Wednesday, July 02, 2008

An Amazing True Story That May or May Not Have Anything to do With the Dissolving Guardian Angel

In 1997, in the middle of Miami's hurricane season, I spent several months living in the home of a colleague. She and her husband were off to NY for a semester, and I was ready to trade up on my apartment, so I agreed to house-sit for her before moving into a new place. It was a gorgeous one-story home, well appointed with antiques, located in Miami Shores, north of the city.

This period in my life coincided with an intense episode of depression. I dropped about twenty pounds... my diet consisted of root beer floats and steamed mussels, because those were the only foods that would entice me to eat. I had horrific insomnia. I have read of other artists that they don't create when under the shroud of depression: I continued to create, but in a completely different way. Instead of sketching things out, planning and reworking ideas, I just sat down and spontaneously did drawings.

This piece, "Promise.", (the unusual punctuation denotes an imperative) was done in the course of one long night, sitting on the bathroom floor, with a clamp light aimed at my face. I taped the paper to a piece of foam core, propped it up next to the mirror on the bathroom door, and started to work. The drawing is done in charcoal, with Prismacolor colored pencil applied to the areas of the face that swell up when you cry. The mouth is slightly open because I was trying to capture that moment when you are crying very hard, and you stop to gasp for air. The vigil candle in the chest window appears in several other drawings and paintings from this period, which was subsequently named "The Vigil Series".

So, I stayed up all night making this drawing. Just before dawn, I carried the finished piece, still taped to the foam core, out to the florida room, and propped it up on my easel, which had been set up in my established working space in the corner. I fell into a deep sleep, listening to the rain pounding on the roof.

It is always a wonderful moment when you have pulled an all-nighter, and you awake in the morning to look at what was made the night before. The peculiar combination of detachment and awe comes from recognizing specific marks you made throughout the night, seeing decisions that had to be intuitive or unconscious ones, and knowing that you were too exhausted to really "see" the finished work before you collapsed into sleep. It is now light outside, a completely different context than the one in which the work was created: you turn the corner into the studio, and the work is brand new. It is almost a Dr. Jeckel and Mr. Hyde scenario, where you get to see what your middle-of-the-night-self did.

So, on this summer morning I turned the corner into the florida room, looking forward to discovering my work, and spotted a large puddle beneath my easel. In this 2,000 square foot house, the roof had only leaked in ths spot directly above my drawing, on this particular night, and left dirty rainwater "tears" running directly down the center of my drawing. I was horrified, and ran for a clean towel to blot the drawing dry. About halfway through this process, I realized that I was making a huge mistake and stopped. Not leaving it as I found it remains one of my greatest art making regrets.

You can't really see the light water tracks in the photos, but you can in person. It occurred to me today while embroidering on one of my dissolving guardian angel paintings that there was a formal relationship between this piece and "Promise.", and I was transported back to that night.Posting will be light 'till Monday. Have a great holiday weekend.

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Blogger Libby said...

that's a beautiful story.

9:14 PM  

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