Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Strawberry Music

Finally finished a happy painting. If you click on the image you can see it in larger form, and really see the detail.

Here we have a musical band, all in uniforms. Hats with orange stars (the drummer has a swirl on his hat), purple dotted shirts with rows of green diamonds, the black cummerbund with a red hip bow, and striped purple pants. The two horn players and the base player are all standing in a cart pulled by a horse. In the sky, in the middle of the sun, there is a flying pig. Across the landscape there are leafy, flowering strawberry vines loaded with gigantic fruit.

To my eyes this looks like straight folk art. But my husband says it looks more like outsider art. He senses something weird about it I guess. But I don't see anything weird in it, just harmless fun. Can I not recognize my own schizophrenia? I suppose not.

Because this painting is so detailed it took a long time to make, as usual. But I the final product is worth it. I really enjoyed using all the colors. It made the process of painting more difficult, this choosing of so many colors. You have to be really careful, unless its intentional, of mixing wet paint into wet paint. The grass final coat is blended yellow and green shades of color to make that wavy, blocky texture. Then in the smaller "distance" portion of the picture, where you have the small horse and the small strawberry vines, the grass is simple multi-color dots.

Usually I layered wet over dry. The base colors for the sky (two layers to achieve intense blues) and ground had to be separated from the figures and painted first, with the figures painted in after with white. Why white? I think I thought it was a better base to put color upon. And since I was working from an equally detailed drawing, I wanted all the "elements" put in their proper place - didn't trust myself to free style paint the drawing all over again. I really don't trust my drawing skills. The initial drawing seems to take so many erasures. So not a flower, not a hand, not much, is different in shape and size from what I originally planned. And at one time the sky, and the ground, all had ghostly shapes of white on them. Really, one can't get the intensity of the red strawberries unless one started with a white base.

The only edit I did from the initial drawing is the costumes on the band players were supposed to have red bow ties at their throats. Believe it or not this made the picture too busy! And it didn't work really since three of the five players are holding instruments up to their lips. Too many objects intersecting.

This piece was done on a little less medication than usual. I don't want to go medication free. I'm seeing my med nurse this Friday and I'm going to tell her that I'm happy on the dose I'm at. I don't see the point in going any lower. After twenty years of mental illness a part of me still holds out hope that I don't have a mental illness. I guess it's the irrational part. Its the part that ignores the hours I spend in bed, my difficulties in doing many ordinary things, and maybe, how strange my art looks. But of course to me it doesn't look strange, just busy and rich. I said to someone recently that when I look at most of my art I see poverty of thought, but I think that is low self esteem and not really what is present.

I've sent this image by email to my brother and sister, who both own some of my art that I am most proud of. They are my fans. Once, they got into a bidding war over a painting. My sister won the painting because she has more money. But I dread sending an image of "strawberry music" to my father. I fear he is going to be disappointed. Oh he'll be nice and supportive, but secretly disappointed. He once rented gallery space in an antique store that sold art in a rich town, and he invited his friend and my brother to try to sell their art in his space, but he never invited me. My brother once said to me that my father and step-mother look at my art and see in it sickness and disease. He told me to stop giving my best pieces to my father as gifts - he would never appreciate what he has. That was after my brother found one of my paintings lying face down on a concrete basement floor of my father's house. My brother stole it and returned it to me and then gave me his warning.

I took this photograph yesterday, after I did final touches, when the paint was still wet. I can't wait for the paint to dry so I can get it professionally framed and hang it in the kitchen. I've got a spot for it. I have a master plan where I make art for the next five years in secret, not showing it or selling it and then approach an art gallery in New York City and try to get them to represent me. Then I'll have shows of new work every five years. Happily this means living with my art in my house for a while. I'm certain that after looking at the same piece for several years I'll get sick of it and be mighty relieved when it goes off into the world to have its own adventures on strange walls, viewed by strange people.

The Ricco Maresca Gallery in NYC represents Ken Grimes, a schizophrenic artist that they have had in their stable of artists for a long time. On their website, if you go to his page, there is a new video the gallery commissioned to be shot of Ken. He sounds great. He is obviously on a new medication than from when I met him ten years ago because his emotions are more fluid and vibrant. When I met him he talked slowly and kinda woodenly. It was fun to see him in the video, and I learned a few things. It takes him a week to paint a painting, from start to finish. My God! It takes me much longer than that just to plan a painting. And I loved to see him in action, actually painting a painting. To most its nothing, but to an artist it is so much fun to see the work in action. And Ken juggles! And he's quiet good at playing pool. But the biggest surprise is at the end of the video. Through-out the video you hear classical piano music being played. Then there's a clip of Ken at the piano, playing the music! When he stops playing the music and sits back from the piano, the video is over. Very clever design of the overall architecture of the piece.

But what I really love is that the video shows that schizophrenia (and the word is never ever mentioned - this gallery does NOT promote Ken Grimes as being mentally ill, just different and obsessed by sending out a message, and you'll have to go the website to see what in particular message obsesses him), well, mental illness is only a tiny and obscure thing in his life, this man lives happily and successfully....................of course when he talks about his obsession he sounds uncomfortably like a lunatic to me, but truly, when I hear some conservative religious people talk about aspects of their religious beliefs they too sound to my disbelieving ears like lunatics. For instance, I once met a PhD in psychology who was head of a large city's counseling services in their public school system, a wealthy, educated, powerful man, who to me expressed his great worry - who would take care of his beloved dog after he was lifted off this earth in the coming Christian rapture? If this concerns him, the gatekeeper to the mental health of whole generations of children, then Ken Grimes can have his own concerns and obsessions about communication with Aliens. There, I've just given away Ken Grimes true love.

Anything you are very passionate about, and deeply emotional about, can sound to a stranger's ear as being wacky. Its the down side of holding onto convictions. Anyone who is convinced, to their core, of an idea may sound loopy to someone who does not possess their point of view. Passion is kin to madness. I think that is where the notion comes from that there is something sweet and redeeming in madness. Usually, in madness you find passion.

That is a part of why mental illness is so feared. Alternate views of reality that are experienced with passionate conviction.

We instinctively fear what is different from us.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Karen,

    Delightful painting! As always, fanciful, playful and interesting, bursting with color. The perspective is unusual. To me, the sky looks more like water, like the edge of a lake or the end of a wave. The musicians almost look as if they are lying down on the surface of it, as if they've been washed up towards the land in an explosion of music. The large strawberries seem alive with intelligence, listening and dancing. Thanks for describing some of your painting process. Your colors are so consistent and true. I hope you keep the initial drawings. I'm amazed at what you come up with just from within yourself. Very creative! You take chances that more conformist artists do not.

    You say some very perceptive things at the end of this blog. Passionate conviction can sound wacky and in many instances I believe it is. To hold so tightly to a belief is to be a bit deluded. I held so tightly to my delusions for the first three and a half years of the acute stage of my illness. I am like Ken Grimes in that I, too, believe in Aliens and while I'm still committed to that belief, I've moved past obsessing about it. Passion is in obsession and obsession is imbalance.

    Then again, I think alternate views of reality are a good thing. We take far too much for granted and don't often look closely at what is right in front of us. I recently downloaded a book by Adyashanti and what he writes about is beginning to ring true for me. He presents an alternative view of reality and claims that most humans live inside a common, conditioned delusion about the nature of reality. Our "reality" is more of a dream than a true experience. Have you noticed how very seriously we all take our thoughts? We almost live inside our thoughts and yet they are ultimately not real and not representative of reality.

    I think we fear what is different from us because we believe that we are separate and vulnerable to attack and so we get very self protective. But maybe this is an illusion?

    Anyway, keep up the great work. I like your idea of working secretly for the next five years and then approaching a New York gallery. Do that Karen. You have what it takes.

    Love, Kate : )


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