Sunday, January 7, 2007

People With Their Eyes Closed/Baby Girl (1984)

Looking at the first image, I remember those last dark years before I began to recover from an eating disorder. When I did that drawing, I was 34 years old, within months of the end of a marriage that was dead, and acutely aware that as long as I had an eating disorder I would never be able to be a mother. I didn't know where this drawing came from, as I had not had this image in mind when I sat down to draw. The image still disturbs me almost to nausea. 

During this time, a friend of mine commissioned me to do a drawing from a photograph of her firstborn daughter. I didn't think that my style lent itself to doing portraits of babies, and I said so. She insisted that whatever I did would be fine. She was pleased with the result. I almost didn't post this drawing because today I find the vulnerability of this happy baby girl, drawn in this manner, to be unsettling. 

As I wrote in my December 15th post, the human body is vulnerable and sacred. When I did the drawing, I was not at all in touch with my own vulnerability because I was eating massive amounts of food to keep from feeling vulnerable. 

 One of my earliest memories, at 2 years and 1 month old, is that I was standing next to a stone birdbath which had a statue in the middle of it. I looked down at the clear water and old leaves at the bottom of the birdbath and debated whether I should touch the water. It looked beautiful to me. At that age I was quite aware that there were many things I wasn't supposed to touch, and I knew I didn't want to be punished. But the water was so inviting, and I decided to take the risk. I remember reaching my hand into the cool water and then being startled to hear someone saying my name. When I looked up, my picture was being taken. I distinctly and clearly remember feeling fear that I had been caught doing something I shouldn't do. I felt vulnerable and not at all sacred. I am always amazed when I see people talking in front of 2 year olds as if they were not present.


Loren said...

I'll have to admit that I can't quite imagine commisioning a picture in this style of one of my children.

Perhaps it's the color, more than the style that I find disturbing. As you pointed out there are some resemblances to Diego Rivera, but his colors amost seem diametrically opposed to the colors in most of the paintings you're showing.

My favorites are those where this sense of alienation somehow seems most appropriate.

am said...

Yes, I agree. Diego Rivera's colors are not like mine in the drawings I've been posting recently. I believe that the man who bought one of my drawings, and who commented that it made him think of Diego Rivera, was referring to the particular painting by Rivera, which was called Flower Day, where the people were looking into picture space much as the two people were in my drawing, "Season of Glass." The word "alienation" well describes what many of these drawings are addressing. Thanks for your comments!