It's 4am and I can't sleep. Insomnia had disappeared for awhile but the last few months it's been climbing back. I'm extremely uncomfortable at night. My upper limbs feel heavy. My shoulders feel like they just hang, like heavy weights without life. It feels like my arms, hands and fingers have been getting weaker. My joint pain has increased. It's not an HIBM symptom. Some patient's experience it, some don't. I do. Alot. I'm in constant pain in that area. I'm trying not to think about it but it's hard not to when your body is in constant reminder mode. I guess we take the effort it takes for our body to run smoothly for granted. The body is constantly working to make the unity feel effortless.
So I'm making use of the middle of the night, or rather morning, by doodling out future sketches and watching Ratatouille. My little Pippi is laying at my feet looking up at me wondering when I'm going to sleep so she can sleep.
"I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration."
Today is Frida Kahlo's birthday. She was an early 20th century Mexican Surrealist painter, a child among the Mexican Revolution and best known for her self-portraits. After her trolley accident, Frida neglected her medical studies and turned to painting during her immobilization periods. Her parents had a special easel built so she could paint from bed. I've often wondered what my art station set-up would like if this happens to me in the future. I try not to think about it (future) but from time to time it needles its way in.
She (Frida) painted from real experiences and most of her work are suggestions of pain. Despite her sad and pain-filled paintings, she was feisty and tenacious with a zest for life. She was not a typical woman, especially for her time, and often regarded by feminists, years after her death, as an inspiration and a feminist, though, I don't think Frida regarded herself as one. Her self confidence, despite her ailments, led her to do to be who she wanted to be. She was independent and chose not to fall into the trappings of tradition and marriage, and regarded herself a sexually liberated woman and openly bi-sexual. Her work was almost entirely based on self-portraits and autobiographical- something that is probably seen as a feminist act. I'm not sure I would call it that. To categorize her into a group almost devalues who she was. I think she was above such a label. Frida was Frida. Her acts of bringing attention to feminine cruelty were important but I think she just painted what she knew and experienced and what she knew was herself. I don't like to think of her as a female artist, I just think of her as an artist. I think it was her natural personality that caused her to express who she was and not so much about proving a point. She valued her life and took her work seriously even when museums didn't. She put herself on canvas.
Her accident caused serious injuries, including a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken pelvis, broken ribs and multiple fractures in her leg, a crushed and dislocated foot and a dislocated shoulder. An iron handrail pierced her abdomen and uterus leaving her unable to have children, a prominent subject matter that commonly showed up in her work. She later recovered but had a lifetime of relapses and physical pain. Eventually, her leg was amputated and she died at the age of 47. In her last diary post she wrote, "I hope the exit is joyful — and I hope never to return". One would think that a statement like that derives from a person who didn't truly enjoy life but I think she was just being honest. Her pain was real and though she did so much with her life I think she understood, and accepted, her own mortality and her place in life. We are important, but at the same time we are not. I think once we are able to accept that, and the reality of mortality, is we can start to grow and not take ourselves so seriously.
We often think people who express sadness, or real moments of pain, must always be that way, but you can simultaneously represent both sadness and have a relentless pursuit of life. I can express how the condition feels, but live my life to the fullest and with joy and passion. What is real is real. What is pain is pain. Multiple emotions can exist at the same time. I don't post art so people can feel bad or feel sorry, I do it to share because I know alot of people go through the same thing, even if it is in a different form.
Frida was recently exhibited at LACMA and I of course wanted to see her work in person.
Of course, like most artists, she was not famed until years after her death.
I had always been a big fan of Frida Khalo long before my condition even started. I liked that she represented herself as almost ugly and tortured by her own past, present and future. During lunch I would sit and read about her in high school, and appreciated her honesty depicted through her images.
Now, that I have a progressive condition, I still like her but look at her work differently.
She had many fans visiting her work at the LACMA exhibit and I had to traverse through the crowd of spectators who repeatedly ran into meright after artfully theorizing and dissecting the paintings on the wall. "Oh, sorry, I didn't see you." they would say as they ignorantly regarded me as someone that was in their way. It was ironic since they were just intellectually salivating over a disabled artist's art collection.
It felt weird to look upon another's emotions and pain- feelings that you are well aware of because of your own intimate experience with it. Her work wasn't all about social and political yet about herself and the agony. I sat there quietly rolling through the artist's emotions and it felt weird to add "meaning" to that. I felt like the meaning is simply the expression itself.
"Disability" is a person and not just a condition. Understand the person and only then can you understand the disability.
"I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best." -Frida
Here are a couple new illustrations below. I suppose art is the healthiest way I can distract myself. I'm very lucky to be able to use drawing as a tool to express myself and the experience. I seem to use it first, to make sense of things to myself, because I understand things better visually, and second, to make sure I am clearly communicating it to others. I often think the art circle is a means to be above someone, a means to hide cryptic deep messages into an image that only an intellectuals, an artist or the educated could get, but I think art should be the opposite. It's not meant to be above but with. Art is meant to communicate and make the viewer feel like they are a part of something. What good does it do if no one can understand what you are trying to say?
When something challenges you, something like going through cancer, a death, a horrible disease, if you can handle it with dignity, humor, expression and growth, no matter what the outcome is, at least you can proceed through it gracefully. I guess drawing is how I can make sense of it all. Thanks for following my work. I wish I could complete five new drawings a day. I have so many I need to finish. Time to sleep.
I want something that can never be mine again.