Painting in Isolation and Transportation
by Mariana Furtney Fyfe
Last year, I found myself telling the group at a meeting of my
local chapter of the WCA how stimulating it is to be in on such
a creatively centered discussion. Suddenly I was telling them how
I have worked so many years in isolation; doing my own critique;
painting, drawing and creative work that was generated because it
was my métier. Using my intellect to be objective, and learning
by doing. Like many, I had a young family whose well being was equally
important and took all if not most of my attention.
Working alone as a creative person is generally accepted to be
the very nature of the beast. The muse of one's calling is a demanding
one and given any diversification of our attention is distracting
enough if one adds family venues. This is me, though, I had been
active in my community as my children grew up and flew away, independent
beings in their 'own write', as John Lennon said so succinctly.
It is not ageing that halted my public visibility, but Multiple
Sclerosis, Interstitial Cystitis, and fibromyalgia. These are three
incurable painful conditions with only surmised causes. However,
the love I have of drawing; street drawing is my favorite; and doing
quick line sketches of people doing things, did not sublimate with
the treatment and pain. The drugs slow me down, and halt my wish
to do road trips much. I am home a lot more, and in my own isolation,
I have accepted the systemic depression and loss of any wish to
go forth. The first, I treat willingly with therapy, the second,
with scenes that are distinctly specific of close to domestic themes.
Not a bad trade off when one considers how busy the world can get.
However, when no desire to go anywhere at anytime because the cost
of energy is too great happens, the journey is very inward and could
be stifling, to me and my circle of friends.
And I was so very grateful to be with this group of women whose
artistic expressions were diverse. Yet everyone's interests came
together and seemed eager to hear each other's feedback, and also,
invited to share exhibiting information; the lifeline of the artist.
The atmosphere was of objective and respectful fellowship. One language
of artistic and practical options excited my imagination and felt
just great! This group of sincerely dedicated artists help my spirit
soar with a lightness that had lain sleeping awhile. Most people
who work have the experience or some idea, of how a thought just
thrown out would be enlarged and opened at a brain storming meeting.
I both need and enjoy this kind of give and take, especially among
women (and men) whose diverse expressions still edged on my own
feelings about the amazing multiplicity of mediums possible now.
In any group showing, one can have this fact come to life; how did
the artist get to this statement?!
I am able to be there for a meeting, or indeed, any gathering because
one of the group went out of her way to come over and give me a
ride; another for this gathering, gave me a ride home. It is a hard
fact of life that if one is incapacitated in some way for transportation
that simply getting to be with others in person, or particularly
an Opening to be one of the group or attending any meeting all depends
on getting a ride. Considering the options is easier said than done
to get there from here. These options are suggested; 'call me';
'take a bus, train or taxi (or the MART')'; 'come halfway'; etc.
These are all valid under certain conditions. These also, take as
understood that I even know that there is a group or even two doing
a painting session together. Considering this last statement leads
me to a self esteem issue; maybe I am not wanted.
My experience with isolation issues cemented a year ago when for
the first time in my life, I broke a bone in my right leg. Because
I have Multiple Sclerosis, I spent five days in the hospital for
observation of how the operation and shock to my body affected me.
Immediately, I was taken out of all that was familiar, and thrust
into a new path, to walk again, and recreate my life. My friends
were super to visit bringing chocolate, and laughter. My room was
the envy of the floor. That part was great!
Once home, with my leg up in a 'boot' and immobilized except for
the occasional phone call, I communicated by email, largely. My
approach to creative expression changed so that I could draw up
to the table to use watercolor, chalk and colored pencil on paper.
This part was and still is, exciting.
For weeks, I went nowhere. And our family life changed, my husband
and I made adjustments, but a sudden death of his older sibling
brought more responsibilities. More changes.
Because of the slow progression of MS, I spend many days resting,
not doing much or driving anywhere. Lacking stimulation, I began
to feel very stuck, somewhere the cog in my wheel was lodged firmly
with no repair in sight.
A friend, who is a therapist, kept in touch with me and offered
to start having some sessions with her wearing that 'hat'. She explained
to me the phenomena of 'Dystmic Depression' and how one who takes
as much medication for treatment of serious and incurable physical
conditions, not to mention this same experiencing chronic pain is
prone to this depressive state. It is a clinical condition, treatable
with drugs and therapy. At the beginning, I was working on several
new approaches in my work and terribly excited with the results.
And then, there is the 'what next' stage. What and I doing now?
I am alone a lot. My friends who are active in the WCA are very
busy, moving into wonderful and exciting projects. I don't drive
at night. I barely drive during the day. Somehow, along the line
of recovery, I lost momentum. Feeling stuck is only the half of
it. Yet, I need to work in the studio. This need to create overrides
pain, yet, sometimes I can't work because the urge to do so is subdued.
The experiences I have had creatively with any member of the WCA,
especially long time friends. As a group are stimulating opportunities
for me to share, but mostly to take in. And my ability to take advantage
of these few meaningful connections is so limited by time and distance.
And I am not the only one so I speak here to share that I can't
take for granted these moments. The gatherings at which I am able
to attend because someone I knew was going, or there was a way I
could catch a ride but not intrude, and go somewhere to take advantage
of the enormous resource of shared talent are few and so precious.
I still do my work largely in isolation. Yet I have this other
planet axis where the community of artists and artisans exists;
out there but not exactly here..where my easel lives or can travel.
The feeling I am not alone in working towards a larger soaring higher
level of quality in my work, stays with me long after that sole
meeting has taken place. I do not exaggerate when I say this, either.
Hearing someone describe and answer questions about their artistic
goals and foibles is nothing to sniff at with no boring redundancy
If you can bear my elaborating, where I live in the boonies, as
my now far flung grown up children say, I can't hop a train or bus
to be somewhere at a meeting every time. It works because a friend,
or fellow in the group picks me up. They endure my rocky and tricky
driveway to bring me. Granted, my peers have some of the same visual,
or limber difficulties that make driving, particularly at night
a matter of concentration and they wince and barely get by making
it to my neck of the woods. Nonetheless, I am grateful for being
an artist whose peer creators have a willingness to be straight
with me so I can pitch in where possible. For the most part, it
is not hard to work things out. What is very hard to bear, personally,
is feeling like a pest about this if someone doesn't invite me along.
It is always the same people and one must respect that picking me
up is nine times out of ten not generally convenient.
Having said that, still, the way I can relate to a texture artist,
or collage creator, and artist who works in impasta , whose mediums
are wholly diverse, yet crafted in a similar language with the intention
to make a visual statement fills my vessel for another day, another
week, another path down the road. My own work benefits, and what
completed pieces I exhibit show growth. For this I am deeply grateful.
I am also, glad to pass this story along if it helps to create an
understanding. This is a deeply personal outlook. I wish it were
simpler, but complexity is the stuff of life, even with email, overnight
delivery..somehow, telling my story makes me nervous, but, I think,
explains for many of similarly physically challenged souls that
there is aloneness, and then, there is pain and a certain level