Sunday, November 2, 2008

Painting was a way that I could express the pain over my infertility

I come from a long line of artists. Painters, on my mother's side. My grandfather was an artist, as was his mother, and two of his daughters - my aunts. (My cousin, Charles Reid, drew the header for my blog above. Pen & ink first, and then he added color and digitized it.) Although my mother is not an artist, she has a gift of perceiving skin tones and seeing the nuances and variances in color. There is no blue, green, red or orange. She sees magenta and crimson...scarlet lake and blue geranium. My sister has inherited the family gift. Her eldest son appears to have the gift as well, which brings it to 5 generations. That I know of.

At a young age I realized I didn't have the family gift. Not only did I not have the family gift, but it appeared that I was much less gifted than the average student in art class. There was something about looking at an object and drawing it that I couldn't manage. Here is a bowl of fruit, here is a vase, here is... Art was intimidating. Daunting. The family gift was not dropped off at my door. Although my mom always embraced whatever I did. She was a supportive mom.

Nine years ago, after being married to my husband E for a few years, we appeared to be infertile. Thus began a cycle of hormone shots, inseminations, and then moving on to IVF (in vitro fertilization.) It was a gut wrenching process and every month my cycle continued to come with a vengeance.

One day, out of the blue, I felt driven to go into an art supply store. I chose a handful of acrylics, some paint thinner, brushes, and a large pad of canvas paper. At the time, we were living in a tiny guest house on the west side of Los Angeles. I set up a make shift easel with a piece of plywood, and I used clothes pins to hold the paper in place. When my brush first splashed color across the paper it felt right. I found myself wanting to paint often. And when I did paint, I lost myself... Coming back to earth 2 or 3 hours later.

Painting became a way that I could express the pain over my infertility. And, where I could escape from it all...

Soon a theme emerged. Having never been able to paint or draw anything that was recognizable, it appeared that I could do it! I could paint... vaginas. Quite ironic, really.

This shows the utter emptiness of the interior... Unending. Forever barren.

In this painting, there is so much pain that the edges of the torso and legs have burst into flames. The blood reflects the loss of hope. The amount of blood symbolizing the many cycles that have gone before.

Below is a painting in which my chaotic thoughts poured forth... You have an image of an angel in the bottom left, symbolizing hope. Then above the angel, an embryo in a pure womb. Lots of blood. Breasts showing the feminine form, with the black hand prints of darkness making their mark.

I'm not sure when, in my cathartic painting phase, I did this painting or the one at the top in pinks and golds, but I like them. Their colors speak to me, still.

I painted for about six months. Suddenly, my need to paint just...stopped. I've never shared these paintings with my family.

It was to be four more years before I became a mother.

Looking at these paintings, touching them, feeling the layers of paint beneath my fingers, I miss it. Perhaps I'll paint again. Thank you Memarie Lane for your curiosity about my painting.

****Note: It's NaBloPoMo, what would you like me to write about?

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  1. Thankyou for sharing something so personal.

  2. wow i had no idea it would be something so intense. i love the colors you use too, and i can relate to the art class experience. i thought i was taking classes to learn how to draw, but it turned out it was more of a place for people that already knew how to show off. i stopped going about halfway through the course, but the prof was such a flake i somehow got a C anyway. i did discover an unaticipated talent for wood carving in my sculpture class though.

  3. I love that first picture. Amazing colors.

    This is really weird--besides the whole infertility commonality I come from a family with some artists as well. I always joked that I can't really paint or draw (other than the occasional stick figure) but that I am really good at color. I am. I didn't really know it was a gift other than I can pick out paint and know when things match!

    You always amaze me.

  4. Wow. I think you should paint again. Definitely.

  5. Well, whatever the talents of the rest of your family, you are an artist. Art touches the soul and moves the emotions, and yours moved me.

  6. You do have many talents...

    I wonder what you would paint now?

    Hint, hint.

  7. Good grief, girl. Go forth and make some money with this!

  8. You've posted that one before (the flames coming from the skin) and I found it very moving then, as I find all of them. I think even if I didn't know why you were painting, I would know you were in pain. And I think I would be able to recognize why.

  9. These paintings are amazing! Wow. I especially love the first and last--those colors!! JC, have you read Crossing the Moon by Paulette Bates Alden? It's a memoir about going through fertility treatments and coming to terms with infertility -- how she came to see herself, her life, her place in the world. It's just a beautiful book because she goes beyond the desire to have a baby, to interrogating that desire and more. Not sure if it's too painful to go there again -the fact that you suffered through FOUR more years after those paintings is staggering.

  10. The colors are so vivid and I can certainly relate to the feelings behind the images.

    My husband and I were just talking about our occasional yearnings for our art days. I miss "losing myself" in a painting. I sometimes miss that person I was in art school, walking around with charcoal smudged fingers and paint smeared clothes, my head in the clouds, full of hope and promise.

  11. they are troubling... meaning they DID express your feelings fully! Wow!

  12. Intense and riveting. The sheer emotion of these paintings is remarkable.

  13. I can't take my eyes off these. It appears your family gift did not pass you over after all!

  14. These were so passionate. Thank you for sharing them with us.

  15. and now, now you have two angels as a gift for getting through all that pain.

  16. I love your paintings. I love the FACT that you paint. They are very raw and personal and sometimes they make a viewer want to look away, because its too personal. Other times, you just want to get drawn in.

    I am fascinated that you felt you couldn't paint or draw, and then one day you just did it.

    I have never felt comfortable or "free" drawing or painting, and I've always wished I could.

    The thing you describe is what happens to me when I write.

  17. You are so talented, so multifaceted, and quite a deep thinker. I love coming to visit your blog.


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