Friday, February 27, 2009


Went to dinner with my step-daughter last night. It is clear that should we talk about the profession she is now eager to join, she prefers the term "exotic dancing".

I like the term "whoring".

My husband explained to me, that out of all the girls he has seen stripping, only two really stick in his mind. They were both very good at what they did and they were making loads of money.

"Were they really pretty?" I asked, thinking that the prettier you are, the more the men will desire you. It was my guess that in a strip club the prettiest girls make the most money.

He said that yes, they were pretty, but that a lot of pretty girls strip, and being pretty does not guarantee success.

It was the way the girls acted that made them stick out in my husband's memory. The main thing that these girls knew to do was to touch themselves. Mike said that most strippers observe an almost unconscious boundary when they preform, they don't touch themselves. And if they do touch themselves it is only half-hearted, the touching is furtive and with no consequences. But the girls who were stripping and making the most money not only touched themselves, they seemed to derive great pleasure from making masturbation public. My husband explained that when a girl is simulating having sex with herself it greatly helps the men watching imagine that they themselves are having sex with her. Not only do they feel like active participants, but if the girl is into it, there is no question of rejection, she is ripe and ready and would take anyone on as a partner.

"Whores and strippers would tell you that there is a big difference between them" my husband said to me. "Nothing goes into a stripper, there is no exchange of bodily fluid."

"Is that the only difference?"

"Isn't it a big one?"

"I don't know. But if London strips she then falls pretty much into the social category of trash. Stripping is considered only one step up from being a whore."

"I know that I could never date a stripper" my husband said. "And I can't imagine liking any of the men who will date her knowing that she is a stripper. A good man would want to protect her and save her from having to strip."

I found a tone of moderation. "I think London wants to have an adventure. She sees this as one big adventure. But when her rear end is naked and she is wiggling it in a drunken man's face, the thrill will get old fast."

I wondered, if she does like stripping, what that says about her. Maybe it will give her a sense of power over men. Maybe she enjoys acting, even when it is touching yourself and pretending you are having a great time doing it. Maybe her sexuality is wired differently and in front of an audience is the only time she can have a great time touching herself. Maybe she has really low self-esteem and having men desire her fills a need. Do strippers feel cherished or dirty? I guess it could go either way depending on the mentality of the stripper.

London says that stripping is the only way she can pay to go to school for nursing and meet her needs for food and rent. I wonder how much the new found enthusiasm for stripping is a result of looking for a long time for a job and not finding one. She doesn't like the place where she is currently working, even though the pay is really good. Her main complaint? They make her work too hard. She has been putting out resumes with no luck. I believe that part of the reason she is having trouble getting hired is the way she dresses and her hair. Her hair is blond on top, dark brown on the bottom with streaks of red. She doesn't present herself in a way that says "office manager" or "bank teller".

I have worked in a museum and at the luxury retail store Lord n' Taylors. The first summer that I tried to get a job at Lord n' Taylors I failed the interview. The next summer I went back and interviewed again, only this time, I wore my mother's dress. She had bought it at Lord n' Taylors, I know because there was a label inside the collar that said Lord n' Taylor. I got the job that second time. That summer I mostly dressed punky and funky, except when I went to work. Then I played dress-up, wore my mother's clothes, and bought some new clothes made out of my favorite fabric, silk. I don't know if you can get any classier than silk.

One the day that we were to have dinner with London my husband came home from work and I asked him to change the cat box which had begun to smell. He hesitated and pointed out all the things that he does around the house like washing the dishes and vacuuming. Shouldn't I have a responsibility too like changing the cat box? I told him if he changed the cat box then later that night I'd give him a BJ. That worked. He immediately changed the cat box without anymore complaint. Sex for a favor. Did I whore myself?

Ripe Bananas

There is a green jadeware bowl sitting on the kitchen table. In it are four ripe bananas. I keep buying bananas and letting them ripen, planning on making banana bread. I have the sour cream and butter and vanilla and sugar and flour, all the ingredients needed to make the banana bread. But I don't make the banana bread. Sometimes I think that the kitchen is too cold and I don't want to work there. Before the depression I was always too busy, and too exhausted. I didn't want to waste what little mental focus I had on making banana bread, it was always more important to paint or exercise or blog. Banana bread is one of my favorite foods. But I suppose that I don't like to cook. My husband was always disapproving when I finally threw out the rotten bananas. It was money wasted. They get to a point where they are almost liquid within their brown skins. And then I would go the grocery store and buy new bananas, planning this time to be good. Now the new bananas are past their peak and I want to throw them out again.

I'm not going to buy new bananas for a long while.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


I'm drinking coffee and trying to get the energy up to change out of my pajamas into clothing. I have three prescriptions for medications that I need to take to the drug store down the street. I have a rent check that I need to mail at the post office. I haven't painted and I don't have any desire to go on the treadmill. I don't think I'm lazy, I think I'm depressed.

Stopped my anti-depressant four days ago. I was trying to sleep and the patch on my arm that delivers the medication through skin contact was itching. It felt like it was on fire. Gradually, over a several month period, I have become allergic to the patch. That night I ripped the patch off my arm and haven't put another on one since. Don't know where I would put a new one anyway, my arms are covered in red splotches of tender skin. Some spots are over a week old.

The anti-depressant that the patch delivered is available in pill form. It is a very old form of anti-depressant. There may be some dietary restrictions. My nurse checked and said things are o.k., I want to double check with the pharmacist. The anti-depressant is an m.a.o inhibitor, a family of drug known for a deadly blood pressure spike if certain foods are eaten. I am taking this drug with open eyes, if it means I can't eat chocolate or cheese or Chinese food ever again I am prepared to make the sacrifice. My limited experience with the patch form of delivery of the drug told me that this drug works on depression - and there are no side effects.

It is ironic. When I last stopped painting for a period of time it was because I was taking Lamictal and I was so happy that I decided to take a vacation. I had no guilt and no fire in my belly prodding me. On Lamictal there was a world view, and in it God was very nice and generous. He didn't particularly care whether or not I was an artist, I didn't have to earn my place in his world or in his esteem. I was, on Lamictal, feeling like I was cut from the choicest piece of cloth, perhaps silk threaded with gold, and I earned my right to live by simply living. I suppose that is a picture of blooming health. And I realized while I was on Lamical, easily resting in a groove of contentment, that if I stayed on the drug I may never create again.

While I was not painting I realized that I do paint in order to escape feelings of depression and sadness and worthlessness. If I were a parent, or a secretary, or a teacher, if I had a typical job, then taking Lamictal would have been worthwhile. But I can't work the hours of a typical job and I'm not a parent. I'm trying to be productive in the vacuum of physical and emotional isolation, I have no co-workers, no one and nothing is dependent upon me except the love of my grown family, I am self motivated, moving through the freest of spaces, completely self employed. I have to have reasons in order to paint. There were, on Lamictal, no reasons, and so, I did not paint. I think that my reasons are not kind and gentle. I think that my reasons for painting are savage.

About ten years ago I was in the basement of my mother's home, looking through old, saved things. I found a painting I had done when I was very young, maybe kindergarten, maybe first or second grade. I had written my name and then had drawn several flowers. There was nothing prodigious about those flowers, no one would have ever looked at the flowers and said, "this girl has talent". I must have drawn what I thought was pretty. I know that at that young age I drew for fun. When I drew those flowers drawing was natural and easy. It was a time of innocence, and through the years things have gotten darker and more complicated.

It is ironic that I did not paint on Lamictal because I had given up all my burdens, and now I do not paint because I am over burdened by depression. The depression is really in its earliest stages, it doesn't hurt, there is no crying and there are no thoughts of suicide. But I'm living in a place that is beyond caring, I'm numb and frozen like a deer that looks into the the blinding light of an oncoming car. On Lamical I didn't worry, I wasn't numb, but I didn't hold on to care either. Right now I have no confidence in myself, I can't work up a passion, I've let dedication slip through my fingers.

Depression doesn't just sap you of energy. It makes life bland and unappetizing. I don't want to partake in living. So I drift through the days. A little reading. A shower. Hours spent in bed with my eyes shut, not sleeping, just thinking.

Since I began this essay I've been out and returned. I saved a draft, shut off my computer, and left the house. I went to the pharmacy, went to the bank and post office, and visited the gallery where my artwork is hanging. I talked to the gallery owner and she said that many people talk about my art, they say it is the best thing they have seen in the store. When the show comes down next week she wants to keep several pieces. The sale that the gallery has been advertising has helped sell things, they have not made any great profit, only regained money that they invested in buying art. They are hold steady for the moment. I read into what she is saying. The sale saved the gallery from folding. In summer Brattleboro does some modest tourism. I hope sales pick up with the warm weather. For my husband and I, I know that we will not be going on vacation this year. I wonder how many other families have made such a decision. My husband says that we are not in a recession, we are in a depression.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Went to Connecticut yesterday. Had to be there and back in one day. Because it snowed the day before my husband could not bicycle to work. The snow on the sides of the road can't be petaled through, and in order to find dry pavement he winds up straying into traffic. I gave him a ride to work with the car, and had to be back again in Vermont nine hours later to pick him up. My mother the night before had taken her boyfriend to the hospital emergency room with breathing problems, she had to pick him up at the time that we had all agreed to have lunch. That morning my best friend Rocki could not be reached to change plans because she was working out with a personal trainer. My mom was almost frantic to see me but I would not bend the schedule because I did not want Rocki siting alone in a restaurant wondering where we were. It was quiet at lunch, either I was tired from driving or depressed. Probably depressed. I haven't painted in a while. After lunch we went to a large clothing store that is next to the restaurant where Rocki got stripped socks and I got a cotton scarf. It is light green with white skulls on it.

Mom says that her boyfriend is "drifting away", he spends most of his time with his eyes closed and he cannot sleep at night. I think he is going into advanced stages of heart failure where the fluid builds up in his body. They are going to see a lung specialist today, and Mom is certain that all he needs is portable oxygen to use at home and then, "he will be fine". If he dies I will probably go down to Connecticut once a week to be with Mom. She has an extra bedroom in her house, I can sleep overnight. Mom said some cold and hard things to me over the phone after I returned to Vermont, I think that she grieves by becoming angry. In the back of my mind I want to believe that should I ever get into trouble my mother will be there to help me out, but what she said, is that it is important to let the kids live their own lives, make their own mistakes, and then have to "lay in their own bed". My husband said that in the car accident, when she had a brain injury, it gave her a weakness that she is compensating for. She knows that she can't worry. So she won't worry. I remember after the accident listening to my mom talk to one of her tenants. She then turned to me and the way she talked to me made me think, "There is no difference in her mind now between one of her tenants and her daughter. Much of what once made me special and cherished is gone." I've got this idea that if I give to my mother, show her love, she will learn how to give in return. If there is tightening to be done with family ties, when it comes to my mother, the first move has to be made by me. I think what my mother deeply fears is being left alone by her children, she is preparing to reject her children before they can reject her.

I got sick late last night. Had to take a trilifon and klonopin (anti-psychotic & narcotic). I was in bed rocking. Said to my husband "It feels like the world is going to end", "Don't kill me, I don't want to die" and "I don't know you." My husband captured me in a bear hug and kept on rubbing my back.

In two days my husband and I are having dinner with his daughter London. London went to a strip club to celebrate her roommate's birthday last weekend. Now she is very excited, she thinks she can make easy money by becoming a stripper. I said to my husband "I must be stupid. I can't think of anything exactly wrong with being a stripper, but it feels wrong." Mike explained to me that easy money loosens your moral compass. You begin to give a little, and find yourself giving a little more and a little more. Eventually you will be tempted by having sex for money. And on this we both agree, we don't want London to suffer the type of emotional suffering that having sex for money can bring. I would think that the consequence of this would be a hardening of your heart and an altered sense of one's own body. The only way I can wrap my mind around it is in terms of magic. Having sex with someone you love has in it a bit of magic. I know not everyone is built the way I'm built, some people have sex for physical pleasure alone and that is then their definition of magic. But what I value the most about having sex when love is involved is the feeling of trust. I'm a guarded person. It doesn't come easy for me to trust. But when I do, it is such a relief. Strange things occur when you trust deeply. The lines between two bodies melt. Sex becomes sacred, a religious experience. I had a roommate in college who used to dance naked in a cage in New York City. She said that having sex was like eating a salad. I think she was jaded. I believe that I want the best for my step-daughter, and I don't know if she will be happy being a stripper. Perhaps being the object of male veneration will make her proud and happy. Female power. She also has it in her mind to go to school for nursing. If she is going to strip on the weekends and go to school during the week I can see this as being a noble sacrifice, and maybe, a smart thing to do. Buy yourself a better future with stripping.

London's mom for many years worked as an employee of the University of Connecticut. As part of the benefits package for working for the school, she was entitled to send her children there tuition free. When London was a senior in high school, and planning on going to college, her mother quit her job so that she could stay at home with her ten year old son. I think it was one of the most selfish acts I have ever witnessed. No money was ever saved for London's higher education because it was always assumed that her mother's position would entitle her to a shot at college. I have one of the lowest opinion of London's mother that I have of anyone.

Friday, February 20, 2009


In response to my last post a friend sent me a quote from the Bible. I had to read it several times before I understood what it was suggesting. Not merely suggesting, the view point was very strongly stated. When I understood what the quote meant, I thought "Jesus was audacious", and I meant that in the most admiring way. And then I thought, "This is too much to ask from me, but what an interesting challenge."

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

[Matthew 5:44-46 KJV]

I do have enemies, but if I must be honest, they are mostly imaginary. They are the people who would sneer at my life. They are the people who think that they are better than me, and who I, in moments of self loathing, might agree with. My enemy thinks that schizophrenic people are less worthy of life than people who have no mental disease. My enemy thinks that I should give up the ghost, accept no money from the government, live simple and below sight, and be thankful that society does not outright demand my death. They want the strong to prosper and the weak to not be a burden. They celebrate the strong and vilify the weak. My enemy would never wish to have a conversation with me because I am a person of no account, I have nothing interesting to offer, simply, I'm not worth their time.

I think, perhaps, that my enemy has a no compassion and extreme prejudice. I don't know where my enemy exists. Perhaps there are members of the Aryan Nation who think this way. Some very conservative Republicans. Maybe a member of the New York City elite, someone who is spoiled, who was born with a silver spoon in their mouth. Or someone who was once poor and has struggled for everything they possess. People who believe in the Superman, that only the fittest should survive, and that their friends are mostly superior people. Probably my enemy is Atheist.

I don't know why I have invented such people, I don't know why I care that they exist. But I believe I can feel their hatred towards me. And I cringe. A part of me realizes that this is probably more than a little paranoid. A madness where you feel persecuted, in harms way, and a victim.

There is a possible way in which my enemies were formed. I am more than a little disappointed in myself, self-rejecting, and I projected that rejection outward onto the formless face of a stranger. The thing that I hate, my illness, and the future that I fear, my death, become someone else's passionate concern.

My husband pointed out to me that the Bible quote may have been sent with a different intent. If God loves you and your enemies, how easy it is for him to love you when you are not at your best. His love is a big, broad umbrella.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Change in Plans

I was supposed to go this morning to Connecticut to have lunch with my mother. I called her last week to cancel a meeting we should have had last Tuesday. Today is our rescheduled time, and she now calls me and asks to cancel because she is recovering from a cold. What choice do I have other than to be gracious?

I had my alarm clock set. I dressed up nice. I steeled myself for the hour and a half drive. I gave myself extra time before I left to put gas in the car and buy coffee. It is lucky I saw her phone message before I got on the highway. It is just so disorientating. I was looking forward to being with people and socializing. I did not do the usual mental preparation that psyches me into painting. Now with my morning free what I should be doing is painting. But what I want to do is to go down to the local McDonalds with an art book, hang out drinking diet coke, and look at pictures. That is what lonely people do, isn't it? That is so typical a behavior for a person with a mental illness.

I canceled last week because I could not imagine doing all the tasks that it would take to adhere to the schedule of the day. Not only was lunch with my mother and my best friend planned, but afterwards I was to walk my friend to the hospital, sit in the waiting room while she had her mammogram appointment, park the car where there is available parking one and a half miles from her apartment, walk to her apartment, and then watch movies late into the night. The next morning typically I buy her breakfast and then drive home to Vermont.

I could imagine the driving, the lunch, and maybe keeping her company at the doctor's visit, but that walk from the car to her apartment, I was afraid my legs would fail me. Not that my legs are weak. My work-out on the treadmill is one hour and fifteen minutes long, with 25 minutes of that jogging. It makes me sweat, I cover a distance of three miles. What I was afraid would fail was my willpower. When I get over stimulated I withdraw. Usually the withdraw is completely physical, I lie in bed under the covers. I was afraid that by doing too much I would trigger my illness and that it would slow and impede my physical abilities. My friend has no car. I could see myself forcing myself to walk, and then back at her apartment, collapsing into a little ball and wordlessly rocking back and forth.

I have a memory, of when I was on a weaker medication regimen, of not being able to get out of a car. I was so mentally exhausted, it was the middle of the day, and I could not talk. I was sick with schizophrenia and in order to communicate with my boyfriend I had to write the letters of the words that I meant to say in the palm of his hand. He did not know whether or not to call an ambulance, because he could not carry, or drag, me from the car to the house. What he did is he drove me to the emergency room. By then I was catatonic, unable to talk, make eye contact or move at all. They stripped me of my clothes, talking over me as though I did not exist. Since they did not really know what was wrong with me or what to expect from me they handcuffed me to the side of a bed and left the bed in an emergency room corridor. Strangers walked by me but it was quiet. I rested and gradually regained self control. I remember that I needed desperately to pee, and communicating this became my most important concern. Once I could talk and move the hospital saw no reason to keep me. My boyfriend had been anxiously waiting in the emergency room lobby.

At that time in my life I often carried medication with me to avoid just such an episode. I don't know why I didn't have that medication with me on that day. I had two tablets, one was a fast acting narcotic that would relax me and sooth me. Then there was the antipsychotic pill that took a little longer to act, that would completely banish horrible thoughts and return my emotional balance for the long term. The narcotic took away the pain of the illness and made the world feel safe, the antipsychotic fully returned me into the control of me. My only regret was that the antispychotic made my head feel fuzzy and blank. I like feeling sharp and aware. Too much of this drug kept me in a stupor. That is probably why I did not take it on a regular basis, or if I did, it was infrequent, like every other day. If, last week, I had gone to Connecticut and engaged in a busy schedule, that resulted in me curling up into a little ball and rocking, I would have had with me my pills, and I would have taken pills to bring me into line with more normal behavior. I just don't like pushing myself to the point where the pills are necessary.

Yesterday my husband said that since I have been dieting and working out on the treadmill he comes home from work to find me freshly showered and sick in bed. I am more this way than before. He said he wished that he could give me a tummy tuck. I said I don't want a tummy tuck. And then I realized that he meant gastric bypass surgery. A co-worker who was obese had the surgery and now Mike says that he is as thin as he is and bounces around the office with the energy of a young basketball player. Mike is seeing that the extra energy I spend on exercising is depleting me mentally. Perhaps restricting food and enduring hunger is depleting as well. It used to be my day was organized by reading news on the internet, painting, maybe or maybe not taking a shower, and watching a movie. Now I still read the news on the internet, paint, but then exercise and take a mandatory shower. I manage my life well in this world but I am given meager portions to work with. One more thing added to the list of what I must do for the day topples me over. I have learned from experience that I can paint and exercise two days in a row, but by the third day I feel strange and lifeless, and usually skip the exercise.

I don't know what I can accomplish today. Probably I will spend an hour in bed after making this post, sipping coffee or closing my eyes against a pillow. Being so weak, and aimless, makes me feel like one of the damned. The present moments are a bit of a nightmare and hope for the future is weak. Don't the damned have nothing to look forward to? They feel responsible to repeat their acts of contrition, which are tormentative. For the damned the present is the same and the future is more of the same. I don't know when I will attain the willpower to change my current course. If I do nothing, I am nothing. I'm not physically suffering. However, I endure feelings of non-existence. My mind isn't working right. Without your mind, who are you? Rest is never, in the beginning, refreshing. It is simple endurance of non-existence. Two days ago when I came home from art class I went to bed for two hours and a half until some spark was given back to me, and I could get up and change into sweat pants and a tee shirt, and go walk on the treadmill. So again today I will lie in bed and wait for life, with a purpose and a plan, to come back to me.

I feel guilty for all the time I spend unengaged and drifting. When I am but a shadow of a person, I hope God forgives me. He made humans to go out into the world and be splendid. Heroic humans doing splendid acts, creating, bending and twisting the world, thinking beautiful complicated thought, words of kindness towards your fellow man flowing. If he is a God of love, then He will smile upon me during the hours I shine, and continue His favor, during the hours when my light is extinguished and I am dark and dull.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

New Painting

I finally finished the picture for a new 16" x 20" painting. Used one old drawing, about 4 or 5 years old, of a nude couple hugging one another. I made the drawing but never used it. I didn't use any photographs as an aid for this drawing. Its nice to know that I really don't need them.

Combined the hugging couple with a new drawing of a mother horse and her colt. The colt is drinking the mother's milk. I thought, human love, animal love, the two go together. Used the mare and her colt as background in a landscape, they are smaller than the hugging couple so they seem to be a bit off in the distance. The horses are based on a photograph in a book and was supposed to be used in a painting with the erotic woman with a horse's head. I really tried to develop a painting with the horse headed woman, went as far as to buy a 18" x 24" canvas and large piece of paper to draw on. Last class used the time to draw little people beating up on one another in the foreground, it looks like play violence, but I suppose my intent was serious. Quit the drawing when everything looked flat and disjointed. I just wasn't planning a painting that I could be proud of. There was no mystery in it.

Probably what is best about the new painting is the odd flowers I've invented. You will not see anything like them in nature. I really like perverting nature. But before I invented these plants I spent a long time looking through a book on plants. Used tiny naturalistic plants in the foreground while I sized my creative monsters to fill the space from top to bottom, spanning the horizon line, passing from where the grass is green high into the sky which will be streaked with blue and pinks and purples.

Yesterday was a Saturday and it was Valentine's Day. My honey took the car to work the day before so I was not able to shop for his gift ahead of time. However he did shop before he came home from work, and when he did come home he handed me a small box of chocolates. "But Valentine's Day isn't until tomorrow" I said. "This is a pre-Valentine's day gift" he replied. It was silly and extravagant, buying me chocolates the day before Valentine's day and then giving me an even larger box of chocolates on the holiday. But I know why he did it. When he was out, making his purchases, a part of him couldn't wait a whole day to make me happy. He felt that he had to make me happy right away. Besides the huge box of chocolates I got on the holiday I also got a card and a glass red rose. My glass rose, after only having seen it once, mysteriously disappeared and I asked Mike where he had put it. He stuck it in the plant that hangs over the sink, and I must say it looks marvelous there. "I want to buy you a glass rose every Valentine's Day" he swore to me. I hope he can find them. Green leafy things and transparent colored glass go good together.

I have a collection of purple crystals and champagne colored crystals that I bought from an antique store. They obviously once hung on a chandelier, although probably not together. I would like to find them and put them in a window. The house is unhappily dirty, dusty and filled with animal hair. I think that come spring we shall do a massive cleaning. I will have my paintings back from the gallery and I can hang them through-out the apartment. I have little hope that any of them will be sold. Drove past the gallery store yesterday and in the window are large "sale" signs. I know from talking to the owner that they expected wealthy skiers from New York to buy some art, but that nothing has sold. I said to her "its the recession" and she got the strangest look on her face. It was perhaps fear, mixed with disbelief, mixed with helplessness. I do not know if this gallery will survive. Its loss will be a blow to downtown Brattleboro. The store is vibrant and eclectic, a real jewel in the crown of Main Street.

Now that I have the plan for a painting I can return to painting every day. For a while I was doing nothing else but reading in bed and jogging on the treadmill. I was immersed in a dream, the books of the "Twilight" series by Stephanie Meyer. A human teenager girl falls in love with a teen vampire boy. It's a bit of a struggle not knowing what to draw next, and for me, I have to get the drawing finished before I can start the painting. The purpose of my days drifted while the drawing slowly developed. Yesterday Mike and I went to a copy store and we made a large, single photocopy of the drawing. Today I take the photocopy and rub a pencil across the entire back of the piece of paper. I am transferring graphite to the paper. Next I will tape the photocopy to the gessoed board that I will be painting on and go over the lines of the drawing with a ball point pen. The graphite gets transferred to the painting surface and I have an outline of the objects to help me paint. I'm so untrusting of my drawing skills that I do not believe I could do a good job of reproducing my drawing without help. When I draw I use the eraser a lot. It is much harder to put down paint and then to lift it up again when you wish to adjust the shape of an object. I know that I was not born with great illustrative talent because I struggle with the basics. My creativity is more conceptual, not knowing where the line should go to create mass and volume, rather, deciding the unlikely event that this flower's petals shall have warts on it, or deciding that that flower's leaves shall resemble a golden necklace's filigree design.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Art Wars

My husband and I got into a fight over the drawing of the horse woman. It went something like this;

Mike: "You know, if you take a closer look at it, that woman seems to be really afraid."

Me: "No. She doesn't look afraid."

Mike: "Yes, the posture of her body. She is trying to run away."

Me: "It's an erotic posture. And I don't think she trying to run away. She is flaunting herself."

Mike: "If you take away the eroticism you have fear."

Me: "You can't take away the eroticism from that drawing."

Mike: "Yes you can."

Me: "No, you can't."

Mike: "Yes you can."

Me: "I spent two hours with that drawing. Who knows that drawing better, you or me? I see no fear in the drawing. She is relaxed. She is fierce. She is unapologetic. But she isn't afraid. I don't know how you twist your imagination. If you want to combine eroticism and fear that is your hang-up. But you are projecting onto the drawing things that really aren't there. I don't want to fight. On this we are going to have to agree to disagree.

The phrase that comes up a lot when Mike and I discuss art is "agree to disagree". That is when we still have self control left. When emotions are too hot all I can manage to say is "don't shout at me" or "I hate you" and "I'm going to sleep on the couch". The last time I spent the night sleeping on the couch was when Mike decided that he was going to critique my artwork. Notice that I do not send him out on the couch, he can fight and fall asleep just fine. It is me who seethes while he snores and feels like the places where our bodies touch under the sheets burns with fire. I like going to sleep on the couch when I'm angry with Mike, it is a relief.

I can't remember the word Mike used to describe my art. It meant that you haven't yet lived up to your best potential. But my best piece, the one that my brother is going to buy, he said suffered from the problem of not really having a story attached to it. In his opinion good art should all tell stories. Nevermind that wonderful portraits and landscapes and abstract designs exist in museums where they are revered and admired, they are all, in his opinion, boring, inferior, and worthless.

I am loath to remember what it was like visiting a museum with my father. My brother sister and I would rush through gallery after gallery, never pausing, forced at a pressured march past art that teased with fleeting glimpses, only to finally stop in the gallery that had the French Impressionists. And then we would stand for five minutes in front of a Japanese style bridge spanning a lily pond painted by Monet. "Look at the light" said my father, "bouncing off the water". If we stood in front of the Rouen Cathedral it was "look at the light bouncing off the stone", in front of a haystack covered in snow, "look at the light bouncing off the snow". I hated that my father was so narrow minded, and I hate that my husband is narrow minded as well.

I understand that obsession can be a good thing for an artist. My husband is obsessed with creating his comic book, which is perfect for him because it is art used to tell a story. But when we go out together to an art gallery, I do not want to walk near him, I do not wish to have any dialogue with him, because I am afraid how embarrassing the things he will say will sound to the strangers surrounding us. The way I see it, the first rule when looking at art in a gallery is to whisper. The second rule is to not say horrible things about the artwork until you are out of the gallery. This is because, especially at art openings, the artist himself may be present or friends or family of the artist. It is o.k to say, "this doesn't interest me" but "this person has no talent" or "you couldn't pay me to hang that in my house" is not o.k. With my husband I can't even express interest, and say, "how interesting" because most of the time what I will hear in return is "boring" or worse, "that's not art". Strangely, I am less afraid of what will come out of my husband's mouth when we are in museums, because there most of the artists are dead, the people have no personal ties to the artists, and if you express dislike, you are immediately at odds with the opinion of the educated curators of the museum, who, if they chose the art to hang, are giving their esteemed vote of confidence to the artwork. I don't mind if my husband acts like a hick and a rube and an ass in a museum because you expect, with the volume of people passing through, to have these sort, and I believe that in a museum, art ignorance is treated with tolerant humor. In a museum it is acceptable to hate art, the museum has broad enough shoulders to bear a load of enmity. But a gallery is struggling to survive on its sales of art and has slender shoulders, gallery owners have their pride at stake, and they are playing a betting game. They are betting on their ability to pick artists to represent who have skill and appeal, because these things will help favorably influence the visitor and perhaps lead to a sale. And I have noticed, that in a gallery, quite often, the owner is present. Oh they usually leave you alone to look at the art, but they try to be within close enough proximity to start a conversation, should you have any questions.

The gallery where I have the most difficult time with my husband is not singularly owned. It is a community gallery that represents artists who are all geographically local. To be a member you only need live within a so many mile radius of Brattleboro. I have a difficult time with my husband here because there is such a wide variety of talent and style hung close together, and because they don't really discriminate, you will see things here that are amateurish and clumsy. I myself have been sorely tempted to point at a painting and say, "that's really bad". And I confess I may have done exactly this. But if I did say it there was only a voluntary gallery attendant present, perhaps at the opposite end of the empty room, and I kept my voice very low when I said it.

When Mike talks about other comic creators many times I have heard him say that their artwork is really bad. I know that this might be true. But I have come to so distrust his opinion that I won't believe him, I won't take his word for it, unless I have seen the artwork myself and made my own conclusions. He will say to me, "I don't know why this comic is so popular, there is nothing special about the artwork." I looked at the comic and I saw spare elegance. Something, by the way, that his own comic usually lacks. Last night, he was talking about a comic book creator which seemed to him to be pathetic, hoping for a publisher, when his artwork is so "terrible". "He is like a child" said Mike, "who thinks that what he has created is the greatest thing in the world". And that is, I thought to myself, near what my husband thinks about himself.

I make judgments about art. I cringe when I read some of what my husband writes in his comic. The last issue he showed to me I only looked at the pictures, I was loath to read the juvenile dialogue. And yet, this is what my husband works on every single day. It is his joy, his escape, and like a precious child, gives him a feeling of immortality. He is awake at 4:30 in the morning so he can create before leaving for work at 6:30. We make few plans for Saturday and Sunday, all he wants in his free time is to be left alone to work on his comic book. The hard fact is that what he loves, I reject. Love has no place in my opinion. Kindness no place. Respect no place. The girl who whispers in art galleries because she fears to offend holds in her hand a knife that instinct tells her she should use to shred and destroy her husband's happy dream. I'm no lamb. I'm a wolf. Oh yes, I make judgments about art. When I am indifferent to art I am so cold that my humanity cannot be touched. My husband, in his innocence, when faced with art that he doesn't like says, I hate it. He reacts with heat and warmth. When I am faced with art that I don't like I usually don't spare an emotion to form an opinion. My husband's comic does stir emotions in me. He has a following of supporters, regular readers, and they are loyal to him because no doubt the comic stirs positive emotions in them. But the emotions that the comic triggers in me are mostly negative.

I will not reject my husband, so I will not reject his art, no matter what my visceral response is to it. I listen to him talk about it every day and I am an attentive, supportive listener. I will not hurt my husband's feelings so I will not say what I think when I look at his comic. I hold my wicked tongue. I wish, with most art that I don't care for, to be only indifferent. I wish I could claim such higher ground. What keeps me safe is not to look in the first place. I'm grateful for the people who follow my husband's comic and give him emotional support because I know I can't give him what they give him.

Mike is such a pretty thing. When God created him, he left him long in childhood, and made a smile the quickest thing to grace his face. I don't go around breaking pretty things.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Went to class, drew this picture. After class felt panicked. I guess I'm not used to being with so many strangers. Nice people. A girl sat down at my table. She had strands of gray in her long, blond hair. She had with her a little toy teddy bear, about two inches tall. She was working only with magic markers. She cut white cardboard into medium sized squares and rectangles and then made colorful designs on them, lines, squiggles, zig-zags, circles and squares that covered up all the white and made them look like little oriental carpets. She had a small pile of finished artwork, and on top of this pile she placed her toy teddy bear, looking right at her. I don't know if she ever noticed that I was drawing a nude woman from a book of pornography. I wanted to ask her, "are you a virgin?" because I expected her to say, "yes I am."

There was someone else in the room with imagination like mine and this at first irritated me. When I walked in he was working on a watercolor drawing of a man with an eagle's head holding a pick ax standing next to a blue spotted leopard who was holding a shovel. "If I put an animal's head on their body" he said, "I don't have to worry about whether or not their eyes are too close together or if the nose is too big." I thought to myself that these are things I never worry about. That human faces, being more familiar than animal faces, are probably easier to draw. After he left I looked on the wall and saw that he had finished three watercolors during class and a fourth before today in a different class. The first watercolor was a group of people with animal heads all wearing red cross medical labels on their arms and carrying a stretcher with a passed out snake on it. This man sat on a tall stool and while he painted his shirt parted from his pants and you could see his lower back and his white men's underwear. This made me wonder about myself, and even though my back was to a wall, I stood, hitched up my pants, and then sat down again.

Three older women, with white and iron grey hair, all picked a spot in front of a bank of windows that over looks the river that runs right next to the stone foundation of our building. Each little old lady had something to copy. One had a photograph of a landscape, one had a magazine cut out of a painting of gardening tools and flowers, and the last drew from a portrait book the face of the black director, Spike Lee.

Last night Mike and I went to Wal-Mart and I bought a small, blue thermos. Since the class starts at 10am I want to be able to bring coffee with me. The thermos has a strap connecting to its handle and happily I can sling it over my shoulder, along with my book bag, that carries all my sketching material. There is a coffee shop one block down from the art school but I feel it is wasteful to buy coffee when I can make it so cheaply at home. How would it look when a girl on a scholarship buys expensive coffee for herself every class? As it was today I parked in the free parking lot where only patrons of local businesses are supposed to park. Art school students should conscientiously park where there is metered parking, but today, I had no quarters or dimes with which to feed the meter. I wrestle with my morality on the question of where to park. I like to save money, but then, I also like to follow directions. And there are signs posted all around the free parking lot saying "customers only". In the summer there will be someone standing there next to a sign saying "we tow" dressed in an orange traffic vest, making certain that people leaving their cars only walk directly toward the shops that are clustered around one end of the parking lot.

The teacher today suggested to me that the hand was too small, and I agreed, and re-drew it. Then we discussed how large to make the head. She suggested I draw different heads on a piece of paper, cut them out, and then layer them on top of the body to choose a head that worked the best. I erased the first attempt at a horses head but was happy with the second attempt. Now I have the challenge, what else to put in the picture? Is this horse woman in a park, a forest, or walking up the steps of a building? Do I draw more nude horse women? Tonight I will be looking through art books hoping for inspiration. Tomorrow I draw some more.