Lief Garret is in the news for heroin possession. It is his second arrest in the last several years. It looks like his life is in the toilet.
I remember Leif Garret from the 1970's as a pretty poster boy with longish golden hair. My younger sister was in love with him. He was the classic heartthrob. Now he is a 48 year old man with a beard and balding, short cropped hair. Also seen in his mug shot; bloody scars around the top of his nose.
It is difficult to have a glorious past. This is not the way of how I want the flow of my life to go. I wish any glory to be in the future. It makes me ache in a sad way for child television stars, or pop stars who had fame years ago and now are scrambling to get things back the way they were. At least I assume they want the old days to return. Maybe they are glad fame has come and gone. Maybe there was no peace in the past.
One of the saddest stories I know about past achievement is the story of a watercolor artist.
I knew a couple who ran a bed and breakfast in Connecticut. I dated their son while they were starting the business. Their son would do carpentry jobs in their newly bought home as they renovated the estate to include the several elaborate bedrooms for their guests. I saw the house go from an empty shell with few furnishings to a warm, inviting, heavily decorated place with many antiques and works of art hanging on its walls.
In the entryway to the bed and breakfast, a little room off the front door, there were two large watercolor paintings of brightly colored flowers. The flowers were arraigned in bouquets in each of the paintings. It was some of the best art that they had to display. The artist was local and the owners of the bed and breakfast had cultivated a casual friendship with her.
At the time I was dating the bed and breakfast owner's son I was in Art School at the University of Hartford and had an interest in going out and seeing all types of art at museums and art galleries. It did not surprise me when I saw in a local art gallery the watercolor artist selling her works. I recognized her name and her style. Only the subject matter of her art had changed a bit. Instead of doing colorful flowers she was painting leaves. The painting I remember from the gallery looked slightly different from the paintings in the bed and breakfast. The colors were only green and brown. And instead of three dimensional space around blooming flowers I saw a flat, indistinct surface, as if I was looking down at leaves that had fallen on muddy soil. The painting in the art gallery did not impress me.
Then I learned that the owners of the bed and breakfast had been approached by the artist. She wanted to buy back the paintings that she had sold to them. Why? Because apparently she couldn't paint that way anymore. The owners of the bed and breakfast held onto their paintings and the artist went away disappointed.
I thought it horrible for an artist to loose skill. I thought that the way it worked in the world is that as you age, you gather and improve skill. But I had heard before, in an art history lesson, of an artist getting worse with age. I think the story goes like this - there was a situation where the artist as a young man painted mysterious surrealistic landscapes of the interior of cities, full of shadows from the buildings, strange statues, and hidden threat. He painted from his imagination and these imaginary cities were mostly empty of people. But in his older age he changed subject matter, changed how he handled the paint, and started painting nature - mostly outdoor landscapes. The landscapes were uninteresting. They tended to look all the same. The painter lost a psychological dimension to his art that had made it tense, poetic, and unique. The kind of art he produced when he aged until he died was uninspired, boring, and as far as the critics were concerned, limp. His art no longer stood out from other artists. His art moved from one style that was very successful into another style that was a flop. Nobody wanted to buy his landscapes, but his earlier surrealist interior city-scapes made their way into art museums.
In a way I have my own story of diminished ability. My husband claims that when I changed medication, from the powerful Seroquel to the less powerful Geodone my artwork became less interesting. In hindsight he is probably right. While I was painting this truth was too painful to hear - and I did not give his comments critical weight. But it is true that some of the most complex of my paintings were done while I was on Zyprexa and Seroquel. When I changed to Geodone my artwork may have suffered. I had a few good hits on Geodone, some art that stood out as very good, but the majority of the artwork was in fact simplified in style.
The change is best exemplified by my two versions of the Annunciation. One was done on Zyprexa and it is very complex (in terms of space and subject matter) and very delicately painted. The other was done on Geodone and looks rougher (more crudely drawn) and is less complex. Both are creative, but there is a refinement on Zyprexa that is lacking on Geodone. Geodone's space is flatter. On Geodone I did not walk down a long creative planning stage that resulted in a complicated stage space. My initial drawing on Geodone went quicker. Both paintings are creative and deviate from the norm, but I think the Zyprexa painting is more likely, in the future, to end up in a museum. My mother currently owns it. When she saw it, she felt like she had to own it, no matter the big price tag. My mother is a very thrifty woman. I was more likely to paint in a manner that elicited such a primal response from the audience (the "I've gotta have it") when I was on Zyprexa and Seroquil than when I was on Geodone.
It is painful to hear my husband's theory. I'm not painting right now, and thankfully, he does not see any difference in my writing between being on different drugs. I'm not saying that there isn't a difference, only, that my husband does not see it. He does not say, "you are less brilliant on Geodone." I have heard such words in association with my painting. If I heard this about my writing too I would loose heart. But so far, in my husband's opinion, I can be brilliant while writing on Geodone.
My husband's opinion of my creative work matters. He is my primary cheerleader. It is he who always sees the first draft or the first drawing. I can't create and say, "My husband's opinion be damned."
I'm hoping, with all my heart, for a new drug that gives me the creative power I had on Zyprexa and Seroquil without the weight gain I also had on those drugs. The weight gain is the only reason why I do not use them today. They are excellent drugs. I was happy with life while I was on them, only, very unhappy about being overweight. I simply could not control my craving for food. Even on Geodone it is sometimes difficult to control my eating. This may not be the drug's fault. I have always had difficulty with my weight. My parents have had trouble controlling their weight. At times I was over-weight in high school. But in college I really learned self-discipline and self-control and shed all my extra pounds. It was easier to do physical activity, in the form of jogging, when I was not taking any anti-psychotic medication. Now I have to take an anti-psychotic medication. I have determined that this is the only way to avoid repeated hospitalizations. Today Geodone is my anti-psychotic medication of choice. I'm just lucky that I can take what I chose, others are more or less forced to take a stronger anti-psychotic because of the severity of their illness.