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Papier Mache Art and Recovery: An Update on Thanksgiving 2014

I wrote some or most of this in 2009 but I want to rewrite and update it..

Art, capital A, saved my life. It did more than that. Art gave me a new life, new hope, and something to get up for in the morning. It’s not that I’ve stopped writing. But I had been writing in a vacuum for a long time and needed an outlet for my creative urges that involved more than just my brain. Oh sure, writing involves the hands, too. But not in the way I mean. What I needed was, well, what do I mean? In some sense I needed more activity, if only because my poor brain shuts down and goes to sleep whenever I read, and it simply capitulates to narcolepsy whenever I am sedentary. I have indeed tried standing up while reading and writing, but this doesn’t work for someone whose feet swell very easily. And I find that standing up is just more distracting than anything.

But also  I felt an intense to make things, create objects or works of art that could be seen and touched and even smelled and if scratched or thrown to the ground, heard. I had no idea in 2009 that in 2014 I might even write a couple of rap songs before I succumbed to the impulse to retreat into self-imposed total mutism. If I were VIncent Van Gogh, I might even want to taste my art, but I will try to stick to real culinary arts when that urge overtakes me as I do not at the present time wish to be poisoned by cadmium red etc. Nevertheless, despite my lifelong love for words, I still wanted to create something physical, not just an imagined  or recalled world in words, however long-lasting.

I have always needed to work with my hands. I once wrote a poem called Hand Hunger which some silly psychoanalytic candidate insisted was sexual rather than seeing the references for what they clearly were, to making and creating and building with the hands, to MANUAL LABOR and not to — (sheesh!) masturbation! I mean, how stupid and dim can you get?

Anyhow, I needed to make something or do some sort of craft or artwork. Fearing/Knowing that I could not do “real art,” (YASS,that was ME only a few years ago, telling myself that I could never paint a face! Listen up all ye who think YOU can not  do art!) that I was not the stuff of which true artists are made, I always gravitated towards the crafty side of things. (But pray tell, what stuff is that, Pamela?)

So even when I – on a manic whim – dove into sculpture, creating that llama-in-a-day, Dolly the Llama,

Dolly the Llama at show

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the result was mostly folk art, which is to say, unsophisticated, rustic, and at best a craft-like work. Sure, I was pretty proud that I’d made a lifesize animal that actually stood up firmly on its own four legs. But with a deli-container-head (underneath the papier mache) and huge mailing tube body, scarcely concealed, big enough to have once held a large amateur telescope, it didn’t look much like a llama. In fact, the result was not much more than that tube covered with a few layers of paper and glue, and all of it painted red. Nevertheless, I was happy enough with “Dolly the llama.” I have to confess though that it took me a entire year after the psychosis and mania were treated to finish her. Her saddle blanket have fooled many into tugging at the finge to see if it is real or not. a trompe-l’oeil — eye fooling — success that pleased me no end.

But a year-in-the-making was too much time to complete a craft or artwork, even a life-size llama. I came to dread the work by the time I got to applying the last few strokes of paint. You really need more drive than that to do art, but I didn’t seem to be able to sustain the energy or enthusiasm for much of anything. in fact, I’m not at all sure how I managed to write even my part of the book DIVIDED MINDS given those obstacles.

Then, during my hospitalization in 2007 it seems one obstacle was overcome: on Abilify plus the Abilify-tempering Geodon I suddenly had both energy and stamina* (see bottom of post for a later 2014 discussion of this). Or perhaps it is simply that the medications enabled a “well me” to come out, someone who could sustain an artistic effort, even if it was for the very first time. Given a different life I would have been doing this sort of thing all along had I known it was possible, had I had that kind of stamina… But I didn’t think about this, no, for me there was no looking back.

What I did not know at the time I wrote those words back in 2009, or at least  the connection I was unable to make, was that I had actually been on that same antipsychotic drug combination for a several years before this sudden transformation. But in late 2007, however, a small vascular malformation in my frontal lobe hemorrhaged. This was a small bleed, to be sure, but I later felt and some doctors have also agreed this was not impossible, that the timing was such that the bleed itself might in some sense have been responsible for the sudden production of Decorated Betsy

Decorated Betsy: Lifesize Papier Mache

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and as my new-found compulsion to do art as well as the felt inability to stop…

 

Since that time I have jokingly said, “Well, a little brain damage (in the right place) never hurt anyone.” Of course, that is indeed only a joke. because brain damage almost always DOES hurt people. But in this case it seems to have wrought a miracle in my life.

 

 

Over the years since Dec 2007,  I have created many pieces, large and small, from bowls to two large tortoises and two geese, even a  “crazy fruit” bowl. Also a large seated man, a child detachable from her hassock (not quite finished) and several small birds. My female sculpture, the Decorated Betsy, even won a NAMI national contest on creativity and mental illness. But why tell you about them. I will upload a few photos instead.

I am going to try to show you them chronologically, but without the  many bowls I have made along with way, except for a few that are particularly special to me. Note that all the sculptures incuding a few that are not shown here, have been donated to someone or some organization, However if anyone is interested in purchasing a new sculpture, I  do accept commissions.

This is the Dream Tortoise, otherwise known as Yurtle the Turtle, which is about 3 feet in diameter. It was my second animal, but my first turtle.

 

DreamTlooking up

The prescription that this brightly clad psychiatrist holds in his hand reads: Dr John Jumoke, Rx: Art, Poetry, Music.  I thought, well, that  is one shrink even I wouldn’t mind seeing!

Psychiatrist Dr John Jumoke with Rx for Art, Poetry and Music
Psychiatrist Dr John Jumoke with Rx for Art, Poetry and Music

 

Trudy, papier mache child seated on paper mache hassock
Trudy, papier mache child seated on paper mache hassock, donated along with Dr Jumoke to Otis Library in Norwich CT.

 

Crazy Fruit Bowl with Mini-Melon
Crazy Papier Mache Fruit Bowl with Mini-Melon

 

Papier Mache Goose for Ruth
Papier Mache “Herr Goose” commissioned by Ruth S, one of my favorite artists and mentors.

 

Herr Goose after revisitation for repairs...Click on the photo to make a close up and you will notice neck "feathers and the difference it makes with old fully decorated version.
Herr Goose after revisitation for repairs…Click on the photo to make a close up and you will notice neck “feathers and the difference between this and the no-gold fully decorated version.

 

African Queen of Paranoia, without the large gold cascading earrings that I made for her but which catch the light too much to photographed.
African Queen of Paranoia, finally photographed with the large gold cascading earrings that I also made for her. Reminiscent, so i have been told, of the bust of Nefertiti…

 

African Queen of Paranoia (reminiscent of Nefertiti)
African Queen of Paranoia (reminiscent of Nefertiti) You can see that this resemblance was purely accidental, The bust was mostly an exercise in balance!

 

 

 

Papier Mache Bowl, painted with  slimemold motif and papier mache apple
Papier Mache Bowl, painted with “slimemold fruiting bodies and plasmodium” motif, also papier mache apple

 

Bird in Cage - Papier mach by Pamela Spiro  Wagner
“Standish” Bird in Cage for Tim – Papier mache by Pamela Spiro Wagner
Wading BIrd
Wading BIrd-given to Joyce Kamenitz, MD. Paper bird painted with nail polish, made by Pamela Spiro Wagner, placed on cellophane covered mirror with stones and soil mixed with polyurethane and glued to mirror.

 

papie-mache bird in tree banches made for sister by pamela spiro wagner,
Papier mache hummingbird bird in tree branches made for sister, Martha, by pamela spiro wagner,

 

Dr Geuss:  large Papier Mache Goose  made for the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont's Human Services
Dr Geuss: large papier mache goose made for the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont’s Human Services Approximately 3 feet tall

 

Tim with Papier Mache Turtle I made for him
Finaly, my dear friend and art collector, Tim with papier mache Turtle I made for him (so you can get an  idea of the size) Turtle’s head is large but the photo was also taken at angle so it looks larger…Notice copper sneakers, two of them with laces!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*As for Abiilify and Geodon “causing” my stamina and better endurance? I dunno what to say? I have little social stamina even now. But I stopped the Geodon almost as soon as I restarted it. I just feared taking any drug that prolongs the QT interval, one, and isn[t  even approved in Europe for heaven’s sake! Why is that? I can think of two reasons. One is that it is NOT effective at all, not even enough for them to fake-believe it, or two, it is too dangerous for the Europeans even to subject their mentally ill to it.  There may be other reasons why the European Union declined to approve Ziprasidone, but I cannot think of any other obvious reasons.

 

As for the Abilify, well, I have taken it, more or less, since I was in Care Bed, largely because they got me onto it and I am scared, frankly to stop it…And yet, I do have to “get myself” to take it each and every day, stop myself from simply removing it from the slot in the pill tray that it is in…I should. slowly, but I am afraid, I confess. My therapist at the Northeast Kingdom Human Services told me yesterday that I came extremely close to having been forced into the hospital this month…and she is worried about me if I do not take the fricking drug. But I do not believe it does a danged thing for me, nothing bad either, nothing bad that tis obvious at any rate…But what will it do down the road, and what was that stuff going on with my mouth when I was OFF it??? I want to know but I know no one will tell me or even test me for TD, because they do not want to KNOW…They do not want toi know if the  drug is causing brain damage because of the consequences of their KNOWLEDGE both from me and for them.

FUCK THEM and FUCK ME. I don’t know what to do. Everyone has an opinion and everyone has a different opinion and because I do NOT TRUST MYSELF to know myself or my needs, I listen to everyone at least temporarily. I listen to everyone! But I cannot trust what anyone, any one single person tells me, because I do not actually trust any single person to know a goddam thing about it OR to tell me the fucking truth. That  is the problem. Even Nancy, the APRN, who admitted that the drugs were imperfect and very broad targeting, etc seemed to be too enthusiastic for them, rather than trying to find a way NOT to use them. But that may have been because I myself raised a stink about their having taken a WHOLE bottle of expensive pills (GEODON) from my bags at CARE BED and not returned them to me,…I did not like that one bit.

i mean, I am not going to overdose or sell the meds, but I want what I came in with, and they are MY pills, goddam it! Wh=at right does ANY one have to take them from me! So i partly agreed to the Geodon just to get my bottle of pills back, only then it turned out that they wanted to give me a weekly tray so I would try to be compliant …so I did not get the entire bottle only a week’s worth which I frankly am not even taking.

 

I do not want to take any pills except for what I FEEL in my soul I need! I NEED 1) methylphenidate, or I cannot stay awake to do anything, esp not to drive any farther than 10 minutes  away, if even that. I start yawning about 15 minutes after I wake up…You may think this is a bad drug for someone with a propensity for psychosis but having narcolelpsy is NOT my fault…I cannot stay awake for the life of me. And that was true well before I ever took any other drug. 2) I need topiramate because I really fear seizures, and because if it just reduces my headaches by one a week, it is worth it. I take severall vitamins in larger than usual  but not mega-doses. I take a very small dose of a thyroid medication also, which I would not want to stop…Do I NEED Abilify or Geodon? Some people who have known me for  years and in and out of hospitals say “Yes, absolutely!” some others say, No, not if you reduce the dose very very slowly..”

 

I do not have ANY inkling myself, none at all, but I want to believe NOT…I do not feel that these drugs do a thing at all frankly. Except bad things, especially in the case of Geodon. I do not usually like it when people tell me what to do, but I wish wish wish in this case that SOMEONE with influence would indeed tell me what to do. Precisely..and convince me. But no one is in that position, not any more. I am just alone and fucked…My therapist practically said, no she DID say: f you end up in the hospital it will be no one’s fault but your own, because you won[ take the Abilify….What sort of thing is that to tell me??? Should I just accept that and be quiet or what? Is she right? I didn’t like it one bit. I felt utterly abandoned and scolded and also basically told, well, you heard! It WILL BE YOUR FAULT! YOU TAKE THOSE PILLS OR WE BLAME YOU!!!!

 

Enough of this shit…I should, I suppose, have written something about my gratitude for this lovely holiday, the original one that presaged a wholesale slaughter of our good “Indian” buds we had over for the first T-day…ha ha ha.  And how grateful I am for this wonderful country that treats everyone “equally” and with compassion and kindness (justice? Oh well, we need not mention JUSTICE, need we?Justice goes without saying, don’t it???) Ha ha ha, of course if you are melanin-challenged you might not agree that justice nor social compassion…But some folks in MO, and a certain MO town these past few days and nights have come to a different understanding about such things.

 

Okay enough for the “holy-day” chatter from me for now.

 

Gotta go pace the driveway.

 

 

New Papier Mache Artwork

I have been madly completing artwork for the show coming up on the 28th. So far have done three bowls and finished the Sitting Child Trudy…Have two more bowls waiting to be painted…And a goose to make for Ruth. Meanwhile, “The Book” is not yet printed, but it looks like it will be soon…The one poem I hate, Solo for Two, cannot be deleted, so I must settle for it staying in  but the other corrections were made. I wish I had not been told that the book needed no editing, which is patently silly, ALL books need editing! But that is what they told me, so I did not look at it again, until it was too late to do much. I should have known better! I ought to have known better, as that is precisely what Diane K, our erstwhile editor told us about Divided Minds, and so opted out of helping us. But nothing could have been further from the truth, and luckily we knew it. She was basically trying to sabotage the book, even Lynnie thought so. ARGH, that is water down the sluices…What is important now is that the corrections I really needed made in WE MAD were in fact made, and the one poem I do not like may in fact appeal to someone. So I will put up with that one poem staying in, and hope it does not mar the entire thing…

That said, here are the new art works, first the three bowls, which take about a day to paint each, more or less, and then Trudy, which took several months of intermittent work.

Two Bowls, one 4" and one 7" - papier mache
Two Bowls, one 4" and one 7" - papier mache
Odd Botany bowl -- these plants are not real anything
Odd Botany bowl -- these plants are not real anything
Another shot of Odd Botany bowl
Another shot of Odd Botany bowl
Ditto
Ditto
Final side of the Odd Botany bowl
Final side of the Odd Botany bowl

 

trudyfincopy

Trudy is about three feet tall but on her hassock is somewhat taller. I’d say she is about the size of a seven year old? But I dunno, since I haven’t seen a seven year old in a while. 8)

Symptoms and Progress

I am working on a longer blog entry but it is taking a while, so in the meantime I will get you up to speed on a few other matters: my symptoms, of Lyme, of schizophrenia have mostly subsided, all except the startling, which continues on a reduced level. I don’t startle at bright lights anymore, nor at people coming at me around corners in Stop and Shop, but I regularly shriek in a startle reflex when I am waiting for someone and they knock on the door. It is predictable that I will do so, because it is so unpredictable when they will knock. And yet the strangest thing about it is, I am anticpating the knocking, and am waiting for it…so you’d think I would be prepared. But that very anticipation only seems to make the startle that much worse, I don’t know why. When I merely hear the knock out of the “corner of my ear” as it were, the startle is much less, and sometimes I do not startle at all.

But I do know that this was never a problem until I developed Lyme and the lesions in my brain that have never gone away, the “tiny strokes” that could have been normal if I had been over 50 when they occured, and if they had not appeared in a cluster in a matter of one MRI to the next. Meaning that I had an MRI during a psychotic episode and the results were clear, but a number of months later, the scar tissue of these tiny stroke like lesions suddenly appeared, suggesting that something had indeed occured during the time I had been ill. And we believe it was Lyme-on-the-brain.

That said, I am feeling a great deal better, though I hear some music from time to time and occasionally people talking to me, plus the little People when I do art work, naturally, though they do not bother me in the slightest. (The little People, for those who do not know, are the voices that are absolutely benign and merely argue amongst themselves about matters having little to do with me, such as about Russia and independence of the various states, or Born-Again Christianity, or teenage chores etc…It can be very entertaining but never or rarely threatening.

I have been slowly working on a child sculpture and a couple of bowls, though not a slimemold bowl like the one that several people have wanted a copy of. I don’t think I could make another one, frankly, I think I would be bored and uninspired to have to do it again. But if I can, I will make something else in those colors…Meanwhile, I hvae made a mushroom bowl in pastels and a basic watermelon bowl, that is just a bowl painted like a big watermelon, which I would paint over except that I polyurethaned it already. If anyone is interested in either bowl, and I will post pictures below or soon, do let me know!

Joe, Joe is doing well, as well as can be expected. I ought to write a whole entry on him, given that this is a new blog and I may have other new readers, so for now, to my old readers, rest assured that nothing very new is afoot. He is comfortable, relatively, and commmunicating well with the EyeGaze Response Integrative Communication Assistive device (or some such) ERICA. We even talk on the phone for hours now, for hours because it takes that long to have a conversation. Why so long? Well, It takes at least a second or two for him to spell one letter, and probably 6-7 seconds per letter in reality. So if he want to say a long sentence, and that is the easiest way for me to understand him, then it could take a long time for me to wait to hear it.

But it is worthwhile and I generally paint with the speaker phone on, so I can do something while I wait.

Well, now to post the pictures of the bowls:dcp_3632dcp_3631dcp_3629dcp_3627

Watermelon Bowl
Watermelon Bowl