Monday, May 07, 2007

It's all in how you choose to view it (Artwords #52)

This is my entry for this week's Artwords challenge : Eyes. I immediately thought of different points of view and how we can have the power to change how we feel by considering things differently. I had a profound experience of that just this week.

I was visiting the blog of one of my online friends, cusp. She, like me, has cfs and her blog has links to a number of others by people with it too. I spent a couple of hours submerged in a world which I usually try very hard to avoid - please don't take offense - a world filled with cfs sufferers. I know a lot of other people find a lot of companionship and solace in support groups of people with the same condition. I am an occupational therapist and in my previous life I have run them and encouraged others to join them. But they just did not suit me.

I guess I am really lucky (and this is going to sound really strange) that my husband also has cfs. It means I have on hand someone with an intimate understanding of the condition. We can share our experiences and our feelings but at the same time we know we have to make an effort for the other - so we can't let our despair (and there can be quite a lot of despair at times) get on top of us, because we know we will just drag the other one down. It's an extremely complicated dynamic, and for the first several years we did not get it right at all. In fact, we separated for a long period, but we overcame our difficulties, and now I cannot imagine living without my "DH".

The point I am trying to make is that other than DH, I don't really "hang out" with people with cfs. My friends are the friends I had before, albeit without a few who didn't believe, weren't able to adapt to my dropping out of things etc etc. So when I encounter a group of people with cfs - reality slams me in the face. And I realize that I sometimes live in a state of semi-denial about how different from "average" my life and horizons are.

I made my choice some time ago that I need to have what I call "real world goals", even if they are small and are always subject to review. By this I mean, goals that a person who was not sick might have, like exhibiting or attempting a course. This is not always easy and sometimes probably not wise, but without them, I just become depressed. And I know now that every 2-3 years there does seem to be a period when I will need to withdraw from anything that has a "real deadline" (as distinct from one I have arbitrarily set in my head) and just relax. This is how DH lives his life too - he is a musician - so we try to organise things so that when one of has a major deadline, the other is relatively uncommitted, and can be support-person. It seems to work reasonably well for us most of the time.

However, too often I compare myself with my friends who (if they are my age) are mid-career, well-established with families and lovely homes, going for trips overseas every couple of years, or else if they are art school friends, tend to be somewhat younger, but nevertheless are exhibiting multiple times a year, going on residencies and winning grants to fund all sorts of wonderful projects.

Reading the blogs of a number of others with cfs, some who seem to be more ill than me, and others who are less ill (at the moment) reminded me of the truth of my situation. And in fact I am so lucky compared to where I have been. There was a time when I was living alone with this illness. There was a time when I was much too sick to make any art work for months. There was even a time before I realized that art could be a sustaining passion in my life. So I am thankful to those others with cfs who blog and share their experiences and insights into this situation we are all facing. Thank you for opening my eyes and making me see things as they truly are.

Links to some of the cfs-related blogs I've visited so far

and there are more over on the blog of my chum, cusp

Sunday, May 06, 2007


Work in progress
Kozo, transfer, wax
28cm x 25cm x 2.5cm
This is a photo of the full sized version of this self portrait embedded in beeswax. Earlier incarnations can be seen in this post. I think this is finished now, although it will be presented either in a box or a box-type frame, but I need to make the other portrait that is part of the work before I can make a decision about that.

Making the second portrait will involve getting my hands into some clay and after all this time, I am really looking forward to that. I do enjoy the 2D work, but I really love getting stuck into "forming" something.
I have to admit that this portrait in wax seems to be a very accurate depiction of how I've felt this past few weeks. My health has been quite poor and my energy very low. I've had one day in the last seven where I was able to work and I managed to finish this piece which I started a more than a week earlier. I've paid for that day ever since to the extent that relatively small tasks, like bringing the washing leave me feeling shaky.
I often experience the same or similar recurring dreams. I must not be very good at taking the hints my subconscious is trying to give me. One involves needing to move house or move out of my studio at uni and having left all the packing to the last day. There is a massive amount to do and I am stuck moving in slow motion, as if the whole house is filled with treacle. It feels as if I dream this scenario over and over, all night long. In reality, I have no idea how long I actually spend dreaming, but I often wake exhausted, as if I actually have spent the whole night packing!
I find it interesting that despite the original concept for this work being quite different, I have managed to simultaneously create something so expressive of my subconscious feelings.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Artwords #51: Botanical

Lost (in the Garden of Eden)

The title for my entry in Artwords this week comes from the fact that the original photo which is the basis of this work was taken in a place called Eden, on the south-east coast of Australia, close to the border of New South Wales and Victoria. Eden is an old whaling town on a rugged but beautiful area of coastline, and it really stays in my mind as a highlight of that trip.

We stumbled onto the town, having not heard of it before but some time later saw a special on ABC TV entitled "Killers in Eden". The following is an excerpt from the cover of the DVD.

"On the southeast coast of Australia, the town of Eden nestles along the shores of Twofold Bay. It was once a center of Australia's thriving whaling industry, in part because it lies along the migration path of baleen whales swimming northward from the Antarctic. But residents say Eden's whalers got some unusual help -- from orcas, or killer whales, that patrolled offshore.
Locals such as Elsie Severs and Alice Otten who witnessed the hunts say the orcas took the lead in the hunt, herding larger migrating whales into the bay. Once the whales were confined in the bay, the orcas would then attack their quarry to the point of exhaustion. Human whalers moved in for the final kill -- then shared the spoils with the orcas."

That story is really just a bit of scene-setting as my image obviously has nothing to do with whales. I stumbled across this bushy area by a lookout and had to stop and take some photos. The tangle of tree trunks, gnarled by the salty winds had created a natural grotto. You can see one of the original images here. I worked on the image in Photoshop, mostly using the adjustment layers and the lighting effects to create this work.