From the Studio

thoughts on art and process in action from a contemporary artist


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I’ve had an injured right hand for the past last week (deep cat bites can be brutal and swell hugely even with immediate treatment and antibiotics).   In this case my tendon on my index finger took the longest to heal.  So… no painting lately.

In the meantime Icaught up on my Art History reading and visited SFMOMA for a member’s preview of Mark Bradford’s work.  Two pieces caught me in particular- “Smokey” and “But You Better Not Get Old”.  Sadly online photos of same were a let-down and just looked flat.  These pieces had things that always attract me, things that dance between states- organic, but geometric, luminous, but with some intense, high-contrast edges, uniformity, but with spills and waves to them.  Also they looked like weavings, which understandable attracts me.  Uniform squares of perm-paper were singed at the edges, making their uniformity give way to a subtle organic sense.  The rows weren’t straight, but gave way to gentle waving…  I loved them and it drove me crazy not to be able to draw them.  I couldn’t even take proper notes because I was limited to my left hand.  His other work I enjoyed well enough and found interesting in concept, and but those were the ones that really moved me.

Being what I have been (a competitive gymnast, a martial artist, bouncer, climber, dancer, stilt walker, tightrope walker, and generally active person) I am used to being without one part of my body or other at intervals.  You learn to work around them, knowing that they will pass.  It always makes me wonder what it would be like to adapt to such an injury if it never went away.

How would I do work without my right index finger?  What would I use instead and how?  Which fingers would I give up first or last?  Morbid thoughts for some, but there are people who have to think about this.  My grandfather is 94 and has severe Dupuytren’s, but is still doing his life’s work, writing every night.  Last year he was considering amputating his two smallest fingers to get them out of the way so he could continue to type, but fortunately voice recognition software came to his rescue and he uses that now instead.  His Wikipedia entry barely scrapes the surface of his life’s work and awards (it neglected the Knighthood from the King of Thailand and his work there, for example).

Clearly there are people who make such choices.  At least my Grandfather is in a position to make them for himself.

I have periodically deliberately handicapped myself for an hour or two here and there- walking around blind, not using one arm, etc.  Even wearing certain kinds of clothes can create a severe social handicap in some places, and I’ve deliberately done that too.  For me it’s part of understanding people.  I think it’s important to know what it feels like to enter a room and have everyone look at you with suspicion, fear, disgust or disdain.  Some people get that every day.

When something like this happens- a little injury, it brings all these things to mind.  I use it as an opportunity for understanding some new perspective on things as best I can.

That said, I am grateful that my hand is now fine and I will be able to paint this week.

Written by Mary Corey March

February 21, 2012 at 11:43 am

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