Paint Schoodic

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Paralysis

Me, working again. What a relief.
Any artist who tells you they have never suffered from creative paralysis is a liar. In my case, this is often the first step of a major series of work. It takes the form of extreme anxiety, where I can’t even walk through my studio doors. My solution is usually to approach the project sideways. I do little studies until I regain my nerve.

That would have been my normal approach last month, as I cleared the decks to work on a major show next spring. But what would have been a temporary state has been outrun by the events in my personal life.

This morning, I enter the maw of modern medicine again in the form of a pre-surgical meeting for a recently-diagnosed cancer. I’m not overly worried about the long-term outcome, but recovering from my last surgery has been awful for my work habits.

Why do people seek out psychics? Actually watching fate bearing down on us is an awe-inspiring and terrible thing. This month, two people dear to me moved through the final stages of death. I was useless for anything other than the most habitual tasks. I felt as if the circuits of the heavens were opened up, and I could do nothing except stare.

One built, eight more to go. But that's progress.
I suppose I could have handled my physical recovery, my loved ones’ deaths, or the anxiety of a new project separately, but the combination of the three was too much.

Ultimately, I used others—most notably, my husband and my assistant Sandy—as emotional battering rams. With their support, I was able to get back to work. It’s a funny thing about painting: it’s essentially a solitary act that is also a form of communication to the world. And death is a solitary act that is also universal; nobody escapes it.

Each time we artists stumble and fall, we think, “It’s all over now. I’m ruined; I can’t meet my commitments.” I was well into that mantra of self-condemnation until I recollected that I’ve banked a lot of hard work over the prior year. If I don’t sell another thing in 2013 (and since I’m about to have another surgery, I doubt I will) it’s still the best year I’ve had since 2008.

Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in Maine in 2014 or Rochester at any time. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops!

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