After my infection drawing I thought something a little prettier was in order. I've titled this "Connection" which has no correlation to my infection that had not gone full scale when I did this after Thanksgiving. This was driven by thoughts of connecting with a dear friend. I won't say much beyond that because I prefer the individual viewer to have their own experience.
As an update, my infection is doing much better. I still have noticeable swelling and several more days for it to clear, but things took a decided turn for the better last night. With that I was able to let my company know that I could fly to Texas for a couple of days to take care of some work related to Hurricane Ike. These are jobs that present the challenge of trying to determine what happened when the structure is no longer present. I'm usually so busy locally that they can't send me to do disaster work, but since I just returned to work last week, I have a very low inventory of assignments.
I agree with geek who commented, "You seem to be having a good time in going to the doctor." It has been a weird few months of injuries and infections. Ironic that I am so meticulous about form when I lift weights and yet I blow my shoulder (which is doing very well) while lifting. I am also very diligent about washing my face and caring for my skin and yet I get a truly nasty and serious bacterial infection on my face. More little tidbits to place in my life anecdotes file. I now have a new story for when the conversation turns to things grotesque.
I'll forewarn readers that this post involves a somewhat graphic description of life with my holiday delivered skin infection. You've been warned. First, I'll back things up a bit. After my surgery I was put on a corticosteroid to help bring down the inflammation in my shoulder so we could forcefully break up the scar tissue. Yes, that is as fun as it sounds. One of the side effects of the steroids is a suppressed immune system.
I quickly started having what appeared to be aggressive breakouts on my face. Acne is another side effect. There may have been a little acne but what I was actually getting were small infections. Friday after Thanksgiving my body evidently had more than it could stand and the infection went full scale. The side of my face swelled into a rock hard mass by Saturday evening. Sunday morning the swelling was so severe that the shape of my mouth is distorted and I could barely open my mouth to eat.
Monday morning came and it was getting worse. I was going to go to the doctor or the emergency room. It took five or six calls to get a single Dermatologist's office to actually answer their phone after 9:00 a.m.. I'll save that frustration for another post. I got in Monday morning and the doctor gave me three injections into the abscess...also as fun as it sounds. I was sent home with antibiotics, antibiotic ointment and told to apply warm compresses to facilitate drainage of the abscess. I was also warned at least three times that if my fever spiked or the abscess got worse...even a little...that I needed to go to the emergency room immediately. I started realize that my doctor was very concerned. Turns out this was a serious infection caused by one of the same bacterias that cause staph or strep (these little bugs are everywhere). ...and it's highly contagious. ...and can become a widespread infection. Ick!
Gross out warning! After lunch on Tuesday the drainage began. This was nasty gooey never ending puss. I've never had such a thing on my body. I've never seen so much puss. It is difficult to describe the volume effectively. Nasty and disgusting. This stage has settled for one area but I still have another that has yet to subside or drain. Joy! It feels like I'm about half-way through this phase. The remainder will be for my skin to recover, which is a complete disaster at this point. I also expect that I may be placed on a second course of antibiotics.
So the picture below is a bit exaggerated...but not by much. This is however exactly what it has felt like. That's my post Thanksgiving in a nutshell. I'm happy it happened on Friday because I had a great Thanksgiving with friends where the food ran from traditional American to Haitian family recipes to Chinese. It was also the first time in three months or more that my friend Xiaoyan and I were able to talk for more than 15 minutes. Were it not for Moseby (he needed to be let out ), I would have been there well past 2:00 a.m.. She and I never run out of conversation. Never have. We live more than 2 hours from one another and don't have lots of opportunities to meet up and are only able to get short calls during the week. So I'm happy the infection waited until the day after Thanksgiving.
One thing I've started doing is some sketches specifically intended as a skills practice. I can lose touch with actual direct images when I'm so embroiled in the abstract pieces. Doing these sketches helps me to translate what I "see"...whether an actual image or object or just what is in my own mind.
Here's another variation on my self-portraits. I did this earlier in the week on the same day I finished the construction of the Left and Right sculpture piece. I have a friend who wants me to do a show with my various self-portraits. If I ever do such a thing, I think the show will have to be called "Narcissus".
Here's the piece I started during my Left-Handed Series and couldn't get things to work one-handed. Two free moving rods was just beyond me at the time. With a little right handed assistance and my welder I'm satisfied with the outcome. This is about the limit of what my shoulder can manage these days since it doesn't require much use of the hammer or grinder. More is forthcoming.
I know I seem a little all over the map artistically since I don't focus on a single medium. I can only explain that I have different things that flow and some are more suited to one medium over another and I am making my peace with that's how things are.
A little something I did this morning. I stumbled across this frame last night when I was looking for something else stored under my bed. Four of the five were done as a single piece and then rearranged. The lack of money for canvasses has turned out to be a good thing. I am rummaging for materials in my garage and elsewhere. Non-traditional materials and shapes are forcing me to think/work in different directions which is always a good thing creatively...even when it doesn't work.
I also have two small sculptures that are going through finishing stages. One of these was the failed attempt during the Left-Handed Series. I rescued it last week. Pictures coming soon. I am also working on getting/selecting a piece for a December show. After that I will spend some time prepping other pieces for a gallery in Fort Lauderdale who is interested in showing/selling my work. Very excited about these little developments!
Last night I attended a fundraiser at a local gallery. It was supposed to be an Urban Art Event, which was amazingly devoid of any black people. Don't get me started. Regardless, they had a great DJ and I enjoyed being able to talk with other artists in the community. As a little fun, they had a car set up where you could do your own graffiti tag art. I ended up covering much of one side since there were few who wanted to participate. I had fun and it got the flow going such that I knew which direction to go today.
I have these cabinet doors from my kitchen which I converted to open shelves a year ago. I don't have the money to buy additional canvasses so I decided to put these to good use. They will be a series in their own right. It appears the self portrait, ego centric view point is continuing.
So I've mentioned that I've started painting again. The first venture was not successful, but also acted as a reminder that I need to work differently with paints. The pastel work is very fast, single session. Oils require me to slow down and I have to do things in steps. Patience. Patience. This was a second step exercise. We've all seen variations of this somewhere, but I do like it even if it is nothing new. I have two paintings and a sculpture in progress right now. One of them should be up shortly.
A little sketch at my favorite coffee spot, Brew. Sometimes it is laptop city, but on this day there were these woman gossiping at full volume. If the Housewives of...ever did a South Florida version, these women would be prime candidates.
This piece was done a few days ago. One thing I'm experiencing after seven weeks of left-handed work is that I need to retrain my brain, body and right-hand as my flow through connection. This was about letting it flow.
I recently read and article in Artworks magazine about American painter, Richard Mayhew. He is a landscape painter who arose out of the Monet tradition to pave the way for a new "Improvisational" Landscape. Though I'm not a Monet fan or that particular genre of art, I recognize the powerful place it holds in art history. It was revolutionary and evolutionary. Mayhew's work takes impressionistic landscape and travels in his own direction. He is described in the article as critical of other African-American artists who use Afrocentric imagery in their work. Since the article is not available for online viewing I'll have to quote the section myself.
"...he feels strongly that the emotionally-charged iconography of Aunt Jemina and slave images only serve to perpetuate racial stereotypes." An example noted in the article was the work of Kara Walker.
"Even today, he takes pride in the fact that an uninformed viewer of his work would not be able to discern his race."
These statements struck me at the time of my reading and I've been mulling them over for a few days. I don't know if the example of Kara Walker was provided by Richard Mayhew or by the author, Sheryl Nonnenberg. I understand the desire of an artist to have their work stand in isolation, to be independent of the artist. In part, I think that may be what Mayhew's intent was in his statement. I also understand that he rose in the art world during a time when his race would have been seen as negative. The problem comes in that when the race of the artist is not known, it is assumed to be white. So, in fact, art is not devoid of race it simply falls to the default of Euro-centrist white.
I had some sadness for Mayhew, who after many years of needing to conceal his race to get his work shown, began to embrace the ideal that an expression of race was negative. I object to the idea that artists of color should hide their race, that they are somehow reinforcing negative stereotypes by revealing race within their work. Art can be the best venue to expose stereotypes about race, to express the anger behind racist images and the harm they cause. A piece of art can still stand independent of the artist while containing visible non-white images. The viewer might make assumptions about the artist's race, but these assumptions about race, gender, nationality, and age occur anyway. The viewer experience is what brings power to art. We all respond differently and we all have different tastes. The desire to hide race within artistic context is the desire to present a single story of art. We need more than one story of art.
While I was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art I saw this couple who kept working on photos of themselves. I was able to snap this photo without disturbing them. I'm not usually so covert, but I didn't want to disrupt their playful energy.
I think this will be the last of the work done in my left-handed series. I have enough use of my right arm to return to using it creatively. The best part of this exercise in working with my left hand, my non-dominant hand is doing regular work. Having a steady creative flow has been rewarding in of itself. I've been pleasantly surprised in that I have several pieces I actually like as well. I also don't think my left hand will be an idle bystander any longer.
I think the painting endeavor will continue. I committed to a larger than normal canvas today. A benefit of my NYC trip and all the art museum time. I realized one of my frustrations with painting is that I may not be working in large enough dimensions. There is a physicality to my art, which is why I'm so attracted to metal work. Add the extension of a paint brush to my arm and I simply need ample space for things to flow. A small epiphany for me.
Speaking of metal work...I have my next metal piece worked out. I just have to wait until my arm is strong enough to start building. A couple of months at least. I'll credit the creative flow from my left handed work for allowing the composition to come together over the last few days.
I did this a couple of days ago as a quick break between study sessions. I feel certain I will not pass this licensing exam. I will just say the $400+ of study materials I purchased were worthless. They were useful for about 10% of the problems. Kind of pissed about the time spent focusing on the wrong direction. Lot's of problems I could have worked if I had prepared for that direction. Other than additional study time, the stress of another exam, I am most annoyed at the $500 it will cost for a retake. I will also say that eight hours of exam intensity had my shoulder a throbbing mess by day's end.
...anyway this piece is called "Chaos" because that is what it felt like studying. There were 1,000 different topics in a 1,000 different directions all swimming in my head. I'm still a little lost working with the black paper, but I am okay with this. I think the Left-Handed work will continue for another week and may have a transition to Two-Handed work for a little time too. It is unfortunate with so much time off that my shoulder will not be ready for any significant metal work.
I got to officially ditch my sling today which was great news. My doctor is restricting my return to work for another month...not so great news from a financial standpoint. I can manage, but it will wipe out a lot of savings efforts of the last several months. I was working on this piece and things started to take a turn for the bad and I felt like I needed to file this under "Scary Fail" for the Left-Handed Series. Did I lose control? Is this more telling of my overall state of mind right now? Is this just one that should be crumpled and trashed? Maybe I'm just channeling the Halloween spirit that is hovering. Anyway...
I opted to start another piece and to just let the energy flow. You may agree that the stress of my week is rearing its ugly head. It's not a happy piece. My licensing exam is at the end of the week and so comes the moment of truth. Am I ready or am I in serious trouble? I won't know the answer to that question until Friday. Aarrgh!
My Left-Arm production has slowed as I've grown more intent on studying for my licensing exam at the end of this week. I'll be glad to have that behind me since it has been a looming dark cloud for much of the year. I don't really know what to expect and really hope I pass it on the first go round. My job may be in jeopardy if I don't pass. No Pressure!
I will come out of my sling this Tuesday, but don't know if that marks the official end of the Left-Handed Series. I still will not be able to lift my right arm very high, which limits work on my easel. I've been surprised that I've come away with some pieces I actually like. I also have been happy with the overall experience of doing regular work for the first time in a very long time.
I spent a lot of time in Museums while I was in New York City... Metropolitan Museum of Art...Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Chinese in America. Saturday was the only day that I spent exploring an area. I could not have picked a better day. The sun was out (which meant I carried my jacket most of the day) and the streets were full of people...local and tourists.
I arrived in the city at around lunchtime each day since my mornings were spent with JuWanda and the kids. I came armed with my Jennifer 8. Lee list of Cheap Chinatown Meals in hand and set off for the Lunch Box Buffet. I made a point to get things I've never eaten or couldn't recognize as something familiar . I'll admit that the boiled fish head was my favorite thing. For some stupid reason I didn't get a picture inside or outside. For $4.25 you get rice and four dishes and grab a seat where you can find it, which will likely mean sharing a table with a stranger. I think that just adds to the charm. Lucky for me I was able to use my right hand to eat, which eliminated the struggle of using chopsticks with my left hand. I can do it, but it is a slow process.
Now happily stuffed, I made my way to MoCA, which recently opened in their new location. This was a beautiful space and a wonderful interactive experience. There were a lot of intimate spaces where you felt in close contact with the stories that lead you through the museum. I highly recommend this destination!
From MoCA it was time to have a little snack and made my way to the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. What I really wanted to do there was try everyone of their interesting flavors, like black sesame and lychee. I went for the ginger ice cream thinking I would return later in the day.
I walked around a bit and enjoyed the afternoon sun as it danced around on the face of the buildings. This was another frustrating photography experience where I didn't get the images I wanted. I did a little shopping but not much. Though my arm in a sling acted much like a force field where people kindly gave me a wide berth, it also kept me from going in some of the small shops too. I also felt a spending frenzy creeping up and was trying to control the urges by staying out of the dozens of places where my Amex card would fly out of my wallet.
I relaxed for a bit at a nearby park and watched kids and adults alike enjoy the beautiful day. My favorite scene was watching a grandfather playing with his grand daughter who was only about 18 months old. The sheer delight in his face was one of the best parts of the day.
More food...I made my way to Prosperity Dumplings where you can get 5 dumplings for a $1 and I LOVE fried pork dumplings. Love them! I made my way back to the park and ate until I couldn't stand it. More ice cream was out of the question at this point. The sun was going down and I walked around a bit more and came across Aji Ichiban, a sweets and snack store. They sell a lot of the things you find in the regular Chinatown markets, but the bonus here is that you can sample everything. What little space I had for more food was filled here with sampling half the store. Yes, they are community dishes which can be a bit scary, but I figure that's why I have an immune system. My favorite was the shrimp covered peanuts and the Thai fish wafer, which made for great snacks on my flight home.
As I let go of the idea of doing any photography from a left-handed perspective, I attempted to do what would be my more typical photographic work. I recognize that I'm out of practice, which includes the courage to be audacious, but I grew frustrated with my high end point and shoot. Even with the "controls" that I have on my camera, I got irritated as I waited for my camera to do what I wanted it to do. I know how to trick a point and shoot to create depth of field, but this also became a battle with the auto focus and slow response time.
Most of my photography is people oriented and done at a conversation distance. That's what I mean about being audacious. You have to be willing to approach someone and ask to take their picture. You have to be willing to enter a conversation with a complete stranger in order to get a relaxed photograph. This is not a bad photograph, but it could be so much better. I had to stand at a distance and zoom in to get a more shallow depth of field, which made him more like a display in a zoo. I don't like that when I'm going for a more intimate photo. I would rather have a more intimate interaction with him.
...anyway, I recognize it's time for me to suck it up and buy a real DSLR if I intend to truly revive my photography.
A few little thumbnail sketches I did on Sunday after my time at the Met. Another stop that I had not been able to do in previous trips. I got to see the things that I most wanted, but definitely just scratched the surface of this amazing museum. I generally like this, but do find such a small format (3x5) a little challenging and limiting. I guess I like to flail my arms a bit with the pastel work.
Friday was my first full day in New York City. I got up and ate breakfast with JuWanda and adjusted to the chaos of two toddlers first thing in the morning. The kids were great fun and I miss their noise today.
I took the subway into the city to go to the Museum of Modern Art. It is always exciting for me to actually see so much of the art work I "know", and I've not bee able to make this stop on previous NYC trips. It starts to be a bit like a drug for me. seeing all this work that has clearly shaped my own art. I don't really emulate any particular artist, but I can see the roots of how I can be doing the work that I do because of what came before me.
I attempted to utilize my camera as part of my Left-Handed Series, and found it completely frustrating. I cannot let go in the way that I am able to with the pastels. My photography is not abstract...never has been. I couldn't get a single in focus shot all day and abandoned the idea by mid-day on Saturday.
These are the only things I have and I am still debating what my thoughts are about them. (The rest of the Left-Handed Photography just sucks.) This lovely pregnant woman was wearing a fitted grid dress which was quite interesting with her shape. I tried to let go of the focus/steady issue and see what happened. Though these may hold some interest, I think the in focus view of her was much better, much more interesting. The top image might be better rotated 90 degrees.
I did take some pictures with my Holga camera that day and will see what has happened once the film is developed. I also may post some photos from my trip, but they will not be part of the Left-Handed Series.
This is one of those days that I wanted to do something with my left-handed series, but didn't have any real thought in mind. Sometimes this works for me, sometimes it doesn't. I don't think it worked today...at least not for me. I temper my own criticism since I often have people who respond strongly to pieces I don't really like.
I'm getting ready for a little getaway to New York and look forward to a lot of art museum time in addition to hanging with an old friend. JuWanda and I have known each other since college. We played basketball together and have managed to stay in contact through the years. She's the kind of friend that offered to come stay with me after my surgery if I needed help. No doubt, Alton, her husband didn't hear that since it would mean he was alone with two little ones under the age of 3. Regardless she is family. Robert Frost defined home as the place that when you go there they have to take you in. JuWanda and I are home to one another.
I was "working" on something off and on today...more of an exercise activity. I went in to do some more work on it and this came out instead. Going with the flow.
Sending thoughts to Sumatra that was hit with landslides to add to the devastation from the earthquakes. In so many ways I want to be there, to help, to do all I can. I am trying to find a way to make that kind of "work" life possible for me. I feel like I am using my talents and intelligence to no good end just doing the day to day and collecting my paycheck. There has to be more purpose for me than this. I'm investigating work with the Red Cross, both American and International as a possibility among other things.