Art doesn't lie. Unlike humans, with necessary defenses, art is not deceptive. What's there is there, for all to see. It is why I love it, but why it takes courage to make it. Especially at some turns of our lives. Art is like the mirror to the moon of Truth, as in this piece, Willamette Moon. I was struggling with details, but had to step back to see the compositional integrity. True also in the composition of my life, day to day. My challenge? to be mindful in the little things, yet wear Life as a loose garment. I know I am not alone in this. The artwork got it's space to breathe from the dialog between detail and the larger compositon. We have to weigh and work with these contrasts.
While making my own artwork, I have also worked for over 26 years as an art therapist. My population has been very young traumatized children who have seen the underbelly of a changing America (living in meth labs, suffering abuse from adult addiction, maltreatment, the works). When people ask I tell them these are resilient children; they live beyond the ugly things done to them, and have the courage to grow on and grow up every day in the hidden war zone of our country. Few people see their amazing successes. My colleagues and I find it hard and rewarding work.
A colleague stopped me yesterday, and gave me the gift of Truth. He came and sat a moment, confronting me with gentle, steady notice of my decline in ability to walk, crawling along the walls, life with Meniere's Disease. Its been my personal enemy. The bain I've fought, that slowly takes me further from the front lines where younger troups needed help to suit up and show up in this daily siege for renewing hope. He said simply: "We see you. You have not given up. But we see that you suffer. Antonia, you are disabled." It is true. I cannot walk for days at a time, or even sit up. After 8 years of this, trying everything to stay upright, I still cannot mentally or physically outrun the decline, the nausea, the hearing loss; surgeries that cut into both sides of my head to rebuild the balance chambers, special diets, physical rehabilitation, learning sign. I live like this found object sculpture, At Sea on Land.
Again what saves me is the Truth. I am disabled in my ability to overcome living in a broken body. But that's not the right job description. It comes to this: "If you wear out your skin house, where are you going to live?" The pace, the push, the American demand that people of skin and bones be replaceable as machines, under estimates what we do that machines don't. We feel, and we mitigate suffering by sharing it and diluting it down, like filtering the sediment from water that it may run clear again. We create out of everything, and nothing. As a therapist, "the trick is to metabolize pain as energy". Artists do this as a way of life. It is what has allowed me to stay in clinical work as long as I have. But art is about truth, always.
I see now that I am this bird, "Fast Bird". My mind reaches for flowers, and my frantic pace is halted, like the bird whose wings hover while suspended between panels. She's caught in the present. As am I. May West said some of us who cannot be a positive role model can at least be a terrible warning. Do not believe the current American myth. Do not believe that faster is better, or more right, or more worthy every time. Fast is an option, like deliberate is an option. Mindful is an option. And when it hurts, stopping has to be an option. Not necessarily a failure. Okay, I am disabled in my ability to move fast. And in my art, I can do anything. Except ignore the truth.
How do you face your truth?