Thursday, March 1, 2018

1 Year Down

I found out this Tuesday that I am officially 1 year free from cancer.  Honestly it wasn't the information I was expecting to receive.  My past blood work from the previous month had suspiciously bumped up a little bit.  It was still in the normal range but significant enough to scare the willies out of me.  I spent a month tied up in knots mentally and physically.  (Seriously, if you need a massage therapist, contact me.  I can hook you up with the best!)  Monday I had blood work done.  Early the next day my phone rings and the caller ID was my oncologist.  My heart sank.  It was unusual for them to contact me so quickly with results.  But no!  The CA125 number was the lowest I'd ever had.  Hallelujah!!!!

It's still amazing to me the mental mess cancer causes.  It's like carrying a bomb with a faulty timer across a thick field drenched in molasses. Hmmm... photo shoot idea?  Future plans are overly scrutinized and re-evaluated, anything you commit to is worrisome, and your life becomes a series of ifs.  Don't get me wrong, I'm extremely grateful that my bomb didn't go off this time.  And I AM going to celebrate this odd little anniversary. 

In two weeks I will be in a two person show with Debra Lott at the Living Arts and Science Center in Lexington.  This will be primarily new work continuing the explorations of my brush with mortality from last year's solo show.  I do not intend to forever be the cancer girl of my local art scene, but while the ideas are still flowing, don't piss off the muse right?

Monday, February 12, 2018

Her Lessons are Still with Me

Let me set the scene - my studio 
A sewing project
Me in abject terror

Cotton is supposed to tear straight right.  Well that didn’t happen!!!!   

It’s very inconvenient of my Mother to be in the afterlife.  She was the seamstress and I was the painter when it came to projects.  But I did pick up something peculiarly brilliant from her.  Whenever she was faced with learning something new , she would find a kid version to teach herself.  She didn’t learn to cook until I was in high school.  Somewhere she found a kids version of the Betty Crocker cookbook and off she went with great success.

Well I need to sew a few little things for my assemblage projects.  It finally occurred to me - is there a kids sewing machine?  Why yes and thanks to Etsy, look what I have!

Batteries installed in the itty bitty foot pedal and off I went!  Even though she’s not here to fix my problems, she actually did anyway.  :)
Doll mattress successfully assembled
Muse of the Night Voices (completed)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

January 2018

Into Every Life

I’m feeling a little lost.  I’m not even sure what I mean by that.  Is it just the typical January doldrums?  Is it that I pushed myself too hard over the holidays due to deadlines and now I’m burned out?  Is it the monotonous routine of my day job that never truly slows down?  (Don’t get me wrong.  I am truly grateful to have a job, but it can wear you down at times.). Perhaps it is just the perfect storm of all of these things.  

On the plus side, I’m in 3 different shows this month.  Shortly I will have my first published magazine article.  I’ve been asked to do a two person show in 2020 with an artist that I believe will push me and my work.  And just last week I was invited to do a “big time” workshop in Kansas City where I will be able to teach my entire process, start to finish.  We will be working on location with a model, processing our shots, and then plunging into my encaustic process using Photography.  If all goes well, It’s definitely a step forward for me in my art career and brings me more street cred.

I want to do too many things right now and that’s contributing to my dear in the headlights feeling. As my mother used to say - you can do anything you want, you just can’t do everything you want.  Our house is in serious need of some TLC.  I’m feeling the pull to finish work for a 2 person show in March.  What I’m telling myself is that i’d like the freedom to just go into the studio and play.  However if you asked me which direction that play would take, I’d probably give you a blank stare and run away...  sure I have a list of “back-burner” projects that I can peruse, but does any of that move me with enough intensity to commit precious time to it?  Right now the only way I can describe this mood is that I feel as if I’m wearing a wet piece of clothing that is clinging to me.

Part of what I have been lacking is fun.  I don’t seem to be able to separate what I would enjoy doing from what needs doing.  This definitely points to me feeling overwhelmed.  As a way to reconnect to fun, I have signed myself up to take 2 workshops in the Spring.  Those most often help me to refocus and at least enjoy myself.

Thanks for listening to me while I put myself on the psych couch.  If any great epiphanies arise, I will update you, gentle reader.

Right now I’m going to go lose myself in a book and ignore the entire problem.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Old Work, Fresh Eyes, and Mood Altering Drugs

I was asked 4 years ago to take some nude shots for a painter friend, Emma.  She had an idea for a painting and needed subject matter for reference.  Fast forward to 2017.  I recently took 2 expressionist abstract painting classes.  One of the ideas that has really stuck with me is to turn your painting to get a fresh perspective.  Usually this isn't advice that would work in photography but I was going through my work looking for a different photo shoot when I came across the folder I shot with Emma.  

Glancing through the work, I came across something I had started but never finished.  Something about it still called to me.

Image as I left it in 2014

Well, it's Thanksgiving night and I have some free time so why not spend it in Photoshop?  I tried all kinds of things and finally settled on black and white with more abstraction of the image.  Tree branch and water texture overlays were added to the bottom reflection.  Darkening the image added more depth and impact.

This was definitely an improvement but the longer I sat with it, the more I felt it was still missing something.  All of a sudden a little voice in the back of my head that sounded a lot like James Edward Scherbarth was saying "Flip the image".  Oooooh!  Now I was excited!  I added some more abstraction and here's the flipped image.

I feel like this orientation is much more interesting and narrative.  Originally I felt like the person was addressing her problems.  After the flip, I feel like the nature of the story being told is more mysterious and may cause the viewer to pause to try to parse it out.  It is more unexpected to have the body that is literally coming apart and throwing herself down above in reality than the body that is more whole.

I suspect this is being colored by the fact that I'm currently working my way off of an antidepressant that I've been on for over a year now.  It was prescribed for its neuropathy side effects to help me with the nerve damage in my hands and feet caused by the chemotherapy.  I would be lying if I said there weren't some nice mood lifting side effects as well.  But now I find myself willingly riding the emotional roller coaster trying to rid myself of the last drug I'm taking.  Yes, this is the right time and yes, this image is now resolved.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Gratefully Filling the Bucket

Well, as most of you probably know by now the cancer came back.  Boo Hiss!!! But this isn't really a post about that.  It's a post about what I am doing to be happy, live in the moment, and be grateful for art and good friends.

In November I had another (thankfully) successful surgery, but I also knew that I would be facing chemo again.  With the motivation of a small window, I needed to work some fun into the time.  The open-ended questions of "What do you want?" and "What would make you truly happy?" are surprisingly tough to answer with a whirlwind going on in your mind.  But finally...duh!  What never fails to make me squee with joy?  A photo shoot!  

I set about devising a monster photo shoot and dubbed it Shoot-A-Palooza!  The location was set first.  I rented Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch's wonderful 1880s Victorian home via airBNB for four days.  It served both as housing and as a shooting location. How perfect is that? I have to give Trish a massive shout out for allowing us to invade her home like an army on a siege. About half of the contents of my studio ended up there. Trish as an artist herself "gets it" and I have to personally thank her for being such a warm, welcoming, and motivating person in my life.

Seriously, check this out amazing house!

Check out her art too!

Two of my best buddies dropped everything and flew up from Florida to model, work as set assistants, have an awesome slumber party, eat, drink, and be packed like rented mules!  Local buddies loaned me props, created a costume I'd dreamed up, and patiently listened to my coalescing ideas.  I can't overstate how grateful and humbled I am to all of my weird, crazy, amazing, generous, and talented friends that made this possible.

Below are some peeks from Shoot-A-Palooza.  The post processing on the finished pieces is in work right now.

I mentioned there were some crazy props right?
So many dresses, so little time!
Light's too harsh?  Suzanne's a genius with tea towels!

 These two photos need a little explanation...  My first of 18 chemo appointments ended up falling right in the middle of Shoot-A-Palooza.  Suzanne is a commercial photographer, so we just extended the photography to the new location!  Teresa brought this cool attachment to her phone and projected a movie for us to watch on the wall.  I must tell you that as far as chemo appointments go this one was epic and will never be topped!  We confused interns and amused nurses with all the laughter coming out of my room.

 Teresa is a fiber artist and I always tell people she can do anything and everything, but I had no idea she would actually be able to spin wig hair!  Holy cow!

It's so very rare that I allow myself to be caught on the other side of a camera lens...

As a final note, I want to acknowledge all of my friends, not just those involved in Shoot-A-Palooza. They say you find out who your real friends are when times get tough and I'm grateful to say I found mine crawling out of the woodwork! 

I must thank my funny, crazy, loving, inspiring, generous friends for entertaining me with dirty bitmojis, bedazzling a barf bucket for me (I couldn't make this up), keeping me busy and engaged on the art front, offering a willing ear at all hours, making me lovely hand knitted hats, hanging an entire frigging show for me, and laughing and crying with me.  I love you all.

Friday, April 1, 2016

How Melissa's Getting Her Groove Back

I can still do this!  (Followed by moderately energetic jumping up and down.) By "this" I mean, set up a photo shoot and produce something that I've seen only in my head. Photo shoots take a lot more energy than I ever realized. Thank you Amanda, Jennifer, Parker, and Emily for making the experience last weekend a breeze! 

This is the first piece to come from the chaos of the last year.
A Prisoner (To All My Mother Held So Dear)
Model: Emily
This Spring is time for a "come to Jesus" meeting with myself.  I have purposefully set it up so that I have no art show deadlines on the horizon. The cancer experience has lead me to ask some big questions and take a look at what I want from the rest of my life.  How can I get out of cruise mode into a more active, present existence?  Am I making work because it is meaningful to me?  How do I take better care of my physical self?

I have completed treatment.  Of course it will take some time to heal and get my energy back, but I'm finally seeing the potential for the rebirth of my physical and art self.  One of my nebulous goals is to get back in touch with my mediums.  Now is the time to break out the paint, paper, and wax and spend hours playing in the studio. While I'm getting stronger, there are new tools and old canvases to cover.  Also as a reward, I have signed up for 2 workshops. Nothing usually gets the juices flowing like a workshop - especially in an area where I have little or no experience.

It is time to see what work will come out of my studio when there are no deadlines involved.  Which projects will become important once the back burner list is fair game again?  

Love to you all!  XXXOOO

Friday, December 18, 2015

Getting This Out of My Head

I've never been that person who could just sit down and write.  However, To-Do lists spring out of me daily and clutter my desk at a depth of several inches, but not artistic prose meant for journals.

I know this is going to seem so obvious to some of you, but a light bulb hit me today. I can make creative lists!  

I've been reaching back into an older project where I applied textures to nudes. This year has shown me just how fragile a body can be.  

So here's the list that came flowing out of me when I sat down to think about ideas I wanted to explore:

  • My body the betrayer
  • I’m trying to hold it all together
  • Unraveling
  • This needs to be protected
  • Damaged and patched
  • Slashed, burned, and poisoned
  • This is missing
  • I feel like Frankenstein
  • I’m still here
Whoa!  Heady stuff for a list, but I think I've found my own personal way of writing to get ideas out of my head a little more easily.

I don't remember why I made this image or what the original inspiration was. But I now consider it the start of this new series. When it came together it just made my whole self hum. I couldn't stop looking at it. You know when something is right. This is A Few Small Repairs:

Once I've gotten the shoes out of my system for a little bit, I think this is the type of work that I'm going to take a few steps back to explore once again.

On a side note - my nude models (you know who you are), thank you so much for your generosity.  You allow yourself to become my canvas and are the base for all of these ideas.

Here's a peek of what's coming out of the idea of trying to hold it all together when it's only going to unravel anyway.