Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas Delusion Card

I had a choice this Christmas.  Do I send my family politically correct Christmas cards?  I could choose to draw an angel.  Angels are  harmless, bring joy, and are politically correct.  Or do I follow my strong creative impulse and draw pregnant beasties for Christmas?  Goats with horns with the sainted child growing inside their belly?  When in doubt, and most certainly with my husband's Evangelical Christian family, send an angel.  But my brother and my husband's boss asked for a pregnant beastie drawings.  They were the only people I trusted enough to ask which version they would prefer.  And my husband wanted a pregnant beastie for a Christmas Present.  I've taken pictures of his gifts - threw in an angel Christmas Present just to be nice.  He is my greatest fan.  Frankly, I had more fun drawing pregnant beasties than angels.

I had a problem with some slight insanity one evening.  I emailed my friend that I was going to drown. Not that I wanted to drown, just that I thought it would happen.   I did say that drowning didn't make any sense because I wasn't going swimming,(it being winter), and that anyway I am an excellent swimmer.   And while I was not worried that I would drown, nor did I think it a possibility that in reality I would drown, however, I had to assert, (say it out loud) that most certainly I was going to drown.  So I told my husband a couple of times that I was going to drown and then I sent an email to my friend.  My sign off on that drowning email was this separate line;

"The Billy Goat is pregnant."

That single nonsense sentence the next day turned into an image for the Christmas cards I was in the process of making.  Now, I have enough sense to know that there are members of my family, especially on my husband's side, who would probably stop talking to me if I sent them a Christmas Card with a pregnant Billy Goat.  My husband did have to point out to me that the Goat is an old symbol of the devil.  I likely already knew that.  However, I was not thinking about the devil or any symbol when I wrote "The Billy Goat is pregnant".  It just came to me.  And I wasn't trying to be funny, or creative, or playful - I think I meant it quite literally.   In some weird way it was true when I wrote it.  And the idea followed me into my art.  Do I know any Billy Goats?  No.  We live near a town.  However, I know schizophrenia tends to make a person a concrete thinker.  There are many signs in my conversations with my husband that I talk literal sense, and have trouble, with understanding abstract insinuations.  The pregnant Billy Goat was so real to me that I felt compelled to draw it.  I guess this is art expressing a psychotic thought.

Cliches drive me nuts.  Cliches are commonly used phrases that make no literal sense.  They only hint broadly at things.  You are supposed to know the secret meaning behind a cliche.  I especially hate it when what is meant is really the opposite of what is literally said. Social stock phrases make me so confused.  When my husband uses a cliche I'll stop him and say things like "that doesn't mean anything" or "your talking garbage" or "this is empty talk".  At first he said that everyone at work talks with cliches and everyone gets the insinuation of the cliche user.  So normal people can process this type of communication and not get confused.  I understand I'm other.  Usually when I get confused in a conversation I also get angry.  I hate it when my husband says to me "this funny thing happened at work".  I say wait!  Do you mean this is ironic, and something really sad and pathetic happened but you are instead calling it "funny"?  That happened just yesterday.  My husband stopped a very confused co-worker from being taken advantage of by her health insurer.  And he wants to call this near disaster "funny"?  Apparently people do this all the time, call horror stories, "funny" and my husband has gotten into the habit.  I hate waiting to listen for humor and instead get this story of pathos, the woe of the human condition.  It is not funny!  It is usually why should I get so angry when I am misled by the inherent vagaries and flip-flog meaning of social remarks?  I guess being being confused is really scary to husband says I think in black and white terms and have trouble understanding the grey areas of morality.  Sins are, I will admit, complex, with layers of meaning and intent.  When my husband says stuff that are half truths or mis-directions I pretty much know.  I catch tone of voice maybe?  And I'll nag until I get honesty from him.

Once my husband said to me "you are the most honest person I've ever met".  And I said oh honey, don't put me on a pedestal, it isn't something wonderful and elevated, - its just schizophrenic brain damage.

I can't play a lot of the social games that other people play.  One day my husband came home from work and told me that he had an odd sense that day that everyone around him was either lying and telling falsehoods to make themselves look good, or else living in delusions in which they were mistakenly lying to themselves.  Of course he wouldn't have been in that frame of mind if he wasn't married to Mrs. strick-litteral-translation lady.

If I had used a pregnant Billy Goat instead of an angel from most people I would get no compassionate pass for artistic whimsicality.  Nobody would say "oh, she's just an eccentric artist with a mental illness".  Rather, the Christians in my family would probably talk amongst themselves and come to the conclusion that either I was possessed by a devil or else worshiping the devil.  And they might fear, really fear, who their son or brother had married.  Worst case scenario I would would be immediately shunned.  Best case scenario they would think I would need some powerful prayer and holy healing.  I have had, in the past, a schizophrenic friend say that there might be a demon in me because of my artwork.  But normal people too believe in demons.

Christmas is a time when people take what is correct, and what is not correct, pretty seriously.  Don't mess with Christmas traditions!  No alternate interpretations!  A shop owner here in town put in her shop window a scantly clad plastic model seated in the lap of a red costumed Santa.  The town told her to change her window.  A grown woman in Santa's lap was politically incorrect.   Only children in Santa's lap are politically correct.

Even people who get an angel probably think I'm deranged for not drawing a "realistic" looking angel.

Its hard to draw with oil pastels.  They are fat sticks, smooshable, and blend easily.

A lot of people think you are only making good art if its realistic looking art.  My art for these cards looks pretty childlike I think.  Oh, and I've read an expert who said it is incorrect that schizophrenics draw like children.  He wished to elevate and dignify schizophrenic art.  Are schizophrenic people sophisticated?

Ha!  I'm sure as hell not sophisticated when I say I'm made out of sugar and onions.

Nor am I sophisticated when I say that they are hiding chocolate in underground missile silos.

And when I yell, "The rats are coming, the rats are coming!" obviously, someone has to be really, really nice to me.  It can't be good if the rats are coming.

My pregnant Billy Goat would communicate directly to the unconscious mind because I think it came directly from the unconscious mind.

But Christmas is so codified, that tampering with tradition is tantamount to evil.  One can only be creative with Christmas in the narrowest of terms.

But I'm not an evil schizophrenic, I'm a pretty innocent schizophrenic.  Its just that an image with a psychotic source is so powerful, and speaks so swiftly, that it can disturb mightily.  ESPECIALLY AT CHRISTMAS!

Monday, November 11, 2013

New Weird Thoughts

This is all I can post of the painting I just finished.  You can't have the painting in its entirety.  I'm giving you chopped up pieces of the whole. Click on them to see them enlarged.   They're pretty detailed.   I don't think Google would like my images of animals having sex. Edited out are two dogs having sex (the groom holds the leash of the male dog - look at the groom smirk - he knows whats coming.  The bride seems serious, maybe a little incredulous.  She hasn't a clue or notion about what carnal lust is).   Two monkey's having sex, and of all the impossible things, a lion and a crocodile having sex.  Inter-species sex?  No, its gay sex!  You can see both the yellow lion and the green crocodile have pink penises!  Of course what exactly I painted is the most primitive rendering.  What am I capable of?  Not too much in the way of depicting reality. Its not like I copied a photograph of animal's copulating.  But the painting was about marriage, sex and relationships.  I titled it "The Virgin's Fate".  It amuses me that both my mother and my husband's mother were virgins when they married our fathers.  My mother's parents even picked out her wedding gown.  They were Lithuanian Lutherans, very European, very old school traditional.   They made my mother look like Cinderella, even had her wear a rhinestone encrusted tiara.  My father was in medical school and didn't want children at the time so they used birth control.  But my husband's folks were game for the whole wet, squirming, bundle-of-joy consequences of their honeymoon.  My husband was born almost exactly ten months after the marriage day. 

Well, when I started this whole long journey of lowering my medication my medication nurse made horrible predictions about what I would turn into.  Most things, almost all things, have not happened. She doesn't know me that well.   She absolutely has not been with me since the start of my journey of mental illness.   She was merely extrapolating from what she had seen happen to other people in my diagnosis group.  But I am unique, my schizophrenia is unique.  This diagnosis covers a whole variety of types of people, with varying severity of illness.  Schizophrenia has to have room in it for people who are atypical. 

Recently my medication nurse offered to lower my medication to one 20mg pill a day.  A miniscule amount.   That shows how well she thinks I am doing.  I currently take 60mg Geodone.  Theraputic dose of Geodone starts at 120mg.  One thing she said in her predictive rant when we started the lowering of my medication is that psychosis will come.  It may take a year, two years, even three years, but it will come.  She said its part of my genetics.  I think that the little medication I take is protective against psychosis, and more importantly to me, mania. If psychosis will come, so will mania, if I'm unprotected.   I met a bi-polar woman who was protected against mania only by antipsychotic medication.  She thought it was very weird that she was not being treated by any of the classical mood-disorder drugs.  But this was the approach of her doctor, and the antipsychotic meds did stop her mania.  I've been on the mood stabilizer Depakote and I hated it - and I wasn't even creating art at the time.  So I rather take an antipsychotic and just prevent the mania from ever developing.  When I did experience mania, usually it was very mild.  When I discribed it to a professor in college he said that I was having religious experiences.  But long ago, before my first defining breakdown, I noticed that it was rhythmic.  The hypomania started and stopped.   But eventually there was the breakdown where I had full-blown psychosis and complete inability to sleep.  I'm glad I've go no signs of hypomania.  I believe that is due to the Geodone antipsychotic.  I'm not lowering my antipsychotic med for this reason, and now, for another reason.  I have had totally new, weird thoughts.

It always happens when I'm under abnormal stress.   I will have an insistent, weird thought.  Three separate months, three separate weird thoughts.  They don't last longer than a day.  A textbook psychotic thought.  Maybe.  It seems pretty much like what one would find in a textbook.  At the time I know that what I'm thinking is ridiculous.  Outrageous.  However, there is real emotional distress accompanying these close brushes with psychosis.  Even when its recognized as nonsense, (and I know weirdness when I see it - I've always been a keen observer of my own madness), the weird thought is hard to bear.  Once, to stop the thought, I took extra medication.  That worked very well.  The two other times I normalized after a good night's sleep. 

The first weird thought happened during an August vacation.  We go to Maine, to a little fishing village where both my father and mother have separate homes.  We stay with my mother.  She has an apartment over her garage.  While visiting my mother I feel obliged to inform my father that I'm in the same town as him and arrange a visit.

Historically I've been in the worst shape after visits with my father.  For many, many years after each visit I became suicidal.  Its not just me.  In the nineteen nineties my sister did not talk to my father for three years because he made her feel suicidal. Now their relationship is ok.  She likes to call him for medical advice.  Mom says she affectionately calls him "Daddy-O".  I think she's one tough cookie.  Its cool to see a sibling heal and strengthen that much.

In the past, after a visit with my father, while traveling home in the car, I would dope myself with medication.  While traveling I would still would feel suicidal for a bit, but I was so zoned out from the meds that there was an air of "who cares about anything in life?".  Now on less antipsychotic medication my father does not make me feel suicidal.  I just feel terrible, torn up inside.  And I can't stop re-living the visit.  Obsession.  Last Thanksgiving I talked about the visit for about three days straight and my husband said "enough, I have no more sympathy for you.  I don't want you to ever see your father again."   How does my husband deal with my father?  He falls asleep.  Like, is there such a thing as pathological sleepiness?  My husband does not wish to be conscious around my father.  So he dozes, anypalce, anychair, everytime.

During the August vacation my father invited me over for lunch.   I medicated myself an hour before hand with an extra antipsychotic pill and a tranquilizer.  At the lunch table I felt a vale of dopiness disconnecting myself from my father, and I thought to myself, it is a good thing I'm zonked, otherwise I would have so much anxiety.  I look at my father and I wish to scream, how could I eat my lunch?  But I did eat lunch.   After lunch we moved to the sun porch.  My husband fell asleep.  My Dad and I talked about art.  I relaxed.   I remember saying that all my heroes in art were mad and lived in insane asylums.  Then I said say what you will about my art, (I'm not certain how to rate it at all in terms of good or bad or beautiful) - but at least it is honest.  Where did the boast about honesty come from?  I do not know.  But it felt right at the moment.  My Dad said that this word honesty, in connection with art, he had read several times in books.  He does not know what it means.  Could I explain what it means?  To have honest art?   I couldn't explain.  Probably to discuss this term, and its application to art, I would have to reveal too much about my creative process.  And I know what my father thinks of my art.  I know the truth.  He thinks I'm a sad case.  Maybe even as much as a painful embarrassment.  I had a therapist tell me once that my father will never be proud of me, no matter where my art goes or what good things happen to it.  The only emotion that possibly can be summoned, with artistic success, is jealousy.  The therapist seems kinda mean.  I rather view my father as a complicated person.  Capable of many feelings on many levels.  But knowing that probably my art upsets my Dad, do I really want to try to put myself in a virtuous light?  It would seem like a battle that I've already lost.   I know I'm rejected because my art looks different from mainstream art, and because my father is art school trained and I am not, and because my father seems to lack the ability to recognize creativity in art.

His inability to recognize things that are creative is a new discovery and it explains a lot.  I have a term for people who are bushwacked by fame.  I call them fame fuckers.  My father is a fame fucker because he only can tolerate and judge as successful art that has critical acclaim.  The lightbulb went off in my head when two vacation's ago he handed me a post card with an artwork on it advertizing an art show.  Dad said, "He's good, isn't he?"  And he told me that the artist was a former dean of an art school who now is independent and very successful.  I believe I heard envy and esteem in my father's voice.  He likes good credentials.  But the picture on the postcard was horrible.  Totally boring.  A small boat in a large body of water.  No real content, no color surprises.  A field of emptiness with a poorly rendered object in it.   I assumed at the time that the original artwork must have been very delicately tinted and much was lost in the printing process.  It puzzled me why an artist would pick a work that reproduced so poorly.  And then I realized that my Dad liked the image because the artist was successful.  A fame fucker. Unable to judge quality for himself, and giving quality where it is not deserved via the uplift and aura of fame.  This is intellectual distortion and bushwacking of judgement.  Creativity is delicate.  It's presence more like a fragrance.  I think I rather stay safe, and was silent after my father asked me to explain artistic honesty to him.  And so he took the break in the conversation as the perfect moment to say "Well, I'm going to go paint".  He stood.  He smiled, and he walked away.  And that ended the visit.   He had not seen or talked to me for nine months.  I did feel, at that moment, the sly sensation that my father was running away from me!  I felt like I was too much of a goofball to be taken seriously and perhaps, I did not have the ability to talk about art like my father's other artist friends.  I know he has a lot of artist friends who visit his Maine cottage, stay overnight, and go on painting trips with him.  I must not be able to talk about art like a normal person. And I think socializing with me makes my father nervous.  He can never predict what is going to come out of my mouth.  I once heard from a nurse who worked with him that during a meeting he went totally ballistic when another doctor called him eccentric.  He yelled and left the room. On a gut level, he hates eccentric.

The next morning I woke early.  And this idea was in my brain.  "My parents attack, kill and eat me".  They do this and somehow I am reassembled, I survive, only again, at a future date, to be the living victim for them to "attack, kill and eat me".  It seemed to be a pattern that has been going on my whole life.  Torture, death, dismemberment, and regeneration.  Perhaps the criminal punishment of Prometheus chained to his rock, having his liver eaten daily by an eagle? What Chronos did to his children? To put the little Godlings away and keep them down.   (How I love Goya's savage painting of Saturn eating his child).   A very primitive notion, this, the parents killing and eating their child.  A myth of death and rebirth in the collective unconsciousness?  I started to cry, woke my husband, and held him tight, repeating over and over that my parent both want to "attack, kill, and eat me".

That day we went to an antique store.  In degrees, my agitation died down.  The next day we spent driving, traveling home.  I then said to my husband that I remembered what I thought the day before, however in the light of a new day, its degree of insistence and reality was so diminished that I could not comprehend why I said what I said, or believed it was so impregnated with reality.

The second weird thought occurred in early October.  My husband and I had had three fights within the space of one week.  After a fight I always go and sleep on the couch in my art room.   After most fights we work things out in the morning.  My will husband take the time to reconcile before he goes to work.  After a good nights rest our emotions are so much calmer.  And it is far far easier to say I'm sorry.  For both of us.  But after the third fight he made no attempt at reconciliation.  That day, quite suddenly, in the middle of the day, I emailed my friend.  All I wrote is "Nobody loves me, I'm persecuted, everyone wants to kill me".  Naturally my friend did not take me at my word.  I had never written such a thing.

It was so strange to think that everyone, every living being on the planet wished to kill me.  When the thought first came I ignored it as best I could.  I believed it rightly preposterous.  Having absolutely no basis in reality.  Six hours later, still thinking this thought, my spirit began to flag.  Even imaginary ill will is still ill will.  And one small human being can not stand against the notion that nobody wishes them alive.  "Everybody wants to kill me" had over the six hours become an obsessive mantra.  I didn't hear a voice say it, but my internal imagination repeated its body of meaning again and again and again.  Eventually it frightened me (was I now starting to believe that there was some truth in it?  Not that I would be attacked by guns, but that everyone wished me dead) and I took an extra Geodone pill.   After about 40 minutes the thought completely disappeared.  Like magic.  The Geodone definitely put me in a medicated haze that felt mildly uncomfortable.  My husband came home from work and we ironed things out domestically.  I had a good nights sleep.  And a very productive day painting for many hours the next day.

The last weird thought happened last week, the first week of November.  A specific unusual situation had been left unresolved.  I did not know what another person was thinking about me.  Their opinion seemed to matter.  I could only anticipate a negative solution to the encounter.  My email buddy said that the universe had a plan for me and I had to just flow with the plans of the universe.  Good advice.  But at night I would obsess.  My husband listened to me go on and on on the same topic and eventually he asked rather angrily what kind of solutions I could come up with to counteract my obsessive thinking.  He wanted me to problem solve (he wished me to shut up) because I had become unpleasant company.   And then suddenly, the pressure of worry and not knowing disappeared.  I thought I knew what was happening.   I was being laughed at.  This is how another person sees me.  They laugh at me.  No mystery.  I had this bit of incredulous awe that I could see what was happening far far away.  A stranger was laughing at me.  Well, it was a relief not to obsess anymore and I fell asleep.

The next morning I woke and my perceptions had altered just a little bit.  Before my husband went to work I told him that now I thought that the whole world was laughing at me.  Everyone in the world was laughing at me behind my back.  I could see the pattern that I liked to generalize an idea to include the whole population of the world - be it killing or laughing.  And I could see that it was again, preposterous and a figment of my imagination. It absolutely made no sense that anyone should be laughing at me.  I said to my husband, you wanted me to stop obsessing over my trouble, and the trouble has disappeared, but it has been replaced by a psychotic idea.  You can't suppress the mind.   Last night you wanted me to change. Well I've changed.  Maybe a part of me listened to your angry admonishment.  But do you think the change is in a good direction?

It was easy to promise my husband before he left for work that if the thought that the whole world was laughing at me did not go away and if it built in any sort of intensity, then I would take extra Geodone.  For peace of mind.  It worked well with the other weird thought the month before.  But I wanted to draw before I took the Geodone.  Take advantage of a mind unfettered before chemical chains are applied.  I felt the winds of creativity sweep through me and while it was hard to draw, (I almost had too much energy and distress to focus)  I am very very happy with the new form I invented.  It is heavily ironic that so much distress produced something that will be so very valuable for the painting I am planning. Amazingly, drawing for three hours cured me of the thought that the whole world was laughing at me.  When I was finished my morning stint of drawing for the day the thought had completely disappeared. 

But I was still a little restless.  So I walked to a local cafe and had a bowl of homemade soup.

Most of the time my life is predictable.  But I seem not to react well to stress.  These new, weird thoughts are a sign of my mind breaking down. And then when they go away my mind is much healthier.  And happier.   My schizophrenic best friend who hears voices has a lot of weird thoughts.  Like constantly, she obsesses over weird thoughts.  Weird thoughts torment her.  Why must the weirdness be tormenting?

I understand that weird thoughts go with the territory of a schizophrenic type diagnosis.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

In Pursuit of Creativity

                        "PARADISE", 2010  
     "ADAM, EVE, AND THE DEVIL", 2012

              "TEA TIME", 2013

I am schizoaffective, badly disabled, and I have devoted my life to making oil paintings.  Two years ago I started lowering my antipsychotic medication for health reasons.  I believe that my art changed.  I believe that I am more creative on lower medication.  Seeing my art change has motivated me to stay on very little medication despite some serious mental discomfort from symptoms of my illness.

I feel that I am closer to insanity, yet more creative.  I have shown you work to compare.

"Paradise" was created on a high dose of anti-psychotic medication.  Two anti-psychotic medications in fact.  The planning of this work was difficult.  I struggled to find images. I found the final product slightly unusual, but mostly bland.

"Adam, Eve, and the Devil" and "Tea Time" were both created as my medication was cut drastically.  They both are at a point where I have dipped under therapeutic level of only one antipsychotic medication.   They are both twice the size of  "Paradise".  As I planned these pieces the creative ideas came much more quickly to my mind.  Newness of form, newness of concept, appeared in my mind like magic.  I could "see" images in my imagination with clarity like never before.  I could paint twice as many hours a day.   Probably I like the highly detailed style in these low-dose medication artwork more because I sense a pulse of chaos in them.  I sense energy.  It is the chaos and energy of a mind that has been released to much more of the madness within.  I am now much more fascinated with my creation.  Pleased as an artist, this reinforced in the identity of being an artist and boosted self-esteem.  Freed from the foggy high dose of anti-psychotic medication my whole life, as I lived it day to day, was filled with more energy.  I felt sharper and smarter.  My husband noted that my ability to articulate ideas, and have critical thinking, drastically improved on low dose medication. 

Socially I became more withdrawn and isolated as the medication was lowered, slowly, bit by bit.  My emotions became more volatile.  My husband had to adjust to a person who was in his words "less childlike", who slept less, was more emotionally fragile, and who saw more reasons and causes to be distressed.  I no longer cared about attending social events in my town and there are days at a time that I never leave the apartment.  I lie in bed a lot, unable to stand other than to go to the bathroom.  Family interactions affected me negatively me more than ever and I obsess over emotional hurts in the past and the present.  However, I believe that isolation and obsessiveness are necessary to create works of art that are different and unique from mainstream subject matter. 

Often, in American review of Outsider Art, European schizophrenic artists who lived in insane asylums of the past are held up as examples of purity of vision and masters of creativity.  It has been noted by an New York University professor in a paper that she published on-line for her class, that the schizophrenic masters were not on medication.  Her thesis is that schizophrenic artists today who are on medication are incapable of creating work at the level of quality of past non-medicated schizophrenics.  Some schizophrenic artists who are put on anti-psychotic medication can't create art at all.  I believe that a lot of American schizophrenics do create art, but I have noticed myself that it is often not with consistency or idiosyncratic vision.  Vision that is bizarre and obsessive don't happen much to modern day schizophrenic artists.  I believe that they don't labor long on their creations, their delusions are not fueling the subject matter of the art in a subliminal way, and modern schizophrenics will expend a lot of energy participating in the little happinesses and diversions of mainstream society because of the medication they take.  I believe that more happiness means less top quality art.  This is not true for a normal artist, but it probably is true for a person with a severe mental illness.  

When I was young, I lived in a mental institution for two years.  I can testify that the conditions of life in the old style hospitals where humans were warehoused was so boring, that any mind that had the creative impulse would WANT to create, would be MOTIVATED to create, because LIFE WAS MONOTONOUS AND DULL.   What modern day medications give is a normalization of social interactions and connection to reality.  Now, to me as an artist, I find that these medical gifts of drug induced health divert my attention away from art making activities.  So I reject most gifts of medication and exist in a twilight state that parallels in condition, both mental and physical, of what I experienced being institutionalized young.  My life is simple.  It has to be moronically simple in order for me to have the concentration and motivation for what I make. 

I don't make art for fun.  I am not expecting life to be fun.  I make art for the sake of creating beauty.  Life for beauty.  Not life in the pursuit of happiness.  There's a difference.

I feel I was freed when I drastically lowered my medication and gave up on having any semblance of a normal, well rounded life.  And then I became an artist to the bone and core of my being.  I have embraced that my insanity is both a creative gift and a tormenting burden.  That's just a fact of my life, like my eyes are brown.  I have an off-kilter mentality and I'm not going to dull it down with medication.  I take just enough medication so that I'm not too tormented and try to kill myself.

Yes, making this choice is serious business.  But my life is my own to do with what I please.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Art School Disaster

I took an art class at a local art school.

After four sessions I had to quit.  I had to be able to tell myself that I was free, and could, if I wish, never return to class.  I had to be able to say, that although the sessions continued for all my classmates, for me it was over.  To say this to myself then gave me peace of mind.

Four classes was all it took, a two hour session of independent studio art on Monday and Friday, to lead me to total disintegration.  My husband and I had hoped that I would adapt to class, that I would adjust, that I would habituate myself.........................but instead, in the end, things almost wound up with a hospitalization.  Or something worse.  The end of it all.

I didn't really see it coming.  On the day of my fifth class I had trouble dressing in the morning.  This is a bad sign that my thinking is off.  For example I changed my clothing several times and took an hour figuring out which necklace to wear.  An hour changing necklaces is extremely pointless and more importantly, mentally exhausting.  It was a clue to bad things that I was well aware of.  Usually dressing is very easy. 

I decided not to go to class because I couldn't concentrate after all the clothing changes, and I needed to concentrate in order to draw.  I learned that if I'm not totally focused on my drawing my hearing becomes attuned to the conversations around me.  And when I listen to the other students, well, their normalicy makes me feel like a freak.  I get overly sensitive about my life and how I live it.  It is hard to listen to the happiness in other people's voices.  It is hard to listen to the places they travel to, to the ease in which they maneuver through society.  Education, jobs, cities, my Lord, how people with healthy minds are on the go.  Let me show you what I am dealing with.  The lady standing next to me one day painted a bunch of carrots, the next class she began radishes.  Her purpose, I hear her explain, was to go from vegetable to vegetable.  The teacher's loved her.  they spent a lot of time discussing the shading of these vegetables.  Colors too.  Lots of little stand-back observe huddles.  Meanwhile my drawing had a lady wearing Marc Jacob's couture, squatting,  lifting up her dress, and a stream of piss coming out of her.  Dripping and puddle clear to see.  In another part of the drawing a lady with odd growths on her spine holds a large gun to an angel's forehead.  Beneath the gun toting  Tilda Swinton (I used the actress's face), her skirt parts to reveal a box.  Inside the box is a demon blowing what looks like a french horn, his tail wrapped around a peg coming out of one ear of a decapitated head.  This head is dripping blood, echoing a little puddle of dribbled red just like the little puddle of dribbled yellow piss.  Oh yeah, I'm a natural for echoing shape and concept.   It just comes to me.  Look, I said to the teacher once, how the bird head and beak growing out of the angel feathers on her back exactly mimics her naked breast!

So I couldn't go to class because I knew that because of all the clothing changes my concentration was blown.  And little by little the guilt crept in.  The idea that because I missed class I was a failure.  I wanted to go to class but my malfunctioning head wouldn't permit it.  There is so much that I am not permitted.  What should a failing person do?  I thought maybe swallow all my tranquilizer pills.  Go to sleep and die.

I didn't really want to overdose, but my mind kept telling me that yes, I should overdose.  So I then thought I should walk down to the pharmacy where I get my medication and give all my tranquilizers to them, let them have the pills, and ask if going cold turkey on the stuff that probably I'm addicted to will cause seizures or something and land me in the hospital.  If they told me that taking back these pills was dangerous, that I couldn't possibly go cold turkey then I would just take my pills back and walk home.  If anyone asked me if I was suicidal the correct answer is NO.  If anyone asked me that I feared an overdose the correct answer is NO.  If anyone asked me why I was trying to give my pills back to the pharmacist the correct answer is because they have a street value and I didn't want anyone else getting them.  My only inquiry was what would happen if I simply stopped taking these pills, because I just don't want the pills.  No more answer than that, I just don't want the pills.

I did not go to the pharmacist.  I called my husband at work.  I told him I was thinking about taking an overdose of pills.  He has nice bosses, they let him leave immediately.  Inexplicably he stopped at the grocery store.  He bought chocolate ice cream and raspberries.  It was hard for me to understand this behavior.  Shouldn't he go where the danger is brewing immediately?  To my side?  But apparently he did not believe that he alone could talk me out of suicidal behavior, that somehow eating chocolate ice cream and raspberries would be a greater inducement to live than anything he could possibly offer.

At first it helped having him to talk to.  After I stopped feeling suicidal I sank into profound depression.  It scared me that maybe the next day I would wake being even more depressed.  I didn't know if there was a bottom to this depression, it came over me so fast and sudden like a switch being flipped.  So before my husband fell asleep I said that I've had my cry for help and it was heard.  Tomorrow I will be on my own and I must make a terrible decision, do it or not.  Really if they take all my pills away from me, or lock me up it isn't any good because there is a highway bridge nearby where two people have jumped to their deaths.  The second one took three hours to die.  But after a jump from such a height, death is certain.  If any person's behavior pushes me too far, if they manipulate me too much, I know how to easily leave this planet.  so, so many in the mental health fields have manipulated me in the past.  But I'm all grown up now.  I know the system, the choices, the outcomes.

But soon after thinking horrid thoughts about the next day (by now my husband was snoring next to me) I had a new thought.  The painting I'm working on isn't finished.  I CAN'T DIE LEAVING A PAINTING UNFINISHED.  NO MATTER THE GREIF, THE DEPRESSION, WHAT I THINK ABOUT MYSELF, I MUST WORK IT THROUGH AND ENDURE TO FINISH THE PAINTING. I MUST LIVE FOR THE PAINTING.  THIS IS NON-NEGOTIABLE.

So I went to sleep knowing that I wanted to live for one thing and one thing only.  But it must be life.  At least until the painting is finished.  It is estimated to be a seven month painting.  I'm probably in the fifth month.  I did wonder if my attitude would be better when the seventh month rolled around.  I tend to stagger paintings, so there is always one in the pipeline.  That drawing I just described is a plan for a painting.

The next morning I woke before my husband had left for work and I assured him that I would live through the day, and explained about the painting.  It makes me feel terribly sad that I can't live for the love and need of another human being.  My husband needs me terribly, and loves me greatly.  I'm his best friend.  Only I know all his secrets.  On a good day I can see how this works.  This thing of having your life interconnected with other people.  That feels really good.  But on a bad day, there is just the unfinished painting to live for the sake of.  I must be a monster.  Or at least terribly flawed.  I've had about twenty years of therapy.  Superficially I'm quite normal and connected to my family and the human race.  But I'm afraid that this is all just very good cover.  There are layers to me.  Like my husband has described, I seem like anyone else, I can make very very nice conversation, except underneath, I'm twisted.

So getting back to art school, what is traumatic about art school?

I don't like people looking at my work as I make it.  I'm too vulnerable when I draw.   Everything is coming from a very deep place.  It has to be made in private.  Even the teachers saying nice things (what could they say?  Only your arm holding the gun is too short.  Nothing about the woman pissing except that her arms were correct and her shoes looked good), nice things are intrusive and freak me out.  I know I'm drawing weird things.  I've got eyes.  One side of me the lady is painting vegetables, the other lady is painting from photographs of her grandchildren, and the other lady is painting a cat in flowers.  Do I have a neon sign over my head saying this is the disturbed freak in the room?

My private term for what exactly I am, my art style, my attitude toward life, everything summed up is DEADLY SERIOUS IDIOT.  I tried explaining it to my husband and he came up with Cervantes character of the old knight riding a nag attacking with a joust wind mills.  I guess he too was a DEADLY SERIOUS IDIOT.  I'm not a primitive painter, I'm not a visionary painter, I am not an outsider art painter, I'm a DEADLY SERIOUS IDIOT.

So, no more suicidal thoughts since I gave my self the permission never to return to class.  Or maybe the suicidal thought died when I realized that I must live to finish the painting.  Whatever the turnabout, each day I healed a little and the depression completely lifted - it only took three days.

Now I'm back to normal.

Been normal for several weeks.

Whatever normal is.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Choose What Hell Looks Like

So far this is my most complex painting.  I'm certain that I couldn't have done it without lowering my medication.  It is named "Tea Time".  It took three months to make.  If you click on the image you can see it better, larger.

There have been some difficulties in being on a lower dose of antipsychotic medication.  But knowing that I'm capable of doing pieces like this one, make me want to persevere.  Art is an incentive.  Enhanced creativity is an incentive.  I like to work.  Work gives me self esteem.

I'm so disabled, there's nothing else I can do but art.

 I recently read an article that flat out stated that medication for schizophrenics alters their creativity in such a way that the classic art by institutionalized schizophrenics is no longer capable of being made by contemporary schizophrenics.  What the institutionalized schizophrenics made was so unique, and so obsessive, and so detailed (all traits of Tea Time I believe) that little today made by medicated schizophrenics can compare.  I will tell you how medication, for me, impaired creativity

1.I was once satisfied with simpler compositions with far more empty or dead space.
2. dumming down of intellect (my husband says I'm much more perceptive and aware on less medication)
3. reduced powers of visualization (on less medication I can hold images much better in my imagination, work on them mentally over time ranging many months, and more images "pop" magically into being)
4.and most importantly, I can now work 4 to 5 hours a day while on high dose of meds I could only work a two hour window.  I've doubled my ability to concentrate on less meds.

I know of no medicated schizophrenic that can do an oil painting of the complexity and quality of Tea Time.  Oil painting is not drawing.  It takes more time, more patience, and you must have, if you are schizophrenic, an abundant time of patience, physical stability, and obsessiveness.

Obsessiveness is a quality that keeps you coming back to the one painting day after day, no matter how you feel emotionally, you work and work in fine detail, layer after layer of color until the canvass is saturated with pigment.  In order to do a painting such as Tea Time and be mentally ill, with an illness so disabling as schizophrenia, you have to sacrifice a lot.  Truely, your one aim in life has to be an artist.  Your one goal day after day is to paint.  Paint as much as is physically and psychologically possible until you are drained.  I don't ask that life be fun.  I don't ask that life be happy.  I don't ask that life be pain free.  And most certainly, I know, I don't try to fit in any shape or form into mainstream society.

The best times are content times.  Very little excitement, very little variation, a lot of isolation, - in fact I have wondered if I have not come full circle to the times when I was locked on a psychiatric ward for two years.   My world has narrowed down to my paintings.  What matters in life?  Only that the paintings get worked on day after day for as long as I'm capable.  Mostly I'm housebound.  I'm happy that usually I'm well enough to read books.  I think that from lack of physical exercise my blood circulation has altered.  Frequently my feet are uncomfortably cold.  This is a new physical phenomena.  The amount of time I spend in bed awake is about 6 to 8 hours a day. My side of the mattress has a huge dent in it.   Occasionally the only time I am capable of leaving the bed is to pee and eat.  Sometimes I must gather all my resolve simply to dress or undress.

Mad?  Yes.  But the only other alternative is medicated.  And on more antipsychotic medication I am also made depressed and suicidal.  A SIDE EFFECT OF A THERAPUTIC DOSE OF ANTIPSYCHOTIC MEDICATION IS SUICIDAL THOUGHTS AND DEPRESSION IN MY CASE.  My husband backs me up on this.  It is not only my observation, it is his too.

Yes, on half theraputic dose I sometimes feel crazy.  I tell my husband I feel crazy a lot.  Not sad, not depressed, just that everything can barely be endured.  My husband tells me I'm not acting crazy, and I'm not talking crazy, so he doesn't know what I mean.  I guess I mean that I know that I'm greatly reduced to saying little, doing little, being little and while I know that life for most is big, for me it is small and narrow.   But I know the alternative is simply more medication and poorer quality artwork.  My medication nurse kept on promising that on more and more Geodone I would feel less and less depressed.  She said the medication had a natural antidepressant quality.  THAT IS NOT MY BIOLOGY.  FOR ME, THAT IS A BOLD FACED LIE.  GIVING ME MORE AND MORE MEDICATION MADE MY LIFE HELLISH. crying all the time.  saying I wished I was dead all the time.  Now I feel crazy but I don't cry and I don't feel worthless and sad and I rarely cry or wish I was dead.

So now I'm whittled down to the natural hell of schizophrenia.  The choice is only one hell or the other.  But in the hell I chose, I get to make lovely paintings like "Tea Time".

My husband recently told me that during his time as a mental health professional he watched a motivational video about a man who was schizophrenic and owned his own business.  The man stressed that the success of this life was only possible because of medication.  My husband said that uncomfortably, the man being glorified by the video about rehabilitation, looked half dead.  I asked my husband, was he overweight?  Yes, very, my husband said.  But that wasn't what was so disturbing to him.  It was just that he seemed to lack emotion, vitality, personality, - spirit.  I said that probably he fit neatly into the statistic that schizophrenics die 25 years earlier then the rest of the population.  After all, on medication, seventy pounds ago, I was once told by a doctor that I would die early of a weight related disease.

I'm alive in spirit, I'm in psychic pain often, and I'm doing great artwork.

And its really cool that I can fit into a size small dress.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Schizophrenia Necklace

Last week I wore my schizophrenia necklace in public.

I made the necklace over ten years ago. Haven't worn it in about five years.   It is a gold chain with 14k alphabet charms attached.  There are 13 letters in the word "schizoprhenia" so it was pretty pricey to order the gold charms from the jewelry store.  However, I felt I needed a pride statement.

Gay people have the rainbow.

Cancer survivors have the pink ribbon.

What could I have to express who I was and that I was proud to be me to the world? Or at least persevering under the conditions that I face.

Not knowing if there is any symbol for schizophrenia, I made a word made out of gold.  Pure gold shows pride, doesn't it?

What can you wear to show that you are a survivor of schizophrenia?  (or must it be kept a deep dark secret?)  Is there any sense of pride to be associated with this loathsome disease?

You can say to yourself I'm not a disease, I'm so much more than a disease, and yet, this disease inevitably finds some way of defining you.  It is just knowing that being gay is part of your identity or having survived cancer is part of your identity.  These things aren't something that you choose, it is rather thrust upon you by fate.  And so you go out into society having a unique experience on life that gives you a unique view on life.  When it is a gorgeous warm sunny day outside and I can't get out of bed except to pee, being near catatonic and having something very wrong with my thinking process, isn't the disease leading my life by the nose?  Oh, I think to my self, how lovely it would be to take a walk, but I can't because I'm so disabled and helpless (and diminished and small and fragile)  that I can't get out of bed.  

I know that the past three years spent with my former therapist we were working on unlinking me from the medical model that says I'm sick and diseased.  But if you suffer, as I have been lately, the mental illness identity is thrust upon you.  Your mind can twist and squirm and rationalize things like "my mind is diseased but my soul is healthy" or "I am not my mind, I'm more than mind, I'm soul too" or "I'm not going to define myself as anything other than a human being".  Helpful thoughts, but what you are going through inevitably makes you feel at odds with the rest of the world.  You know you belong to a large club, THE CLUB THAT SUFFERS,like rape victims or refuges displaced by a civil war, but you belong to a smaller subset, the club that suffers a pure form of torment of the mind.  Caused by no one and nothing that you can put your finger on and blame.

For a while people with mental illness adopted the purple irises like the ones that Van Gogh painted.  I don't know if that symbol ever caught on and is still current.  Personally, I think Van Gogh was bipolar rather than schizophrenic because his production rate was nothing like I've ever seen from a schizophrenic artist.  I think mania fueled him.  And there is a disorganization and skew of reality in the best schizoprhenic art that wasn't present in Van Gogh's art.  He worshiped nature, he drew nature, he was very very sophisticated in his mature phase of painting in that nature, and its close analysis, was the subject of his art.  Critical thinker, organized thinker, and mind put into the eye.  Unmedicated schizophrenics in my experience can't produce at the rate and quality of Van Gogh, even if they had artistic training before the onset of their disease.  And they aren't inspired by nature, rather, they express usually inner torment artistically. They are compelled to look inward rather than outward.  But there are very very few examples to choose from in history who were both schizophrenic and artistically prolific and above all unaffected by medication.

So I think the purple irises symbolize the suffer as mentally ill, but not specifically schizophrenic.  I want to be specific.

Today Van Gogh would be medicated for a mood disorder and or psychosis and his creativity would plummet.  He would never produce the quality that of work which has made him famous.  I do think if you kill psychosis you kill off the root of creativity, or at least the finer part of it.  I've read that other's who study art agree.  The golden age of art made by schizophrenics in insane asylums is over.  However, usually the modern mentally ill person because of their illness believes that they are more creative than the norm.  On or off medication.   I don't know if this is an ego boosting stereotype that schizophrenics buy into.  In my view, there is psychosis, and then there is poverty of thought.  Both are active in the schizophrenic.  No schizophrenic I know would ever describe themselves with such a loathsome phrase as poverty of thought, but this is honestly what I live with sometimes.  My thoughts are so weak that I don't have the energy to speak.  Or move. Or listen to other people talk.

For about a year coming down on medication I felt very very good with almost no symptoms of mental illness other than the persistent inability to concentrate for longer than four to five hours on my artwork.  My therapist would ask me "well, are you or aren't you schizophreic?" and i would say, "wait, we'll see."  Once he said, you aren't schizophrenic, your just high maintenance.  I suppose he was saying I was the type of demanding hysterical woman that some men do their best to avoid.    Still, my mood the last year was good and I genuinely enjoyed life.  I've had difficulty with concentration since I was nineteen and suffered the onset of mental illness, and sometimes I wonder whether or not what happened at nineteen that changed me forever was a simple old fashioned nervous breakdown with bells and whistles of psychosis and mania.

And then I quit therapy for several reasons. 1) we could barely afford it 2) the therapist repeated the same advice and I got sick and tired of listening.  He wanted me to detach from my emotions.  He considered himself spiritually informed by Eastern religion, and he had this obsession that health was possible if you lived from the authentic self (code name for soul).  But I was not to use words like soul or religion because frankly he grew up Catholic and had been traumatized by the religion and while he could not deny a fascination with all things religious, it was traumatic to him personally to use religious words or references.  All he read were books by religious monks, nuns, priests and philosophy thinkers but he only felt safe referring to them as "spiritual".  I called them religious books and he corrected me.  I personally like to think that I have a soul, but even this smacked too much to him of religion, so he used the term "authentic self" whenever we were discussing things which were soul-like.  He said you were only safe and sound identifying yourself as a human being - all else lead to some other vague sort of emotional ruin.  Wife, artist, daughter, schizophrenic - these labels were all bad and led to distress inevitably, or so he promised. Problem at its root was that he was seeking and believed he had found a formula for sanity and he was rather trying in the name of healing to brainwash me with it.  Didn't work.  Had to rather flee from his therapy.

I tried explaining that I was terribly attached and obsessed with my art while I was making it and this attachment was necessary for the process - since it is long and grueling for me to paint a painting.  Right now I'm looking at making two paintings a year.  You have to be really really invested in the project to stay focused and interested in one canvass for six months, day after day.  I attach and I flourish at what I do where other schizophrenics flounder and fail.  Also, I'm attached to my husband and my dog.  Oh, I will suffer horribly to lose one or the other.  However, my therapist made a specific point that he was not attached to his dog (which always lay on the floor through all therapy sessions) and said that he was in the process of detaching from his only daughter.  This was for her sake and for his sake  He encouraged me to detach from my husband, promising me that I could love him BETTER once I had detached.  This smacks of Eastern religious gobblygook. Nuts to that.

At one point he said that it would be best to sever contact from both my parents.  They were toxic.  And they do have a distressing effect on me quite often.  But he wanted me to stop seeing them, stop talking to them.  Detach.  Even if this meant loosing my inheritance.  He taunted me that I was selling my soul for a house.  (now we pay rent to my mother, but our home is promised to be willed to us).

I still think the parental  bastards deserve endless chances.  Stay away as much as possible when they totally rupture peace of mind, but return, always slink away and heal, then return.  They are your parents afterall.  You loved them unconditionally as a child.  I believe that child inside hurts itself if it totally gives up on its parents.  Lately I have realized that I am more moral than either one of my parents.  Hoorah!  Let them think I'm sick, at least I have ethics.  It is rather a comfort to believe in your little ethical self.  Especially when the self is rather tormented by mental illness.

So I stopped seeing my therapist in mid February, and by now, mid May, I see that I'm having episodes of emotional torment that weren't present in February.   There is decline in quality of life.  Did I need therapy?  Seeing someone once a week?  Perhaps.  I just emailed our local art school and asked for a partial scholarship to attend a summer adult open studio seminar that meets twice a week for a little over a month.  I figured after ending therapy I became too much of a recluse and need to get out of the house more often.  Only making art as the whole point of your life for me is a downward spiral.  I need contact with other humans besides my husband.  He's great, but I do remember once during my first hospitalization a ward nurse calling me a "social butterfly".  Always, what I have enjoyed the most about being on a mental ward (and there isn't much to enjoy) was interaction with the other patients.  The lunatics you observe and keep your distance from because they might physically attack you.  Kid you I not, I've been attacked.  Brutally.  And they same guy that attacked me tried to strangle someone else.  The majority of the patents in a hospital however, having been freshly traumatized by their mental illness, are refreshingly human and immediate and uncomplicated.  And nice to talk to.  But the lunatics, simply observe.  You must practice self preservation in a psychiatric ward. 

I don't think at all for about two years now that I have been gradually lowering my medication have I ever thought to myself "Is my quality of life so poor that maybe I should think about ending it all?"  When such a thought occurres, as they have recently I think ah ha!  A sign that I am mentally ill and suffering.  And maybe, just maybe, the ship is sinking on this low dose of medication and you are headed toward a suicidal crisis.  Not yet.  But there are now clouds on the horizon.

But I'm generally not depressed.  Tormented, yes.  Occasionally tormented definitely.  Why am I tormented?  I don't know.  But I did wear my schizophrenia necklace last week.  So I know something is wrong with me. 

Once I stopped therapy the ship started to sink.  But I'll be damned before I go back to that man.  I don't care if detachment has led to happiness for my therapist and maybe some of his patients.  I don't want to detach from life.  Sleep on the sofa when my husband pisses me off, yes, not call a parent because I'm not in the mood to deal with their ways, yes, but I can't be a cloud floating through the sky, as he told me to be, over and over again.

The cloud observes the sky.  But it is separate from the sky.  Be the cloud in the sky.  Sounds simple, but it really doesn't help me.  It helps a little, but i get the concept and I don't want to hear that form of advice again. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Drawing for "The Wedding Party"

This plan for a large scale painting took two months to make.  It is twice the size of any painting I've ever completed, 40"x30".  The planning for the painting I'm co-currently in the middle of, "Tea Time"  took two and a half weeks to plan and draw - so going for something much more ambitious at times scared me and felt to indeed sap me of all my strength.  But its done now, and a light pencil tracing has been transferred to canvas.  The transfer of the drawing took about 12 hours.  Click on any of the images to see them enlarged.

Here are some pictures reading the drawing clockwise.  First we have the bride and the groom.  The groom is holding onto the leash of two dogs, who are doing the very animalistic act which is planned for the couple's wedding night.  The groom is smirking in anticipation.  Behind the image is a repeating pattern.  This pattern repeats in stripes throughout the entire painting, it is the flat painting's background.  Pattern as background chosen over 3D perspective.   I've done a small oil paint study of this pattern, a tear drop lobe with two wings on either side.  In the study I was comparing subtle differences between thin and fat swirls.  I'm going to use the top looping, the lesser intrusive and slightly more delicate patterning.  There are three colors repeated in the background; cobalt blue, venitian red, and dark van dyke brown. 

In this finished tour of the drawing plan we see alternately two sainted monkeys having sex, a gay lion and a crocodile having sex, and then some guests at the wedding party; a pair involved in a seduction, a pair resorting to violence.  Sweeping through the center of the drawing is the marriage bouquet, starting in the arms of the bride, then ending in the lower left hand corner with a baby in a blanket.  I guess its pretty much my take on marriage.  The sex seems a bit scary and grim to me, the party guests behave badly, and the only hope is the infant progeny that is the biological fruit of all the messiness that goes on in a marriage.

If you wonder at all the chaos in the drawing, what with the patterned background and the little stories ranging round the center of the bridal bouquet (there are real lilies and roses drawn from flowers bought at the local grocery store, well, I added some boils to the lilies, mixed with imaginary plants and flowers and general shapes of hoopla inspired from real biological forms found in nature), and I have to conclude that all the messiness (tightly planned and controlled chaos) and frenzy and what promises to be sheer riot of color is a result of "horror vaccui", the hallmark of some schizophrenic art.  I believe that  horror vaccui is Latin for "fear of empty space".  I didn't choose horror vaccui to be present in my work, it just seemed a necessity.  I note that the lower my dose of antipsychotic medication the more prominent this phenomena is in my art.  It is pretty much absent on high doses of antipsychotics.  Currently I'm on a drug, but it is at half therapeutic dose.  When I say that I can't help myself and the insistence in my art toward insane pattern and overlap and detail, I mean it, I can't do art any other way.  Its my muse, it calls to me, the higher the energy level the more excited I become internally.  Horror vaccui isn't what I particularly want, but it seems to be what undeniably pleases me the most.

Here's an example of two artists which are used as classical models for the argument that unmedicated schizophrenics tend in their work toward horror vaccui.  Both works of art are museum quality art. I had some problems loading them into the blog.   The second drawing is by Adolf Wolfli who was locked up most of his life in a Swiss insane asylum and died there in 1930.  The first drawing is by a contemporary British artist Nick Blinko, who is only able to draw when he is medication free.

I am rather proud to be a schizophrenic who paints in oil rather than makes finished colored drawings.  My drawings are only a beginning means to an end - I don't consider them works of art inthemselves any more than an architect would prefer his sketches for a building over the built in stone and glass building.  Creativity is fun at times, but in my art there too is much simple labor and hard work that are a necessary and (frustrating, pain-in-my-ass) part of the process.   Oil paint is a long and labor intensive processes the way I do it.  But to my eyes the finished product looks like princess jewelry ripe for a wall of a collector to hang on.  What I hate about drawings is that there must be a piece of glass between the artwork and the viewer, and I think, the glass is a barrier, perhaps only psychological, perhaps not that big of a deal to most, but a barrier never-the-less that oil paintings avoid.

Famously Alfred Hitchcock would claim that all the creativity and fun was in the planning of the shots of his movies.  The actual filming and working with the actors he felt was dull and boring.  I don't hate the realization of the artwork as much as the planning process, but certainly, with the first you get a seat of your pants feel of flying and then a slow down, where  creative decision still must be made, but at a far less frequent rate.

I rather envy the commercially big artists who have a stable of artists to execute their ideas.  All the big artist need to is come up with ideas, and he has talented grunt labor to execute the ideas.  I read in an interview with Jeff Koons that if he were to personally paint one of his paintings it would take him six years for one canvass - but with over a hundred and forty artists in his employ, how much more is he able to produce every year!  Still, the paintings I saw in production for that article looked like glossy indulgent crap. At least my horror vaccui painting will be sincere.  Primitive, mad,  but heartfelt.

I'm hoping that I can finish this painting in four or five month's time.  I have no idea, I've never worked at this scale before.  Probably at some point the painting will hook me and I will start repeating a well worn and favorite prayer; "Dear God, please don't let me die until I've finished this painting."

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Am I schizophrenic?

click on the image to enlarge

These four are bits and pieces of a much larger drawing.  I draw the paintings before I paint them.  Someone typed into the search engine "do schizophrenics plan their paintings?" and ended up being referred to my blog.  I liked the question.  Of the two living schizophrenic artists I know who have been represented by a New York city art gallery I only have definite information on one. The fellow who paints in oil plans his paintings.   The other who draws in pencil I do not know.

However, ten years ago when I helped design a large scale show of art by mentally ill artists at a clubhouse in Connecticut it was rather clear that most artists there did not generally plan their paintings.  One schizophrenic might have.  He had been an art professor at an art school before he got sick.   I read an interview in the New York Times with a schizophrenic artist who said that he thought abstract art was the best medium for a schizophrenic...................and to myself I thought yeah, it doesn't make you work too hard, just have fun and mess around with the paint.  But I'm all about the work ethic.  I've never ever painted abstract, and in my youth I had a lot of trouble appreciating abstract art.  But I have tried.  And in fact, just several weeks ago while researching a new, hot outsider artist who paints abstract, (he's new but he's dead) I saw one of his images and in a knee jerk reaction said to myself "that's beautiful".  So there's hope for me and my evolving sensibilities.

A little under a month ago I lowered my antipsychotic medication once more, with the cooperation of my medication nurse, and I'm now at a dose of 60mg Geodone while a therapeutic threshold for this drug is 120mg.  I have read schizophrenics having substantial relief of their symptoms at 60mg.  However, I exhibit as far as I can tell no symptoms of mental illness - other than having trouble concentrating for long periods of time.  My mood can be irritable, sad or angry, not nice things, but it all seems simply part and parcel of being a human being and in no way pathogenic.  If there was a problem with my mood there would be a problem in my marriage and my marriage is going along swimmingly.  There is no extreme in me. Probably the biggest oddity is my art and the subject matter of the images, but I look at a lot of modern art on the internet and from some sane artists who have been to art school and are showcased by outsider galleries there is nothing more shocking or odd about me than them.  I don't have a normal head, but neither do I seem to have a pathological head.

So I'm wondering if I haven't aged out of my schizophrenic disease.

Is it up for debate whether or not schizophrenia is chronic?

My medication nurse is against me going off Geodone completely.  She thinks because I was psychotic at 19 that I'm vulnerable to psychosis that that while off meds I might have several years of normalicy, but that psychosis will eventually return to me, as if I were a ticking time bomb.  Its genetic she says, you have a genetic predisposition to psychosis and that never goes away.  Also she believes that Geodone helps with depression.  I'm currently not at all depressed, but I am on MAO inhibitors and have a long history of depression that leads back into childhood.   Also I had episodes of mild mania around the times that I was psychotic.  Theoretically the Geodone could also prevent mania.  Mania is something I dread, as the treatment for it are mood stabilizers and those absolutely fuck creativity.

I'm also wondering if I was misdiagnosed.  I never heard voices.  I never hallucinated.  After a year and a half being in a hospital and labled major depression with psychotic features there was one short interview with an expert and bam, I got a new diagnosis that stuck as schizoaffective.  He said that simply while talking with me, while I was heavily medicated, he could tell the underlying illness was schizoprhenic in nature.

So maybe I talk like a weirdo.

My husband has said that I don't have a tact bone in my body.  He says I miss subtle social clues and blunder.  Since I don't know what he's talking about, and since I usually don't ever get embarrassed by anything I say, this blundering business is in his head, his reaction, and thankfully for my peace of mind, not in my own.  Imagine fearing before you talk that you will blunder.  That's something from my awkward teenage years, but I'm long over it.  My husband isn't embarrassed by me, rather he thinks I'm cute.  So for a long time now my ego has been telling me that he loves me for my wit and intelligence, but I have been newly informed that what he loves the most is my blunders.   I'm still rather pissed that several months ago while I was talking my mother covered my mouth with both her hands in order to shut me up.  All I had said to a third party was that in our kitchen our coat rack is very important to us because it  matches our dishes.  Which it does.  The dishes are green jadeware glass and the coat rack has green jadeware glass knobs at the end of its hooks.  Even my husband is puzzled why my mother covered my mouth.  He thinks the episode was funny.  But it was not singular in that I know that what comes out of my mouth sometimes makes my mother uncomfortable.  She would never, ever, cover the mouth of any of her other kids.  And hey, the pictures at the beginning of the post wouldn't be appreciated at all by my mother either.  So I think there is something fundamental about me that my mother rejects.

Since I've come down a great deal on my medication I realize that in conversation with people I only have two options.  One, I can say what I'm thinking.  Two, I can think something and stay silent.  But really I'm not built for any other mode of being.

The overall composition for this painting was initially planned late last August in a small, quarter size drawing.  I showed it to my husband and he said oh, that's so schizophrenic.  I told him that while I look at a lot of art by schizophrenics due to my relentless research about outsider art, he's seen relatively little of the real thing, by people who were institutionalized as insane for life back in the last century and before medication, so he really didn't know what he was talking about.

Still my husband sticks to his guns, and says that there is mental illness in my art.

I don't care. The bottom line is that I make art that is exciting to me.

And usually my life doesn't suck.  Its pretty fun.  Planning the biggest painting I've ever done is rather stressful to me, but as I've broken it down into bits and pieces, I always know what the next step is.

For at least the next week, maybe two weeks, I will be drawing the flowers of the bridal bouquet.  It is a very large and flowing bridal bouquet.  That ends with a baby in a basket.