Saturday, January 24, 2009

Why I Make Art

Back then, in those preteen years of mine, my fingers used to wiggle. Sometimes my arms moved around simultaneous to the finger wiggle. Draw anything and the wiggle would stop: A chair in the restaurant, a pant leg (with or without shoe), a couch in a living room, or weeds growing outside the window. Whatever it was, people liked it. They told me I had a secret; that I possessed the miracle of art making that they could appreciate but not understand. I could pretend I was self-conscious, making a fuss about not wanting to show my sketches. That way I could reinforce their belief that I held a secret. And if I did finally allow the sketchbook to be opened by them, they were suitably awe struck and did not try to pry the miraculous secret from me.

And I, to play my part, was suitably silent and humble.

When my mother was dying of brain cancer, for the last four months of her life, I cared for her day and night. People would tell me how wonderful, how brave I was. They thought I was being so completely unselfish. I must hold some kind of secret, because they thought they wouldn't be able to do that sort of thing. But I moved into my parents' house, bathed, coaxed sips of water into, changed the diaper of, held the hand of, and tried desperately to understand the mumbled mixed up words of my dying mother for completely selfish reasons.

I wanted to be like God. I wanted to understand everything. I wanted to be omniscient. I wanted to make instant connections between life and death, and have it all make sense. I wanted to know everything and hold it all in my hands. I wanted to hold my mother's pain and her inability speak, her jumbled, mumbled words, even my dad's false teeth or the dead skin that peels off my feet, my mom's diseased cells multiplying as a cancerous tumor, her dog that never left her side, the scar on her head, the one on her neck, and her missing ovary. I wanted to care for it all.

But all I could do was care for my dying mother, and make art. I made vessels so I could try to hold that cancer and pain.

Now, I'm older. I no longer want to be like God. The vessel stage has passed (sort of). My fingers no longer wiggle and I'm happy to shove my art work in front of anyone feigning interest.

There are no more secrets. Even if there ever was one, it was only ever this simple: This is what I do.


mondokat said...

Jeanie! Excited to be taking your class once again. Thank u for the card :) Love reading your posts! :) Karina

noho1960 said...

Because it is what you do. It is just that simple and, naturally, that complex. I'm glad to be in your circle of art.