Thursday, May 5, 2011

Vincent, Theo, Beauty and the Beast

My husband has made several observations.

He ordered from Amazon the complete seasons of the TV series "Beauty and the Beast". After we watched the first episode (I had never seen the show) he turned to me and said, "I am like Beauty and you are like the Beast. I get to live in the sunlight, in the social world, having a normal life, and you have to live underground, away from sight." I can only assume that he felt that while the Beast was physically disfigured, I am mentally disfigured. But it is true that the number of social interactions I have during the day is limited, has to be limited. I can't bear too much social contact. There is a great degree of self imposed isolation in my life.

For instance, this Sunday I have to limit myself. I want to go to church, haven't been for a while, but it is Mother's Day and I'm giving a lunch for my mother. It crossed my mind that I could invite her to go to church with me, and that we could lunch after. It sounds so simple, one activity smoothly flowing into another, but I'm afraid. I'm afraid that going to church will so deplete my emotional reserves that after I will have to struggle through lunch, sitting at the kitchen table with my head down, staring at my food and making no conversation with my mother. I want to do both activities, go to church and socialize with my mother, but it seems that I have to choose. I don't have the mental resources to do both.

And, after watching a documentary on Vincent Van Gogh, my husband announced, "I am like Theo and you are like Vincent." This too seems to be correct. My husband works and provides for me and I have enormous freedom to focus on making art. Theo provided Vincent with everything from money for rooming and food to canvas and tubes of paint. In return, Vincent wrote to Theo almost every day. My husband can't get out of his head the fact that Theo died six months after Vincent's death - the two lives seemed so existentially linked. In fact, as my husband views it, my only responsibility is to keep myself well - making art is just a bonus. My job is to maintain emotional stability, keep myself out of the hospital, and keep myself from harboring thoughts of suicide.

Monday I could not stop thinking, "If I had a gun, I would shoot myself in the head with it." It was a very impulsive and carefree thought - just do it, get it over with, end all suffering. Probably it was just me having a temper tantrum - life seemed too difficult at that moment and I wanted an escape. It was painful to be so focused on self destruction. The day prior, Sunday, we had had a long luncheon with my step-daughter and her boyfriend and my husband thinks the stress of that social necessity had caused me to become ill the next day. I know too on Monday I had several duties outside the home to preform - errands - and I had to start a new drawing and I was very unhappy with my creative powers. I got essential work done out in the community but I felt small and ordinary and lost when it came to starting the drawing. I think one of the worst things an artist can think about themselves is "I'm not creative".

Its' taken a week of effort at that drawing, but I should finish it tomorrow. I'm a lot happier with it now, it kinda sings to me and I'm excited to make it into an oil painting. It feels less of a failure and more of a success. When I finish this drawing I'm not going to start painting right away - I want to make a second drawing. I've got an idea, its pretty hazy and I don't quite know how I'm going to manage it, but the killing of Bin Laden cracked something open in me and I have to follow where it leads, and try to make it real. I've had reactions to world events before that prompted drawings. For the most part nobody would know that there is a connection unless I told them. I'm afraid that the only theme of my next drawing is violence. I'm so pro-death and anti-death, two directions in one mind, that the result is imagery that seems absurd and ridiculous. A picture that could never make sense literally. I'm reminded of the Dada movement in France, how the artists reacted with the urge to make nonsense after the horrors of World War I.

I feel very patriotic - I'm proud of President Obama for the risky decisions he made and I'm proud of the SEALS for the heroism and steel that is part of their nature and I was deeply saddened by the events of 9/ll, but I'm also against killing, murder, and assassination. I believe in locking up sociopaths to protect society from them. I understand that killing the bad guy is cleaner, cheaper, and less problematic politically. Most people equate revenge with justice. So I can see all the options and I can't choose. In essence I'm no good at making any decision except for color - and I wish all my choices in life had to do with nothing more beautiful than to put one color next to another color.

The violence in the world, and the desire to do violence to myself, is almost too much to bear.

I think art is an escape for me.

I think I make art because I have to make art. It has become a survival tactic.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Karen,

    I'm sorry you are still struggling with thoughts of suicide. There is nothing wrong with focusing on your art instead of focusing on thoughts of self-destruction. In fact, I think it is admirable. How have your sessions been going with your therapist? You had quite a stretch with him where you weren't feeling suicidal. What do you think has changed in the last several months?

    One thing, you shifted your creative focus from your book to your artwork and while your artwork is great, you seem more conflicted over seeing yourself as an artist, as if you don't measure up. Karen, you've got to make note whenever you begin comparing yourself to other people, especially people you consider "normal" or "successful" etc... Just note it and don't do anything different at first and see just how often you do that and how it makes you feel when you do do it. You won't be able to change your negative thoughts until you can see them clearly.

    Also, did you decide to adjust your medications? I've been on the same dose of drugs for a while now so I'm not sure what kind of reaction I would get if I changed my meds.

    I'm thinking of you,

    Love, Kate


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