De Novo Natus Est
16" x 20" collage on matboard (analog)
This piece is my last one for 2022 and I think it is rather fitting in a way. I have spent the entirety of 2022 dealing with structures and organs housed in my pelvis. That experience has influenced my work this year and this piece in particular. So, a few things.
It often happens that I get inspiration for a collage while I am doing something that is not art related. I find that during this time, connections get made. As an example, I was getting ready for my day and once again thinking about the difficulty I was having with my body. The trouble all seemed to be centered in my pelvic region. Or is it my mind that is at issue? Or my central nervous system? I didn't know anymore. I thought about how the end of the year was coming up. I had just bought a DVD to help with relaxing and strengthening the pelvic floor. I had also made a few small collages with images of women arising out of some structure, like Botticelli's Venus. And then it seemed like all of a sudden this image with a pelvis just popped into my head. I laughed, thinking that, "Screw the Super Bowl, we ought to have the Pelvic Bowl". Women would applaud. "Finally", they would say, "some recognition".
I quickly wrote down everything that I had imagined and put the paper aside. My collage book was in process and I had some other things to do. Finally, when the collage book was finished, I began to work on this Venus/Pelvis idea. I liked the idea of a battle, (which is what the Super Bowl is billed as), only it's a battle between a person (in this case a woman), and the disfunction that can arise in the pelvic region. I also wanted to represent my time dealing with the traditional medical establishment which had been a battle of another sort. I saw the images of referees, (for me, they represent doctors or insurance companies), arguing over the woman and her need for medical care. To be clear, I am not centered on reproductive rights here though that is a possible interpretation. I am focused on my own issues. Really, this is what I like about doing collages. There are lots of ways to see the finished piece that all depend on the person's perspective.
I am really pleased with how the piece turned out. I made the collage of words printed on the green paper. I chose words and phrases that represented my own frustrations. If you look closely at the brown paper, the images are actually football players and a pelvis. From a distance, it looks like flourish-y scroll work. The design behind the woman is from Ernst Haeckel and his book, Art Forms of Nature. It's a bryozoa, a type of simple aquatic invertebrate. I very much like that we are descended (and share company with) from such simple creatures. All life forms are part of our heritage as human beings. The colors are important too. Green, for me, means life. Blue reminds me of water and clarity and calmness. And yellow is an energetic kind of hue. It's the color of our own sun, something that helps to generate life. Yellow, blue and green collectively also represent, for me, our hydrological cycle: rain, rivers, and the recycling of water through the atmosphere. And of course, there is the woman. In my mind, she is rising from her problems, transcending the nonsense that is the current day medical grinder, and being born anew, free of trouble and turmoil, steeped in comfort and good health. A happy ending, no?
I think it's possible to really have some difficulty with art making and trying to convey a specific message or feeling. The artist wants the piece to be meaningful; to encapsulate all that they are feeling and want to say. And the artist wants the viewer to see this, to know that the work is important. That's a tall order, for me anyway. All that I can hope to do in this lifetime I think, is make something solid; something reasonably well executed and good to look at. The rest of it, whether or not I hit the mark with the message, is all mine. I can look at the work endlessly and access my own feelings about things. But I hope that the viewer sees something too. I can't rely on that, however, as a source of satisfaction. I can only look inward to see if the work makes me happy or not, if it somehow helps me cope or feel better about life.
This piece that I made is serving its initial purpose. It is helping me to deal with the fucked-up-ness of our medical system: the appointments that are never in enough time; humiliating tests and exams; medicine that makes you ill with side effects; the non-answer, answer; and doctors who are well meaning but just don't have enough time to deal with everyone and everything put in front of them. The system is fucked, that's all I can say. It's better than in other countries to be sure, and it has helped me when I needed it most (cancer and a heart attack) but it is a maddening structure at best. I have met some wonderful people over the years, nurses in particular. But they too are constrained and frustrated by the system. And the worst part has to be that you are sick. You don't feel well and are not up to dealing with being on hold, getting a non-answer, and feeling as if no one is listening and that the situation is hopeless. I don't know. I could go on but...
Lastly, the title for this piece might have been any number of things. I finally chose the Latin phrase De novo natus est which means "Born anew". My experience with feeling unwell for a protracted period of time (i.e. dealing with chronic illness) is that your prayers frequently center around asking for a second chance. "Please", you think, "just let me start over and I will do everything right this time, I swear". There is the very real sense that you have done something to bring the trouble upon yourself. If only you had eaten right, not taken that medicine or maybe even had different genes. Who knows? I know that for myself, a second chance would feel like being re born; born anew with the promise that this time around things will be different. Hope springs eternal, right? (As I said, an artist can ask a lot of their work.)
It's a long post, I know. It's been a long year. I hope for anyone that made it to the end that the post brought something to your own personal table, as it were. Feel free to let me know and thank you for reading.
PS: I am not being cagey by not mentioning my medical situation. I have IBS , anxiety, and am recovering from a host of GI/pelvic issues. Menopause hasn't exactly helped the situation. Otherwise, things are just fine.