About the Piece
My belly is swollen hard like a drum
with cancer, bowel, ascites fluid and the effects of chemotherapy.
The bandage on my abdomen covers a drain tube that drains the excess
fluid from my abdomen. I am tired, too tired to stand, and I don’t
need to. I rest into the comforting traditions of art, of ancestors,
of customs that sustain, transcend and heal.
My left hand draws energy from the totem and its benevolent spirits;
my right hand channels this energy into my being, into my heart.
The totem is a woman with a round sun face; her headdress radiates
sunshine. Her face is kind, yet she is fiercely maternal and ready
to do battle. Songs burst from her breasts. She wears her heart on
her body for all to see. Her belly, unlike my own distended abdomen,
is flowing with life giving water. Her womb births a fish, a
traditional female symbol. The sacred animals ringing the bottom of
the totem are similar to the animals from Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendack. My mom says the animals embody the primal child;
she is right.
Excerpts from my Art Diary:
July 9, 2011: The day before I start a piece I get my studio
ready, I knead the clay, clean up the studio, and put a layer of
clay around a support pole. This is a ritual I have followed for
years. Getting my studio in order is how my subconscious is signaled
to begin forming the piece I will work on.
July 10, 2011: I have been rolling different ideas around in
my head for two months now, but still couldn’t settle on an idea. I
woke this morning feeling a bit panicked because I still didn’t know
what I would sculpt. My husband and son will be going away to our
Unitarian church camp and this is my one uninterrupted week of the
year to spend exclusively on my art. Even though I have ideas,
nothing was feeling quite right. So, I spent about a half an hour in
my bedroom quickly jotting down some of the thoughts that have been
floating around in my head. However, the idea for this piece was
different from any of the ideas I had been considering. I like when
my subconscious surprises me like this. I knew in a flash that the
idea was a good one, and I felt really excited about it. So, I
worked on it all day Sunday.
July 11, 2011: Most of the work I did yesterday on my new
piece I had to redo. I realized the totem looked too small in
comparison to the figure. So, I spent two hours redoing it. Then, I
just had to make the figure a little smaller in height. For the most
part, I didn’t mind. I understand this is just part of the process.
I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked, but that’s ok. I am
just grateful to not be in the hospital, and to be this side of the
grass and able to sculpt at all.
July 25, 2011: This past week I had to have a permanent drain
tube inserted into my abdomen to syphon off the liter and a half of
ascites fluid that bloats my abdomen daily. Today I feel joy because
I could sculpt for one whole hour; that felt so good. I feel upset
when I can’t sculpt and I think that comes from feeling like I am
ratting out on myself and putting myself last. Plus, I think I feel
so much like my identity is a “breast cancer patient with mets to
the liver”. Yuck, how dull is that. I need to try and sculpt
regularly to cultivate my identity: “Yes, I am an artist and I make
beautiful and meaningful sculptures.”
October 12, 2011: I finally added the figure to the large totem
pole. I had to work on them separately. It sounds like such a simple
thing and for some reason I was nervous about attaching the two
because I was not sure where the figure should make contact with the
sculpture. So, my husband took photos of me so I could see how my
body should connect to the totem.
Ever since this past Friday I have been in a dream time, or an
art/creative space. Going to an art show and seeing my mentor and
the other members from the Society of Sculptors made me feel
connected and reaffirmed me as an artist in a deep way. I just love
to lay in bed at night, or driving along in the car and think about
my sculptures, and a little thought about them will come to me, and
this is so comforting and I feel alive and creative and energized at
these times. These are things that belong to me alone. They are in
my control and they bring me great pleasure and satisfaction that is
March 27, 2012: Yes, I started this sculpture more than seven
months ago, and I am still working on it, yet it feels almost done.
In January and February I spent 17 days in the hospital with
additional ER visits because I also had a reaction to an antibiotic
that left me covered from head to toe in itchy hives.
July, 2012: It took me about a year to finish this sculpture
and my other totem pole piece. Gratefully, I was able to just keep
chipping away at my artwork when I was able to, until it they were