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 sad.....................so 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 me................my 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!