Monday, May 19, 2008

Back From The Other Side of The Horizon

My wife and I agree that this last winter took a heavy toll on us. Whatever cold or flu virus was out there we got it along with our daughter and grandson. It was probably early April before any of us started to feel healthy again. Then there was the snow. December’s mildness lulled us into a sense of complacency. With the coming of January we had one snowstorm after another. At times it seemed like it was never going to stop. Our season total finally came to rest at 106 inches. Once again the snow blower broke down so we had to clear the driveway with shovels, a task that takes about two and a half hours. Even with all these storms the dogs still needed to be taken on walks. Everyday I would walk them 4-6 miles. They enjoyed it far more than I did. This being West Michigan the overcast blanketed the sky and we would not see the sun for weeks on end. It is amazing what constantly gray and gloomy skies along with a lack of sunshine can do to a person’s attitude and outlook. Like the infomercials on television I pause and say, “but wait, there’s more!”

A few days before Christmas my sister, MaryAnn called (there are 3 of us, she is the oldest and I am the youngest). We exchanged pleasantries and updated each other on our families. The conversation flowed easily and wandered through different topics. Finally she asked me some questions about my disabilities and mental illnesses. She was also perplexed as to why, even though we grew up together in the same household, we remembered childhood so differently. That was a very good question. It tied in to what I had been reading about creativity, mental illness and theology (does it take a sick mind to link those 3 subjects together?). Unknowingly she asked me the right question at the right time. The obsessive part of me took over and I was off on a mission, but wait, there’s more!

As all of this is going on I have to deal with problems with our dogs. We got our newest dog about 7 months ago. Her name is Tosca. She is a 7 ½ year old female Belgian Malinois. She was retired from being a search and rescue dog and the family that adopted her could no longer care for her so we took her in. She is intelligent, energetic, and athletic. She also has a strong prey drive and a need to be dominant. She was fine at first then slowly behavioral problems started to pop up. She is fine with me. I am dominant over her (and all the other dogs) and won’t take any crap from her. She has developed a dominance issue with one of the other dogs and has started so many fights with him. My body always has fresh scratch marks from breaking up fights, but wait, there’s more!

Just as I was sitting down to write again the hard drive on my computer froze up. I go off to the repair shop. The hard drive had to be wiped clean, reformatted, and a complete operating system reinstall done. There we several other issues because of being misinformed by the manufacturer, Dell. I also had to get some recovery disks from Dell and entered into a twilight zone of the customer service desk from hell during that process. I also discovered that people in India don’t seem to appreciate sarcasm. Now back to my journey to the other side of the horizon.

Having both OCD and ADD I am able to obsess in more than one direction at a time. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing but I know it’s not very efficient. I would’ve thought that multi-tasking would save time. I started rummaging through my past much the same as you might casually browse through an antique store. There were lots of bits and pieces and curios. I had to wonder why I kept all of these things but one of the manifestations of my OCD is that I am a hoarder. The more that I looked the more I found and I was drawn in even deeper. I eventually lost track of where I was and why I went there in the first place. Mesmerized is a good way to describe it. I saw so many things that I had forgotten about and really didn’t want to remember. I can’t say that it reopened old wounds. Those wounds have closed and scarred over. I could definitely feel an aching in the scar tissue and was aware of it. It sent me into a deep funk.

Being in a funk or being depressed isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In my case I didn’t have to go out and deal with the everyday world. I was free to sit and stare aimlessly out of a window for hours on end. I was free to be incapacitated. Depression can be an effective tool for putting things into perspective. I can get all energized about what I want to do, how I want to do it, and where I want to take it without ever being realistic. My depressions become the great equalizer. It causes me to look at things more realistically and truthfully. In some strange way it helps to break the hold of my obsessions. It also tempers me creatively. It reminds me that I can’t go in all these different directions at the same time. It also, painfully, reminds me of my limitations. Being reminded of who and what I really am is a good thing.

This funk made me pause and reexamine my life and the direction of my art. I found that I needed to make certain corrections to my course. I found myself painting more, as a therapeutic action, but producing less finished paintings. Painting became non-verbal thinking. It freed me from logic and language. It freed me from needing to make sense of things. I have many panels where I would paint them close to completion only to scrape them down and repeat the process over and over again. Some panels have been repainted 6-7 times.

The subjects now begin to reflect more of who I am and the contradictions that I embody. The landscapes portray the part of me that is a recluse. I can hide and be an observer. In being hidden there is a much greater sense of safety and freedom. I am free to do and be who I am without criticism or judgment. In this state I no longer have to spend my energy trying to pass for normal. The nudes present the opposite. All of the new paintings of nudes are based on the theme of the nudist lifestyle, a subject that fascinates me. As a nudist I completely expose myself and don’t hide from others. It is all out there in the open. For me there is again a sense of safety and freedom plus complete relaxation. Once again others do not criticize or judge because we call all see that we are pretty much the same. I have discovered for myself that things that are mirror opposites are actually one in the same thing. The opposite of love is not hate. Love and hate are the same strong emotion and there has to be a connection to who or what I love/hate. For me the opposite of love is complete indifference. A strong emotion versus no emotion.

All of these paintings were completed while in my recent melancholy. The woodland scene was repainted about 6-7 times. It reflects my sense of privacy and complexity. It also reflects that if someone wants to really get to know me they will have to make their way through a lot of brush and brambles. The painting is untitled. It measures 24” X 36” and is oil on hardwood panel. The cattail painting also reflects a sense of privacy and was repainted about 4 times. These grasses by the water always have a calming effect on me. It is also untitled. It also measures 24” X 36” and is oil on hardwood panel. The figurative painting is from a series I am doing on the nudist lifestyle. A reflection of living everyday life completely exposed and in the open. It is untitled. It measures 34” X 22” and is oil on prepared paper.