am afraid, I confess. My therapist at the Northeast Kingdom Human Services told me yesterday that I came extremely close to having been forced into the hospital this month…and she is worried about me if I do not take the fricking drug. But I do not believe it does a danged thing for me, nothing bad either, nothing bad that tis obvious at any rate…But what will it do down the road, and what was that stuff going on with my mouth when I was OFF it??? I want to know but I know no one will tell me or even test me for TD, because they do not want to KNOW…They do not want toi know if the drug is causing brain damage because of the consequences of their KNOWLEDGE both from me and for them.
FUCK THEM and FUCK ME. I don’t know what to do. Everyone has an opinion and everyone has a different opinion and because I do NOT TRUST MYSELF to know myself or my needs, I listen to everyone at least temporarily. I listen to everyone! But I cannot trust what anyone, any one single person tells me, because I do not actually trust any single person to know a goddam thing about it OR to tell me the fucking truth. That is the problem. Even Nancy, the APRN, who admitted that the drugs were imperfect and very broad targeting, etc seemed to be too enthusiastic for them, rather than trying to find a way NOT to use them. But that may have been because I myself raised a stink about their having taken a WHOLE bottle of expensive pills (GEODON) from my bags at CARE BED and not returned them to me,…I did not like that one bit.
i mean, I am not going to overdose or sell the meds, but I want what I came in with, and they are MY pills, goddam it! Wh=at right does ANY one have to take them from me! So i partly agreed to the Geodon just to get my bottle of pills back, only then it turned out that they wanted to give me a weekly tray so I would try to be compliant …so I did not get the entire bottle only a week’s worth which I frankly am not even taking.
I do not want to take any pills except for what I FEEL in my soul I need! I NEED 1) methylphenidate, or I cannot stay awake to do anything, esp not to drive any farther than 10 minutes away, if even that. I start yawning about 15 minutes after I wake up…You may think this is a bad drug for someone with a propensity for psychosis but having narcolelpsy is NOT my fault…I cannot stay awake for the life of me. And that was true well before I ever took any other drug. 2) I need topiramate because I really fear seizures, and because if it just reduces my headaches by one a week, it is worth it. I take severall vitamins in larger than usual but not mega-doses. I take a very small dose of a thyroid medication also, which I would not want to stop…Do I NEED Abilify or Geodon? Some people who have known me for years and in and out of hospitals say “Yes, absolutely!” some others say, No, not if you reduce the dose very very slowly..”
I do not have ANY inkling myself, none at all, but I want to believe NOT…I do not feel that these drugs do a thing at all frankly. Except bad things, especially in the case of Geodon. I do not usually like it when people tell me what to do, but I wish wish wish in this case that SOMEONE with influence would indeed tell me what to do. Precisely..and convince me. But no one is in that position, not any more. I am just alone and fucked…My therapist practically said, no she DID say: f you end up in the hospital it will be no one’s fault but your own, because you won[ take the Abilify….What sort of thing is that to tell me??? Should I just accept that and be quiet or what? Is she right? I didn’t like it one bit. I felt utterly abandoned and scolded and also basically told, well, you heard! It WILL BE YOUR FAULT! YOU TAKE THOSE PILLS OR WE BLAME YOU!!!!
Enough of this shit…I should, I suppose, have written something about my gratitude for this lovely holiday, the original one that presaged a wholesale slaughter of our good “Indian” buds we had over for the first T-day…ha ha ha. And how grateful I am for this wonderful country that treats everyone “equally” and with compassion and kindness (justice? Oh well, we need not mention JUSTICE, need we?Justice goes without saying, don’t it???) Ha ha ha, of course if you are melanin-challenged you might not agree that justice nor social compassion…But some folks in MO, and a certain MO town these past few days and nights have come to a different understanding about such things.
Okay enough for the “holy-day” chatter from me for now.
ATC card of cat on Braided rug done with Caran D’ache Luminance pencils. Best pencils available but you pay for them!
Also an ATC card, 2.5 by 3.5 in size, surrounded by a black mat and brown frame. This boat was pulled up on the shore of the wethersfield cove and was resting on the wooden slat of a railed fence.
This last picture of my Caran D’ache five dollar pencils… Because of their expense I make a big fuss about how to sharpen them. I used to use an electric sharpener because it was convenient, but the pencils were seater up immensely and wastefully so. Now I use a prismacolor pointer for the leads. (In case you would not, the one on the left is made from Dad’s ? I dunno, but I would love to see hatt picture framed and given to the, first..lI will give you a good photo and sculpture from the other book.
OK I am down for the count. Gotta of to sleep NOW.
This is a larger size painting than I am used to doing. I usually draw and I am scared of painting. When I have painted I have usually restricted myself to tiny sizes or just portraits. This is my first attempt at a real crowd scene or any scene at all. (I am tempted to redo the foreground doctor, to make him less cartoonish and more realistic, but for now, I will keep him as originally done. However, I don’t like the illustration quality of this painting, and want to learn how to be more painterly, so to speak!)
All I want to say is that someone connected to me died on Saturday and I have reason to believe it was suicide. This is what I wrote to four people:
“The assistant building manager —– died — i am certain it was suicide — Saturday…i feel to blame, to blame, to blame. It is not that i knew or could have helped her, no, i feel like i caused her to kill herself. I’m shaking in –what? — terror, something! Even the music on Pandora is blaming me. What have i done?”
For hours there was no reply. I located two cigars in the bottom of an old purse, knowing what I had to do…I planned to place this photo:
and let fate determine the consequences, both what eventuated in terms of the voices and what happened after that. All I knew is that even Pandora “radio” is blaming me for the death — suicide as I suspect — and I do not know what to do. I have already been responsible for two suicides of friends. How can I take this again>???
Then my shrink brother wrote me back, after I thought he was long ago in bed and asleep. I quote him in part: “you feel guilty for taking care of yourself. I hope that makes sense. I know it applies to me, so I’m not just saying it. Let it go. You had nothing to do
with her death. It’s sad, if it indeed was suicide, but just leave it at
that. I do think it’s more than symbolic that the person you’re guilty about was the manager of the building you hope to leave for good soon.”
Then he suggested that I take an Ativan (for a change?) and go to sleep. I wasn’t going to, I was going to do something that was ordered of me, and which I felt was essential. But I feel a little less alone, and feel as if I can hang on another night. At least he didn’t get angry and tell me I am not his “top priority”…as if I needed that rammed down my throat ever or again.
I may not make it all night, but if I can sleep it would help a lot. I barely slept last night at all and all these songs on the Bruno Mars’ station are getting to me. I am crying because of how bad I feel…
Will I get through the night? Only the future can tell. I will take the Ativan, against my better judgement, and I already took the half that I refused of Geodon, much against my judgement because otherwise I would be blamed for everything that happens from now on. I do not need the Geodon, but I know what the nurse will say if I refuse it. Until I get to Vermont and then I am free to do what I choose, and if that means — well, I won’t go there right now.
Thank you for listening, if anyone out there really is — either there or listening.
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!
#ActuallyAutistic - An Aspie obsessed with writing. This site is intend to inspire through sharing stories & experiences. The opinions of the writers are their own. I am just an Autistic woman - NOT a medical professional.