Saturday, January 31, 2009

Recession Fears

I read the internet news. What I read about the economy frightens me. And there are so many many stories about the economy.

Last week started with stories about large companies that are laying off thousands of workers. Their profits have been dropping, and this is what they must do to survive. New homes and buildings are not being constructed so Caterpillar, the world's largest maker of heavy earth removal machinery is slowing production of equipment, closing plants, and laying off workers. People are not buying new computers, or digital cameras, so Microsoft and Kodak are laying off workers. Macy's are closing under preforming stores and so is the pricey coffee maker Starbucks. Locally I have seen that the car dealership where we service our P.T. Cruiser has closed. And then when we last went to the Holyoke Mall we saw that my favorite clothing store, a store that sells clothing made for larger sized women, is now empty. Whatever percentage our unemployment is at they predict that things will grow worse, layoffs will increase, until perhaps we shall see 10% unemployment. They say that this is the worst recession since the great depression. The average American has drastically cut their spending. I read where some women were interviewed and one third said that they would not be buying new clothing next year. Our gross national product is shrinking. Most of the world's nations have money problems so overseas the demand for American goods is dropping. The government of Iceland declared bankruptcy last week. In France people went on a nation wide strike and marched to protest unemployment. It is not only the United States that is suffering.

My husband has made his career in manufacturing. He has worked at a company that during the recession in the 1990's laid off workers. He said that then there was fear in the air when you went to work. No one knew if their job, or the company, would survive. Yesterday everyone in his workplace had to sign a contract saying that they understand that their job can be terminated at any time for any reason. I don't know if this is the beginning of there being fear at his workplace. He tells me that he has seen little sign of a slow down in the manufacturing of their product. Perhaps one change is that they are shipping out less work to be done by other companies and are instead doing it themselves. But he has talked to men in other departments (his own is quality control) and he has learned that the company recently invested in more new equipment and visibly expanded to take up space in a second building. So there are indicators that the company is strong. But I wonder. And I fear. Mike and I console each other by coming up with ways that he is valuable to his company. He counts on his fingers, these many people have been at the company longer than I. But these many people were hired after me. It is good that I am certified in DSQR work, that makes me valuable, there are very few people who are certified in DSQR work. I almost have five years with the company. Companies are reluctant to let you go after you have had five years with them.

One night, last week, I began to cry from fear. "Live one day at a time" Mike said to me. I thought about this. Right now he has a job and his company is strong. We have no debts. We are able to save a little every month. Our apartment belongs to my mother and it is certain that I can stay here for as long as I live. But I worry about catastrophe, and I cannot free myself from the fantasy that the worst will happen to us, that Mike shall lose his job, that we shall experience poverty, that I will stop being able to afford fresh fruit. I worry about losing my teeth. I worry about not being able to afford paint. I worry that I can't afford the latest drugs, that I will have to switch from the expensive Geodone to the cheap Trilifon, and that without my latest designer drug, I will experience again catatonia, locked in my brain, unable to move, feeling that it is the end of everything, and needing to be hospitalized or worse, acting on my impulses and mistakenly killing myself. If I am emotional mess, will I overburden my marriage and lose some of the love of my husband? I have lived in poverty before, lived on disability, lived on Trilifon, and yet, why do I so dread a return to it? Why do I think that I am so weak that any catastrophe with Mike's work will be the end of all happiness? When Mike asked me to live one day at a time I was unable to do it. I was drowning in fear. And then I thought to myself, "I will go to Church" and this settled me. I've been to church before. In church they talk about hope. In church they believe in a God that brings blessings, and if you have blessings, which I do, you find the time to say thank you. All your fears you offer up to God. And all your fears you trade, you give them away and take in return peace.

Mike said that he would go to church with me, that we would try different churches, until I found the one that was right for me. Then I would have to go to church alone. I will wait until Spring to go to church. My good clothing is all one size smaller, I have to diet down to fit into it all. And my hair is two colors, my natural dark streaked with silver and the dyed light brown. By Spring I can have my hair cut short, all the dyed hair removed. Thus I will present myself in my good clothing and with dignified hair. Mike said I could go to Church now, in jeans, with two colors of hair, but I do not wish to do such a thing. I like to make a good impression. My fear is not constant, I am not in crisis. God waits, I wait.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Fear the Dentist

Went to the dentist today. Learned about gum disease. That is why you lose teeth, the gums rot and then the bone rots away. I thought you lost teeth because of cavities. Apparently I brush well, little or no tarter build up. But I haven't been flossing. I go back in 6 months to the same woman, and I promised, that my gums would be in better shape.

It was no little thing, visiting the dentist. She put her instruments in my mouth and my heart started pounding. I hate listening to the steel scrape against my teeth and I tense waiting for flairs of pain. I believe that the woman working on my mouth, had she found a cavity, would have stuck a probe inside it. She wasn't delicate. She scraped and then asked, "did that hurt?" Luckily it didn't. She looked at my medication and asked what it was for. I said a psychiatric condition. This is better than answering a schizophrenic disorder. She lost my x-rays on her computer. She swore that she had saved them and that they were somewhere, only, she isn't so good using a computer. The x-rays were to know whether or not I had a cavity in-between my teeth. I wonder if they will ever find those x-rays.

I got the half scholarship to the River Gallery School of Art. My favorite teacher called me to let me know and it was so good hearing her voice. I had told her that I was leaving school to write a vampire novel, and she remembered what I had said. She said that she had been thinking about me when she got my letter. I don't know what to make of such a statement, I don't think that I'm someone to wonder about. But neither do I think that she is a liar. What I remember about her is her garnet necklace that she wore with all her clothing. And I remember her husband who attended our class for a little while. He had an air about him that was very happy and young, like my own husband. And I remember thinking how satisfying it was to know that two good people had found each other, the partnership seemed sound, and wasn't it a mystery, that he could spend time in art class in the middle of the day in the middle of the week. I decided that he had invented a type of energy efficient light bulb, and that the profits of his invention gave them both a moderately comfortable life-style. The beautiful farm house that they live in was inherited. If any of this is true I do not know. I am not one to daydream about others, I am too busy dwelling on my own nightmares.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Magical Mystery Man

My husband said it was because of the way the man was standing in front of the frozen vegetables. A few minutes later my husband pointed out the man to me after he had moved. We were checking the eggs to make sure none of them were broken and he was down the isle picking out ice cream. He had thick, round glasses and clothing that was unremarkable. I remember he was wearing a cream colored trench coat, not stylishly cut, just serviceable. He could have been an accountant. He could have been a school teacher. But my husband noticed him when, in front of the frozen vegetables, he put his hand to his open mouth and held it there, an unconscious gesture, pondering his choice. He looked, said my husband, very vulnerable. And it was at that moment that my husband was overwhelmed with love for this man. He wished he could hug him.

And at that visit to the grocery store there would be another man who my husband fell in love with. In front of us in the check out line was an old man. My husband noticed his hands. The skin on them was very wrinkled and they were trembling. My husband wished that he could seize one of these hands and hold it still. But of course because he was in control, and because he was not too crazy, he did nothing.

"I think" said my husband today, "that I am entering an ecstatic phase." I thought about how things are going with him at work. He has not, as we call it in my household, "had his pee-pee whacked" by his boss recently. This means he has not done anything wrong and no one has disciplined him. There was a meeting where it was emphasized that all audits must be done in two month's time or else there would be horrible consequences, and this means he will have to guard his time jealously and not let anyone else's agenda distract him from getting those audits done on time. My husband knows that in the near future there are going to be people who he says to "no, I can not do what you ask because I have an audit to prepare". And my husband does have the most difficult time saying no. But he has dealt with the audit process before, and I do not think, that the stress of knowing he has audits to do is making him fall in love with random men. Something internal to my husband is causing him to experience ecstasy, in the form of love toward strangers, and there is no recognizable cause and effect trigger. I have not been demanding my death recently, his daughter is fine, his family still loves him because they are still ignorant that he is no longer Christian, his comic book work goes along swimmingly, and nothing has caused us sudden debt. Worries have not caused him to crack.

Selfishly I hope that his ecstasy shall strike again when he is looking at me.

Friday, January 23, 2009


Still haven't heard about the art school scholarship. There is now a little over one week before classes start. If the school grants me a scholarship I believe that morally I ought to take it. I asked, and I believe that I should follow through with my stated intention. But if they do not offer the scholarship I have an alternative course.

The goal has never been to learn more about art. I will listen to instruction but I am so stubborn, and so set in my style, that I doubt I can be easily influenced. The teachers, to their credit, never tried to overtly influence me. I simply want to go to art school to be with people. While I was in school I never made a friend, but I think, this is what I hoped for all along. A friend who makes art. Better, a friend who makes art that I can respect. Someone who is passionate and committed. The best thing so far about art school is that it introduced me to new colors of paint, which I now use extensively. A bit about shading. A bit about perspective. I laugh, some people go to River Gallery Art School to have fun. To exercise their creative side. Compared to them I am grim and obsessed. I planned my painting, took it home with me, worked on it everyday, and came back with it a little further along than the week before. Nobody else took their work home with them. Most complete a painting in the two hours of class time. If not, they left their work to dry, and took it up again during the next class. I clamped my wet painting to my table top easel, collapsed the easel so it was easy to carry and prayed that it didn't snow or rain so I could get it to my car without water beading on the oil paint. When I work I am grim, fanatical, absurdly precise and cloaked in concentration. Art school students would walk past me, look at my art, but few bothered to start a conversation.

And yet, I dressed myself with care for class. There was always wet paint traveling around the school rooms so I had to wear something that I didn't care if it got paint on it. Most of my clothes I don't care if they get paint on them. Paint is the mark of who I am. A badge that says this is my profession. But I always cared to look tidy. To look artistic. To seem hip. I liked best wearing a black shirt and belted jeans. In the summer I wore dresses. The art rooms can get very hot. I would sweat, go to the bathroom, and remove the sweat with toilet paper. If I cared about the way I looked it was only because I was very aware of the strangers surrounding me. Aware and perhaps longing for things to be other than the way they were.

My consolation if I do not get an art school scholarship is that my mother has offered $100 toward the $200 yearly fee to join a cooperative gallery in downtown Brattleboro. This gallery is run by artists. You must submit images of your artwork and be accepted, but I have no doubt that I would be accepted. Every month they put up a new exhibit. Sometimes certain artists are featured. There is a small maze of free standing walls in the rear for small, single works. For the most part the prices are low, I don't think the gallery takes a cut of the artist's profit. And I don't know if anyone sells any artwork.

If I join this gallery I can establish a presence and reputation. I paint slowly, so I would only wish to join every other year. But artists and collectors would get to know my style. I would love to have a reputation. There is one artist there, her first name is Amy, who has a style I admire. Several months ago I saw a painting of hers that I would love to own. A large eagle was standing in a room, on a wooden floor, eyeing the mouse-like hole in the wall. Within this hole, surrealistically, a green fish flops. Not the mouse you would expect. I like the switch, I like the surprise. As creative surprises goes it is very simple, but I believe, simple is powerful.

A plan is in the back of my mind. Would this artist exchange the eagle painting for one of my own? I dream of a trade amongst equally admiring, artistic, friendly, peers.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Can't Paint

I have these days. Typically they come after a full day with many accomplishments. Yesterday's accomplishments were many. I painted. I watched the presidential inauguration with tears on my cheeks. I listened to Obama's speech and afterward read the printed text so I wouldn't miss anything of the message that he was making to the American people and the world. I went to the bank. I worked out on the treadmill. I spoke to a friend on the phone for an hour and 41 minutes. I showered. I made love to my husband. I have to be proud because I know that everything I did was to benefit my life, to further its prosperity and happiness, and that the alternative was to lie in bed and do nothing. The illness that I have has weakened my mind. When I am strong I have to recognize it. Celebrate health. And when I am weak I have to forgive myself. My mind now is thick. My will power is low. I move with effort. There is no depression, only, perhaps, an air of unbelievability. What I did yesterday I apparently cannot repeat again today. My hope lies in the fact that I know there is a pattern. If I rest today, tomorrow I will have all the mental tools I need to be productive once more.

After I finish writing this I will watch a Joan Crawford movie. I like to watch strong women. Before the illness I was a strong woman. One important ingredient in a strong woman is persistence. My painting waits for me. I will return to it tomorrow. Perhaps later in the day, after I have laid in bed for many hours, I will feel restless and I can go for a walk and have a cup of coffee at the little popular dive down the street, Mocha Joe's. I am frozen as the day begins, I have hopes that I will thaw. But the narrow opportunity to paint while I am fresh in the morning is passing. I went as far as to put on my two sweaters, turn on the little heater in the unheated art room, and sit in the chair that is in front of my painting. I looked and knew exactly where to begin. I thought about the colors. But then I couldn't touch a tube of paint or lift a paint brush. I turned off the heater. I left the room. I took off one of my sweaters. I returned to bed to pen this. I satisfied myself that if I couldn't paint, perhaps I could write about how I couldn't paint.

Sometimes I dream about what I could accomplish if my illness didn't limit the amount of hours that I can work. I would work for 6 or 8 hours a day instead of 3 or 4. My paintings would grow in size. I would not have to worry about having enough art for a show in a gallery. My skills would leap forward as my experience doubles, and there would be time for experiments in art, pictures which may or may not work, something now I only permit myself to do on the smallest scale, 5"x7" paintings.

I suppose it would be better to dwell on the positive. There are some with my illness who would not be able to concentrate for several hours at all. My friend Rocki, who I talked to on the phone yesterday, views what I have accomplished with envy. She is paranoid schizophrenic and dabbles in creative things. She plays the base guitar, writes short stories and draws horses. I have managed to have what is, in embryonic form, a career. It exists because I am persistent. I can loose the battle, as I have today, but in the future win the war because I will not give up. I suppose being suicidal is giving up. But while I talk about it I don't do it. And always, eventually, the suicidal wish falls away from me. That painting that I cannot work on today will be worked on tomorrow, and eventually, it will be finished and I will buy a frame for it. I am giving myself two years of work before I try to have another show in a gallery, and I swear, my painting will hang somewhere, and eventually it will be sold to someone and have a life outside of my control. That is, in essence, what it is to have a career as an artist. I do not think that Rocki tries, everyday, to do the same creative task. Any career as an artist must begin on this foundation. Every day you try to do the same creative task. Long before there is accomplishment there is intention. I have, in my own way, sworn an oath to the painting I could not paint today. It will get my attention, as soon as my attention returns to me. I loose today the battle with the illness, but I know that I won it yesterday, and if I believe in my dedication, I will win it again tomorrow.

It really should be, once it is finished, a lovely painting. Best suited for a children's room or a grown up who has in their time seriously considered whether or not angels exist, and having asked themselves this question, they have arrived at the certain answer that there is one walking by their side both day and night.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Butterfly Wings

Today I painted my third pair of butterfly wings. I've got a pattern, I've got a strategy. On each pair I use a different shade of blue straight from the tube, thus, some basic variation. Shaded in serves green near the bottom, violet tint in the middle, and white. Made a pattern along all the edges with yellow dashes encased in midnight blue. The veins of the wings were ever so thin trails of ultramarine blue. Now I believe if I had to paint any more butterfly wings I would grow bored.

I look at the painting that is developing and think "stiff". One aspect of my painting is that it is very controlled. A tiny brush, lots of blending, paint pushed around where millimeters matter, the mark of precision. Once the drawing is finished there is almost no alteration in the size and shape of things, only color.

Tomorrow I paint the flesh on a little nude body that sports the pair of butterfly wings just completed today. It is the second layer of flesh and I am wondering if all three bodies in the painting need three layers of flesh paint, shaded with transparent blue, olive, red, purple and brown, highlighted in pink and yellow, to look the best. A part of me is bored to do it, thinks two layers gets the message across. But then I wonder, where will this painting go, and shouldn't it go with the best possible send off that I can give it? What if this is all there is to represent me after I'm dead?

There is a temptation to view oneself as a human assembly line machine, putting the parts together day after day. If I feel this way, is there something wrong with my creative process? In my painting there is repetition. I know I am attracted to pattern and repetition. Dad says that one artist he knows listens to books on tape while he paints repeating detail. I know I love wild spontaneity, but I also know that in a way it has to be planned for. I would be horrified to approach a blank canvass without a great deal of preparation. I can go as far as to say to myself before I start, "here I will reign it in and here I will let go." My secret hope is that the older I get, the more experienced I get, the more place there will be in my art for spontaneity.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ant wings

I'm not painting today. Yesterday didn't paint either. Yesterday wrote a letter to River Gallery Art School requesting a partial scholarship for an adult studio class this spring semester. The semester starts Feb.2. The price of the class is $410 and I asked if we could pay half. I forgot to say that we spend a lot of money on my medication and medical bills. So I don't know if I made the strongest of all possible cases for scholarship. I mailed the letter in a big manila envelope, so it didn't have to fold, and with it I mailed three pictures of my latest artworks. I figure, perhaps they would be impressed by my commitment to making art. Perhaps a picture will express more than words can ever say.

I walked to the post office, mailed my envelope, and then came home and worked out on the treadmill. Did an hour and 15 minutes work-out with 25 minutes of that at jogging speed. Have older, weaker legs than ever before and am careful about not injuring them. The goal is to get up to an hour jog. That should keep me fit. When I paint I sit down. During the winter I read, draw, go on the computer, eat, and watch television all in bed. Most of my time is spent in bed. Right now, as I write this I am in bed. During the winter the bedroom is the only room of the apartment that is comfortably heated. It is a small room. I don't think my sanity suffers. But I don't know.

Last night, after a day with two major accomplishments, the letter made and mailed and a workout, I was mentally and physically exhausted. I mean I lay in bed, saying nothing, doing nothing, not ready for sleep, depleted to the core. With my illness, after success, there is usually a price to pay. The bed is where I am sick. It is where I go when my thoughts are thin, on the verge of cracking, where I have no motivation, no obligations, no desires, no abilities left, then there is the bed to retreat to. I think that the bed is the center of my universe, the center of home. Because this room is warm there are usually two cats curled on the bed and the dog buried half beneath. They give the room some heart, as well as the artwork on the walls.

Why not paint today? I think that I lack enthusiasm for my latest painting. I'm in a spot where I have to do something difficult, and I can't quite imagine how to do it. With this flying ant I had the challenge of painting wings. Wings are flat, and these wings in particular were difficult to manage because they are supposed to be iridescent and transparent. I have no schooling in tricks of how to paint iridescent and transparent. I had to make up a method. I don't know how well I succeeded. But elsewhere in this same painting, what is to be painted next is a pair of butterfly wings. They already have one undercoating of paint, and boy, don't they look flat. Which is, of course, exactly what butterfly wings are, flat. Oh the boredom with flat! I put off painting the wings until tomorrow. Which is what I did yesterday as well. I think tomorrow is the day of reckoning. I'm going to paint and damn the consequences. Anything will look better than the undercoating of paint. I'm just right now feeling helpless and lost. Paralyzed by a pair of butterfly wings.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


I feel better today. Painted, not very much, just enough so that the canvas now is completely covered with paint. This painting now is going to be moved from my table top easel to a standing floor easel to dry. So much of it is wet paint. What I painted today will be treated with layers of colored transparent paint, darkening and softening the colors. I almost can't stand paint on canvass that comes directly out of the tube. Either the color is blended in with other colors or it is layered over with transparent paint. I have a small second painting which is dry and ready for more coats of paint. I simply could not switch mental gears and go from one painting to another in the same morning. Obsession is such a strong force. It focuses on one object at a time. I need the span of a day and a night to change the commitment of my heart.

I don't feel like dying today. I have energy. I believe that once I have rested from painting I will walk and jog on my treadmill. I know that the work I do on the treadmill will keep me healthy and prolong my life. If I am to have a prolonged life then that means that I will paint more and better paintings before I die.

I sat looking at the painting that now has no bare spots of canvass and I tried to imagine it finished. Would it be something that was worthy of a museum? I decided not. But would it enhance any room that it was hung in? I decided that it would add color and mystery. I can't wait for it to be finished so that I can frame it and hang it in my kitchen. It is destined I think for my next show at Gallery in the Woods, something that is as much as two years away. The kitchen is one of the premiere showplaces in my apartment. There are two wide doors that cover an alcove where there is a washer and dryer. The doors have hanging hooks in them. I have tried hanging my father's art next to my art and the combination was a dismal failure. My work overpowered my father's work. The colors and the content of my paintings are so strong that I need to put only my original work on these doors - then there is balance.

This painting is to be titled "The Four Candles" and it has a lot of black in it. The black paint looks very different wet and dry. Wet it is glossy and rich, dry it is dirty and feeble. To return the black to a bold color I will cover this painting, after it had dried for a month, with retouch varnish. The varnish is of course clear and transparent. What I need it for is to bring back all the benefits of the wet black paint. I've only used the retouch varnish once before and I noticed that while it had a great effect on the black and areas that were awash with transparent paint, the more mat colors of flesh stayed mat. There should not be the sensation of uniform high shine, which suits me fine. Too much gloss is distracting. I already know what the frame of the painting will look like. It is wide satin black, a far less reflective black than the oil paint with the retouch varnish over it, and the two blacks will contrast with one another nicely.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Morris Hirshfield

This is my kind of artist. Innocent. Creative. New. Pretty. In love with pattern. A poem in paint.

I am not painting for as long as I ought to. I am feeling exhausted all the time. I sit across the room from my painting with a cup of coffee in my hand. The coffee is hot, the room is unheated, and I'm wearing two sweaters. I'm listening to upbeat music. I try to let the energy from the music and the lure of an unfinished painting work on me. Because I don't really want to paint. I don't really want to do anything. I'm thinking to myself, "Should I be alive or should I be dead?"

I understand that much of the world would grind to a halt if other people thought like me. Nothing would get done. Many people would die. Everyone would be too ashamed to show their face. They would stay locked in their houses. We would all be in tune, like listening to the same radio station, demonic noise filling our ears, it is the howling of utter emptiness. Mothers would ignore their children. Children would never want to grow up and become adults. Husbands and wives would not see the point in sleeping in the same bed together. All wishing, hopes and dreams would be aborted right after they were formed. If all people felt like me then love would form only the loosest of bonds. Because how can you trust in love when after you hear a declaration of love you hear the words "good-bye", and then no other words ever again, until you two should happen to meet in heaven?

My husband says that I cannot live for myself alone. I have a responsibility to the others in my life who depend on the fact that I continue. Besides feeling a strong emotion of shame, I really feel no pain. Nothing sharp is cutting into me. No one yells at me, no one abuses me. I have food, clothes, and a home that won't be taken away from me. The only words my husband has toward me are loving. The animals in the house follow me about and ask for petting and attention. Their fur is soft and their eyes shine with inner light. There is more family, only a phone call away, who all would be happy to speak to me. No one wants me dead.

There is perhaps a way to trick myself into accepting the way things are. Exhaustion and apathy can be endured. I know I'm depressed, a state I've been in before. Knowing my history, the depression comes suddenly and then just as mysteriously lifts away. My memory is befuddled by the depression, I can't say how long it stays with me. I wish I could say, only five more days, and then happiness again. But really, I don't see a reprieve in sight. So it is better not to look into the future. It is better to stay in the present. Worry only about how I will spend the next hour. Plan to read or watch a movie and hope to escape into fantasy. Or go to sleep if I lack all concentration.

I painted today. I hold onto that thought and it makes me feel a little better.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Purple Dress

Did the black background today. The flesh isn't finished, nor the path beneath her feet. I'm going to try glazing over the black with different transparent colors, once it's dry. Got to try to paint a nimbus around the flame of the candle as well.

Last night I wanted to die. Told my husband I wanted to die. He said that I have responsibilities. He needs me. My animals need me. He said that I can't live for myself alone.

When I think about killing myself my mind turns to my art. I am ashamed that I'm just not good enough. If I could only have a sign that my art is worth something. If only someone would buy a painting from the gallery. But I fear that it isn't going to happen. People will see my art but not want to possess it or take it home. They won't want to live with it. It isn't treasure. It isn't valuable. It doesn't speak to a stranger. I lack an edge. I lack some quality. What I need you can't buy and you can't learn. It is supposed to come from inside. I'm doomed to be mediocre.