FROM THE ARTISTS JOURNAL
I wonder how Maya Lin felt working on the Vietnam Memorial?
The closet was intimidating, just as a blank canvas is intimidating. So you start somewhere. This may sound like a regression, but I pulled everything out of the closet so that I can be sure that what is included has a purpose, not just because I had a lot of stuff and shoved it all in. The path that each person must walk in their life is unique, but quite often they overlap with others. This piece is my way of telling my part of this large story. A carpenter will cringe at my building skills, a nurse will say I've got the meds and schedules wrong, a husband will say I can't begin to understand his pain, a daughter will wonder how she will raise her daughter without her mother. This mere closet is the tip of an iceberg of pain caused by cancer.
I discovered the artist Ed Kienholz.
Monday, Jan. 19, '09 : I was shocked! I got a check in the mail from the Henderson County Arts Council. I called Bobbi and told her about the grant. She seemed excited, then lost the train of thought. I wonder if the chemo helps, or just prolongs suffering. Crap, crap, crap!
I called Donna and told her. She's excited. We talked of venues to show it. I have to think about shipping or delivery costs.
Wed. Jan 21,'09 : Welcome President and Mrs. Obama. Gregg helped me with the construction plans for "Chemo Today." He's figured how to make it stable, easy to assemble or disassemble and produced a materials list.
My personality is to stand on the sidelines of a social event and watch. I don't choose to be the center of attention, manipulating people and circumstance to make me the most important. So why should my works try to do that? It doesn't make sense, as if they were a persona that's put on, not my honest efforts.
Thursday, Jan. 29,'09 - Tuesday we bought the wood for Chemo Today, but didn't unload it because it was raining. We hope to get the panels built this weekend. It will be 7'4" because the ceiling in my studio is just 7'6", which surprised me.
Mon. Feb. 2,'09 - Bobbi has had cancer for more than a year. Yesterday Gregg had a sore throat, so we didn't visit her. Friday we saw the new artist show at Blue Spiral. Very nice. There was a guy named Daniel Marinelli. His work was sculptural, wood and steel, with paper and bindings as well. I have to be open to adding other elements to my work. The first project in art school, a million years ago, was a quilt.
Thursday Feb. 5,'09 Gregg and I discussed Chemo Today. Here are some points: a story, a moment in time from despair to resolve. Maybe use a real "cloth" to connect the painted figure with the real closet. Hanging and painted boxes to signify prayers and supplications. Messy closet, maybe jacks on the floor, something to distract her.
Do I want to control interaction with the piece, or see where the chips fall? If we use a bathrobe I don't want that to disappear. Yet everything I want to control is me saying don't touch, this is a precious thing. But that's not the idea. The idea is to have people interact with the piece. Sting has a line in a song, " if you love someone, set them free". Control is power, and I need to give it up.
I am thinking that I will not physically be able to paint the bottom portion of the door. And thinking further, well I was worried about getting the figure right. I am not the worlds best draftsman. What else? How about a Hockney approach, have the image in pieces, maybe overlapping pieces of paper? What if I did four or more painting from the same photo, then piece them together? Okay, that sounds like a quilt. How to make the figure interesting, but not to trixie?
4pm- Well, it looks more like Duchamp's Nude Descending a staircase. I've done two collages, and neither is working. The B&W one has the hands descending. I haven't even played with the robe. Can I be an artist? I use Photo Shop a lot!
Saturday, Feb. 7,'09 I want the figure standing, and somehow have the robe connect the figure to the closet. Which may mean installing the shelf so we can hangthe robe in the right place. This project is like taking apart that old trailer, bit by bit.
Sunday, Feb. 8,'09 I have been working on the prayer boxes. This morning I'm doing one out of a Milk Bones box. I'm going to abandon the boxes. It was a good idea of using recycled materials, but it's too hard on my hands.
Tue. Feb. 10,'09 I've primed the 3 panels of Chemo Today. Gregg is home today. Hopefully we can put them together this afternoon.
Wed. Feb. 11,'09 The closet is together, except the front. We were going to install the shelf but found ourselves short a pair of brackets.
The interior is smaller. Well, anyway, I've been wondering about how I could physically paint something down low, with the looseness I've gotten used to. I don't see it happening, not with the results I want. But if I use one of the Hopings or paint another figure on paper, then glue it to the back, that may work.
Light quality. Right now the interior is very white. and bright. A closet interior would be dark, even with a light. Actually the light may be super dim. Maybe another word for artist could be decision maker. We start with a blank slate, make decisions as we go, but the big decision is when to stop, or "kill" the work and bring it back to life.
Sunday, Feb. 15, '09 - Gregg & I discussed the prayer boxes. He said most of them would be empty, the prayers have gone to their destination. However he said I might indicate on the outside the nature of the prayer in one or two words. I've learned that I have to stick pretty close to the pattern or I don't get a usable box. I tried to preserve the window in the spaghetti box, but it didn't work. I've been using boxes from my life.
Mon. February 16,'09 There was $50 million in the stimulus package for the NEA. Right wingers said art and culture were for the leftist elite. Robert Redford and others argued that arts jobs are jobs.
Even though the painting "Hoping-Claire" doesn't really make sense, I think I'm going to use it.
Tuesday, Feb. 17,'09 I got a rug and slippers to go in Chemo Today. I got teal paint chips the other day. In the bag of stuff Bobbi sent me was a flag that says "Strive for a Cure. She had a bunch of long scarves from the breast cancer place. I've draped them from the shelf and they add an interesting texture. The robe won't be able to stay on a hanger, not enough depth. As the last minutes of Bobbi's life drain away, it's hard to work on it.
Sunday, Feb. 22, '09 Bobbi died.
Monday, Feb. 23,'09 Doesn't make sense.
Tuesday, Feb. 24,'09 Gregg got the front built and attached. He put one of the doors in place. We've got to get the closet light in to see how it really looks.
Friday, Feb.27,'09 Donna brought me tons of Bobbi's scarves and belts. I started arranging them in the closet. Gregg and Forrest hung the doors. We may get the light in and the trim done today, but it's raining. After the memorial we are going to take a break.
Thursday, Mar. 24,'09 Yesterday Donna and I went shopping for more of the elements for Chemo Today. I had emptied the closet on her advice, and we started putting it back together. I had to gently remind her that this isn't just about Bobbi.
In SA I got a gook on Pop Art that had an Ed Pashke on the cover. I hadn't known about Ed Kienholz. He does installations. That helped me take the closet apart and start over.
Thursday, March 26,'09 Donna and I went shopping for stuff to add into Chemo Today. She's got some great ideas, i.e. painting the inside doors the same color as the flad and making a frame so the painting stand off from the back. And the pink robe. ( I was using a white one I had)
I came up with the idea of printing Chemo Today in a myriad of sizes and fonts and having them on the wall above her head.
Friday, March 27,'09 I bought the paint for the inside doors of Chemo Today. I'll get that done. I've also started assembling the prayer boxes. Hopefully this weekend Gregg can get the frame for the painting made, and the ceiling. There is trim to do also.
Saturday, Mar. 28,'09 A couple of good ideas for Chemo Today. A kazoo for sound. Pictures of Bobbi in an album, or wallet. I painted a couple of eyes and nose to fit into the mirror. I used the picture of the AIDS victim. Words are coming up. I have been thinking of printing them on the computer, but some need to be painted, I think.
Sunday, March 29,'09 I made a collage of places that may go into Chemo Today. Gregg also cut the front pieces for the closet and came up with an idea for the ceiling.
Tuesday, March 31,'09 I entered lots of medical words into the computer, enlarged the typeface and printed them.
Wednesday, April 2,'09 Donna and Gregg helped me with the words yesterday. I had been adamant that the words printed on mylar would be too shiny. Donna brought a sheer curtain, I was looking for a way to make the words not clear. The curtain did not work. We tried different color for the printing. Inadvertently we layered different size types. Now I have to test gluing them, seeing how they look before we adhere them to the closet.
Thursday, April 3,'09 The medical words will be big and rose colored. In front will be the personal comments on mylar. If we run them through Gregg's printer they don't smudge. The polymer medium works well as glue. Today I'm going to experiment with printing the medical works on stickers. That would save me one level of gluing.
I have been thinking of "path" and "fate".
Tuesday, April 7,'09 Gregg got the door knobs installed and broke the mirror. I installed the portrait. He also had a bold suggestion. The painting, B of A, Destroyer of America, is also of a figure huddled in her closet. It's bigger and bolder. We took everything out of the closet and I'm considering it. It's still wet so I don't want anything to bump into it. I have concerns. The painting wouldn't retreat as the other one does. This one hasn't had a mastectomy, a usual step before chemotherapy. RAPG sent a notice that our reports are due May 15.
Thursday, April 9,'09 I sent thank you notes to my representatives yesterday, so that's done. I did the hardest 2 days- which was gluing the words to the back of the closet. The biggest thing I've learned from this project is collaboration. It was something Alonzo Davis tried to convince me of when I did the mural in S.A. Now I know why it didn't take then. I wasn't confident enough as an artist. On this project I've gotten lots of suggestions, and I'm getting better at really considering them, instead of ignoring them. I bought two toys yesterday. I want them to signify that there are children in her life. Hopefully people will get that the words in gray are her husbands.
Friday, April 19,'09 I got the outside primed.
Tuesday, April 14,'09 I needed a lighter monofilament line to hang the prayer boxes. On our trip there we discussed the documentation. I don't want the whole explanation to be the first thing you see. We came up with an introduction that explains the history of a triptych and why this is a variation. Then we thought of a flyer that people can take with them that has the web address. We found hot pink paper at Walmart. So I need to work on that, look and feel. I'm looking at the closet and I need to paste in more word, in the top.
Wednesday, April 15,'09 - Happy Tax Day. Early in this project Jill asked me if it wouldn't be too hard. She was right. The words were hard. Yesterday we made the brochure and it made us both cry.
Tuesday, April 21, '09 I have lots to do, but don't seem to be getting much done. Yesterday we worked on my website and our shed roof.
Friday, April 24, '09 Yesterday we worked on the Chemo Today website. In writing the Chemo Today materials I realized that this project has done a lot to make me feel like a professional artist. Also Cathey Bolton. She's put the Canna Screen in the window of Art on Depot. Great exposure. I need to look for other galleries.
Sunday, April 26, '09 We worked on the website some more. I didn't keep the original pix that I put on my blog, so mostly I have very small pictures. Phooey.
Monday, April 27,'09 I transcribed these entries from my journal. Now I'm off to cut the foam core backing for the painting. Gregg is getting hinges. We think they'll work to hold the painting at the right position.
Good models are hard to find!
If you think funding for the NEA is pork, go soak your head! And rural access for the internet, YES.