“You're not the same as you were before," he said. "You were much more... muchier... you've lost your muchness.”
- The Hatter to Alice in Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
Between falling down the rabbit hole and going through the looking glass, poor Alice was obliged to eat and drink things with strange effects, was mistaken for a flower, was given all manner of cryptic information by a variety of strange characters, was nearly be-headed, found herself forced to play a high stakes game of chess, and was ultimately unceremoniously dumped back into "reality" and expected to be her usual self as if none of it ever happened. No wonder she lost her muchness!
This painting is about re-finding my muchness.
Represented in the painting is the giant chess game played with an unpredictable opponent capable of changing the rules as the game progresses. There is a red brick castle (bearing a striking resemblance to Providence Portland Medical Center) where Alice repeatedly confronted the Queen of Hearts, the incarnation of capricious disease. A white rabbit in a lab coat provides guidance through a strange landscape but always seem to be running late and in a terrible hurry. The Red Queen (not to be confused with the Queen of Hearts) is a nemesis of Alice but also helps her win the chess game (did you know that the Red Queen's middle name is Adriamycin?). A Cheshire Cat represents a Soul Mate's ability to always appear at just the right moment, big goofy grin and esoteric references and all. At the top of the steps is the Hatter, slightly mad (but as we know, all the best people are!), who helps Alice face her fears. (A Hatter may also teach one to competently use a firearm during a period of weakness and vulnerability and inability to practice Krav Maga.)
And then there is my tough, red-headed protagonist. Alice has defeated the Queen of Hearts and in commemoration tattooed a Queen of Hearts playing card on her forearm, the card torn so that the Queen is beheaded. She's sending the Red Queen back to the castle, hoping to never see her again. Alice is blowing the smoke off the end of her gun because she has been practicing her marksmanship (in a parallel reality, it turns out to be really fun to use one's removed chemotherapy port as a target). Her friends the Hatter, the Cat and the White Rabbit have her back.
Around Alice's neck is a key... which I leave to your imagination...
Breast cancer is a bitch.
I was having a really bad body image day when I painted this. My intention was to show the tension and discomfort of having a body that neither functions or looks the way it used to, but is still not without strength or its own beauty.
Why is she green? Frankenstein is green. Aliens are green. Monsters emerging from lagoons and lochs are green. Kryptonite is green. And green is the color a person turns when they see something that makes them nauseous. It isn't that I beat myself up or am overly self critical about my appearance; its more about living with disfigurement, scars, muscle and nerve damage, ongoing medication side effects that damage hair/skin/nails and sexual function, and the necessity for medical garments that make your granny's undies look downright sexy in comparison ...
I refuse to make apologies for or try to 'pretty up' these feelings. They are what they are. I certainly don't live in this space on a daily basis; it comes and goes like a big green wave. But on those days my body is a Creature.
(The rest of the time I am an ass kicking force of nature. Just sayin.')
Risorgimento in Italian means "Rising Again." It seemed to take a long time but I came to a point when the worst of the flames were behind me, though I could still feel the heat. I felt vulnerable and unprotected, and I couldn't help but fear spreading my wings, thinking I might be tempting fate. I could almost imagine the smell of burning feathers: but there was also a definite surge of energy and a renewed interest in reclaiming my life. But life as I had known it was gone - consumed by the flames of illness, treatment and the aftermath of both. Relationships had changed, my career path had changed, my body had definitely changed, my priorities had changed, everything had changed. In a bolt of clarity I realized that surviving cancer had taken but also given, and I felt the tension of being caught between the depression of loss and the joy of knowing my own strength and potential...
I wear a lot of hats in life, encompassing a variety of roles and relationships. I am becoming more comfortable with the whole "cancer survivor" hat, even finding silver linings in unexpected places --- like adding artist to my self identity. "Blogger" hadn't really appealed to me until I began getting requests to talk about what lies behind my art. So I'm going to give it a try. If you have gotten to this page, you have probably noticed from my paintings that I am quite frank about my experiences. Some of the images are stark and difficult to look at. To me, beautiful is not the same as pretty. "Beautiful" encompasses complexity that can include pain, tragedy, and darkness. Therefore there can be a strange beauty present in stark emotional and experiential truth. I am a seeker of beauty within pain, and of the beauty that grows out of pain. If you are too, we'll get along just fine.