I am a bionic woman.
Seven years ago I thought I had pancreatic cancer. Surgeons wanted to remove my spleen, gallbladder and a big portion of my pancreas. It is a very long, boring and terrifying story but in the end I am happy to say that I am FINE. How did doctors even think there might be a problem there? Well, after months of going to pilates and trying to get back into shape I woke up one morning and realized that I couldn’t fit into my clothes. It was like I was instantly 8 months pregnant. Long story short I had ripped the fascia in my stomach and the hernia went from the sternum all the way down and my guts were literally trying to fall out. But the MRI showed a more alarming issue with my pancreas. (No one plans on this stuff huh?) So my pancreas turned out to be ok but I had to have a mesh hernia repair surgery across my entire abdomen. The surgeon actually seemed very proud of the fact that the used an entire “gun” of over 100 staples to grommet through the muscle walls to tack my abdomen back together through nine incisions. It was the most painful thing I have ever lived through. (And I have had natural childbirth!) I found myself unexpectedly for days in the hospital on morphine frantically pushing the button every six minutes. It was one of those times in my life where there was a huge non-working window in my painting. After six months I built up enough scar tissue that I could walk and wear regular pants again. After two more years I could do a single push up. A friend of mine says that was we get older we find the need to keep slapping patches on ourselves- both mentally and physically. Patch. Patch. Patch. I laugh now and say I am a bionic woman.
Anything is better than cancer so I was grateful. Am still grateful.
So why do I bring this up? Because sometimes a painting needs a huge repair. I had this happen last week. A painting I had been working on for a very long time started to go off track. And somehow, something else went wrong and then a little more went wonky until I came to the conclusion that it had to be majorly repaired or scrapped altogether. It needs major surgery. And that is not an easy decision to make. I was humming along before this thinking, “Wow! This painting will be great! People will love this!” (come on, you know you think that as well sometimes) and that thought is the kiss of death. It overreaches. I don’t know if it is overconfidence, (or arrogance) but something stops me. Puts me back in my place. ( humble humble) And then I have to see how bad I want the painting to work. What surgery it is willing to endure.
Over the years I have scrapped, painted over, scraped down, ripped to pieces, blurred out and ran paintings underwater in a kitchen sink and started again… and again… or burned them.
It is very painful. But more painful to me is signing my name to a work that does not feel right. Feeling mediocre leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth and makes me grumpy. That kills me. So I refuse to sign my name to anything where I don’t feel that I did my best. Sometimes the work still winds up not very good, and that’s ok. If I feel I did everything I could, then it is time to sign it and move on. Start to heal from it. I have many paintings that didn’t live up to the “vision.” You know- THE VISION.
I have found we artists suffer from this affliction and mostly it is a good thing. But it can drive us crazy too. Friends and family say “It is good mom! Why don’t you like it?” and I find myself with the most difficult answer…. ” I just don’t.”
So last week I took a deep breath, wiped out the face and hours upon hours worth of work. That’s the part that kills me the most- wasting time. (I hate getting lost too- waste of time). Although I do know deep down the hours were probably necessary and the lesson of not taking the painting for granted was needed (I am trying to tap into a more forgiving buddhist nature) but it will be a long repair and this painting will have a lot of healing to do… and I wish I had a lot of morphine… but it is necessary.
Oh! and don’t do pilates. That stuff will mess you up.