Sunday, September 12, 2010

Art must be an expression of love or it is nothing. ~ Marc Chagall

A couple of months ago, when I started my abstract painting course, our teacher advised us that the dollar store is the abstract artists friend. He encouraged us to look in the dollar store for things that we could stick onto the canvas, and find ways to be more creative.

The night before, I had been watching an episode of "Chopped" on the Food Network. Four chefs compete with mystery baskets to create the best and most creative food. In the dessert round, one clever chef took the giant ostrich egg they had given him, and made a custard and peach dessert. He turned a half peach upside down to look like an egg yolk, and surrounded it with custard to make the custard look like the egg white. Thus the entire dessert looked like a fried egg, but was instead peach in custard. With this episode floating inconspicuously in the far reaches of my unconscious mind, I went off to the dollar store to see what treasures I could find. Then, when standing in front of the styrofoam balls, a number of things clicked into place, and my idea was born.

I did not at first follow up on the idea, as I was busy doing the paintings for my classes, traveling, and pursuing other ideas in my work. It came to me recently though, that it was time to complete this painting, preferably before I have my surgery. Somehow,  I thought it would have some sort of healing effect on me.

To understand where the idea for this painting comes from, you need to know the background story, and why such an idea occurred to me when in the dollar store that day.

When I was 13, my breasts, were of course starting to develop. As friends started getting their first bras, one of them pointed out that I should probably do the same. So, I went to my mother, and told her I thought I needed my first bra. She said she would take me shopping that weekend to buy it.

When that weekend arrived, however, my father wanted to do a big clean up. He wanted the garage and the house cleaned, and he wanted me to stay at home to help. I explained that I could not stay to help, as I had to go shopping with Mum.

"Why?" he asked, "Can't she just get what you need?"

"No," I explained, "I have to go with her, because we are going to buy me a bra."

"Can't she just pick it up for you?"

"No, I need to go with her."


I remember wondering how it was that he would not know why. Perhaps he didn't know anything about women and bras?  "Because, Dad, I have to try it on!"

"What, try it on? All she has to do, is tell the lady behind the counter, 'two fried eggs'. "

It is precisely this sarcastic, wonky sense of humour I have, which is owed to my father.

And so, I present to you, my latest painting:

"Owed To My Father"

11 x 14, acrylic, styrofoam,  and a little bit of organza w/ribbon, on stretched canvas

Now, a couple of men have pointed out that these eggs, are, well, slightly larger than the height of regular fried eggs. To them I have answered this: "Yeah, well, the unspoken message, is that I was larger than fried eggs too."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. - Thomas Merton

This has been a busy, and difficult few weeks for me. After the Toronto CGTA gift show,  a show at which wholesalers display, and hopefully sell their products to the stores, I have a few orders to be filled for some of my jewellery designs. I started to plug away at that, figuring that I would get quickly done, and return here to continue the blog, and show you a painting I did on my last class in the summer semester of which I am quite proud.

However, an unexpected diagnosis from some tests, turned my life upside down.  I have spent the better part of the past 12 days grieving, being brave, then grieving again,  on the phone to family, to friends, planning, on the phone to doctors, convincing myself that a second opinion would be different, then convincing myself that that the recommended course of action is the correct one. Well maybe not convincing myself, but allowing myself to see and feel the truth in it. In general, coming to acceptance of what has to happen to save my life, while NOT allowing myself to "accept" being part of the group of people that has cancer.  It's a tricky balance, because I need to keep positive and keep thinking that it's already beat,  to accept the recommended course of action, so that I can help the doctors to help me to beat it, yet at the same time I mustn't accept being part of "that group", if you know what I mean.

I need to keep being grateful for the silver linings, and for the positive aspects of this - and, yes there really are some. I am grateful that this was caught so early, that it is a stage where it can almost be considered pre-cancerous. Almost, but not quite. Stage zero, is about as early as it can be caught. I am grateful that our healthcare system will pay for the reconstruction afterwards. Not only that, but they will, ummm, do both sides, so that they'll match afterwards, and I'll get to be "perky" again. I am even grateful that this is on my... less sensitive side (gasp, I said it!) I am grateful that it can be treated "easily", though I have to say that the thought of losing a breast is no fun at all. I am also grateful that they have told me the prognosis for me is the best one they can give a patient, and that they do not expect for me to need either chemotherapy or radiation afterward.

Lastly, I am grateful that I have worked so damned hard at being aware over the past years, because in the last 12 days or so, it has really helped me see some important things about myself, which need to be addressed in all this. One of the big ones is allowing myself to really express myself, my feelings, with no apologies, and with no particular hold on the outcome of that.

Interestingly, the last painting I had done in my class, before I had the diagnosis, can be seen to have something to do with that. At the time, and even now, I really think of this one as being all about emergence. When I displayed this painting at my show this weekend I had a variety of opinions. Some people thought the poor guy was trapped behind the burlap, but I feel he is on the verge of breaking out, he is about to emerge, and this is almost like a birthing process. Which I think is exactly where I am in my painting, in my verbalization of my thoughts and feelings, and hopefully in my being.

"I had this idea, and it just had to get out"

10 x 12, acrylic and plaster on canvas.