Friday, February 12, 2010

How Long Have I Been Asleep?

I look back and see that I haven’t posted anything since June 2009. Back in May of that year I went into a bit of a funk. I had just started to come out of it when we made our road trip to California. Even though that trip seemed to be fraught with problems there was a lot of good in it. I got to see an old high school girlfriend and meet her family. More importantly I got to spend time with our oldest daughter. I spent quite a bit of time reading (including fiction which I seldom read), which I don’t do often enough. But for someone like me, a person with OCD, being outside of my normal routines and environment can wreak havoc. The trip stressed me out and put me into a deeper funk.

Once we returned I became even more cloistered. I don’t really mind that, there is not much out in the world that I care to participate in. As Irv Kupcinet said, “What can you say about a society that says that God is dead and Elvis is alive?” The people whose company I enjoy, because they can tolerate my personality, are far and few between and most of them live elsewhere or have died. As a result I usually don’t leave our property more than once a week. Then it’s usually to go to a building supply store for things that I need to buy to fix something around the house, or to go buy liquor. So, since May of 2009 I have only done 1 blog posting (in June) and only made 1 piece of art, a nude done in colored pencil. My doctor added a new med to my regime. It’s an anti anxiety med. She prescribed it because I am, by nature, a very tense person. In the last 15 years I have broken about 12-15 teeth from biting down so hard. So, that’s why I like drinking. Not to mention that having a strong willed adult daughter along with her stronger willed and rambunctious 4 year old son live with us so I tend to get a bit stressed.

Put all of this together and what I wanted to do was to burrow into the ground and pull and an insulating layer of earth over me and hibernate. Metaphorically that’s just what I did. Because I was questioning my life, especially as an artist and whether making art was really important. I just wanted to be distracted and that included avoiding my studio. Some of it was non-productive, like sitting back mindlessly watching movies. Otherwise I did home improvement projects. The problem with that was that projects that should have taken a few days turned into a few months. It was a combination of anxiety, uncertainty, and indecision mixed with physical problems.

At this point in my life I find that I’m good for about 2 hours of labor before my body rebels and gives out. I installed a wood burner add-on furnace to my HVAC system. I probably spent about a month internally debating placement and methodology before I got off my butt and did the work. The same holds true for the simple wood burner in my studio. I was splitting wood by hand using a maul and found that after 2 hours arthritis would stop me. My hands would swell and I would have to pack them in ice. Ibuprofen and whiskey would help the pain while I sat and mindlessly watched more movies. There is nothing like being reminded of your limitations and age especially since I used to be so strong. I have since bought a small electric log splitter and vowed to start splitting wood earlier in the year and be ready for next winter.

But this is also a reminder that I am going to have to change the way that I approach my art as I start to come out of this funk. My hands are stiff and arthritic and don’t have the dexterity that they used to. I cannot control materials they way that I once used to. Everything seems more clumsy. I have less energy and even less stamina.

Yet the depression and physical limitations don’t seem all that bad or daunting. I think about the great Norwegian artist, Edvard Munch, who suffered from depression. He had been hospitalized numerous times. When told that there was a treatment that would cure him, he refused it. He told his doctor that it would change who he was as a person and therefore as an artist. As Monet aged and his eyesight failed his Water Lily paintings became more abstract. I used to spend hours at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC looking at these particular paintings. It was like being in a chapel. When Matisse was old and bedridden, his assistant would tape paper to the ceiling of the bedroom and attach charcoal to the end of a stick so that the master could draw. So I guess that I can find a way around the numbness and stiffness in my hands. I guess that I can take these elongated periods of depression and learn from them and use them. The bleakness makes everything more enjoyable and alive once I resurface.

As I emerge from this particular funk I find that I am dreaming more and the dreams are more intense. At times they are so real I cannot tell where I am and feel like I am in an alternative reality. I take this as a positive sign of change and growth. They fit with the mythological writings of Joseph Campbell, the theological writings of John Dominick Crossan, and the articles that I have been reading on Biocentrism by Dr. Lanza, M.D. There is a sense that change is coming and for a person with OCD it is strange that I welcome and look forward to it and almost eager to embrace it. The idea of the Boundary Barrier becomes even more important. I have started to sketch out more ideas. I am also anticipating more multi-media pieces and experimenting with different materials. My creativity is returning and I begin to have a sense of excitement and renewed enthusiasm.

The first image is the wood burner add-on furnace that I spent way too much time working on. The next image is the small wood stove I put in my studio (again way too much time). Next are the 2 dogs we have added to our household. Have I ever mentioned that we are suckers for unwanted animals? We now have 5 dogs, 3 cats, and a rabbit. First is “Dolly” who we found abandoned on the roadside in the dead of winter (not uncommon in this area) about 1 year ago. She is a pure bred American Pit Bull Terrier and one of the sweetest dogs you would ever want to meet. She looks like the dog “Pete” from the old show, “The Little Rascals” and is probably the best dog with our grandson. I also call her “Wedge Head” or “Pinky” because of her pit characteristics. The next dog is “Oberon.” He is a purebred English Mastiff given to our daughter by the breeder. In this picture he is 9 months old and weighs about 110 pounds. He’s a bit of a runt and will probably max out at about 175 pounds. He is big and clumsy and is afraid of most everything (pretty pathetic for such a large dog) but he is highly lovable. He is called O.B. for short but my wife and grandson refer to him as “Obi Won Kanobi.” I call him “Lumpy.” The next image is from my “Boundary Barrier” series. It is done with water-soluble artist crayons and is titled “Hedge Wall With Bare Trees.” The final image is the only art I have done since May 2009. It is titled, “Woman of Color #1” and measures 20” X 13” and is colored pencil on paper. It ties in with my “Torso Series.”

Hopefully as the days become longer and the sunshine returns I can become more productive before the black dog returns. I guess I’ll just have to wait to find out. In the meantime doses of vitamin D3 and lots of garlic seem to be helping. And so does this wonderful version of the song, "Somewhere Over The Rainbow. by the artist israel iz kaʻanoʻi kamakawiwoʻole