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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I'm a Madwoman!

I wrote this song Madwoman a few years (pardon the awful guitar please!) called Madwoman - when I was processing what had happened to me.  I felt like I was constantly wearing a scar to the outside world, but no one could discern what it was or where it was from.  I desperately longed to connect with the outside world, but felt that in order to be fully present with them, they needed to know my story, and where I was coming from in the first place.  But how to approach people, then, without running up to a stranger and blabbering "Hi I'm Amy and my stomach exploded and now I can't eat!"  (I think I did do that a few times, actually.)  So again, creativity was my outlet, journal, means for expression, and eventual bridge to connect with the world.

There are much more original songs that are recorded much, much better on the Singer section of my website.  There is also a radio interview I did with the wonderful Robert Sharpe where I talk about what inspired my pull to start writing songs.

Connection through creativity doesn't always have to be clean, in a spotlight, on a silver platter, in a frame to be curated.  It can start out by just a simple journal entry.  Here is an actual snippet of something I wrote when I was unable to eat or drink:

"That whole stretch of time that I was unable to eat or drink, I felt so invisible and so inhuman, it was so hard being with other people, I just didn’t know how I fit into the picture, I just felt so different, like none of them had any idea what it felt like to have to constantly suppress a basic human need to nourish yourself.

 Like when we first moved into the Westport house I remember just seeing boxes of my old life scattered about the floor and before I was in the hospital so all I had to worry about was just being a patient, the only place I had to be was in a hospital bed, but I just felt so empty and purposeless in a HOUSE now with the real world, hardly able to walk, and I couldn’t open the fridge and look at it the way my own family could!  And I remember feeling to empty and so lost, so scared of my own kitchen which kept hidden jewels that belonged to every other person with a pulse except ME!  And it was endless night that would never end, and then Jerold came over and brought us bagels and I just remember standing there at the counter mindlessly picking off the seeds of a poppyseed bagel, playing with its doughy insides, carving it out with my fingernails and making it’s crust as hollow as I felt as a human being.

And then when I had mutilated this poor bagel to shreds – this evil thing that threatened to kill me if I even attempted to enjoy it – I had no idea what to do with myself.  I was hungry for a purpose and for fucking food for god’s sake.  So I just went upstairs – hobbled up the stairs, barely – to what was to become my room, now empty just like my heart and this “new beginning” felt, and didn’t know what else to do but lie on my bed, confused, tired, staring lazily out the window and waiting for the day to pass.  And all I could think to myself if “oh god, what does all of this hold for me?  What am I supposed to make of myself now?  Where or where do I ever go from here” and then dad brought in a movie and I fell asleep in an empty, unmade bed.

And I think the next day I just sat on the porch stairs and watched the raindrops following and I felt like such a caged animal, like oh god here is the world and I have not seen it for so long, and here I am back in the world and out of my small Bridgeport hospital room, but yet I am not completely a person, I am still half of myself in strength, spirit, body, and instincts.  I cannot really join this world.  I can’t run around in the rain like I used to, and I can’t EAT dammit!  Or drink!  I am so thirsty!

And enjoyment was deadly.  The kitchen was deadly.  My mouth was a forbidden temple – no trespassing.  I did not have permission to fully access my body.  And the rest of my body was tampered with and half the things it did were out of my control.  It was like it’s own little machine with a life of its own.  But it was not mine.  It wasn’t me.  I could hardly know which tube or what part of me was leaking at any given moment.  Ii just remember feeling wet all the time.  Wet all over my body, everywhere except the one place I wanted to be wet – my mouth.  And my soul.  I wanted to be wet with my own tears, my own emotion, drenched in AMY!  I wanted to cry about how miserable all of this was.  But I couldn’t even cry.  It was deadly to feel – to feel anything because if I dived into my well of emotion I might feel the deadliest feeling of all – hunger."

That little anecdote about the bagel eventually turned into some dialogue in my one-woman show.  And thankfully now, it IS just a memory!  Bagels are too good to give up.

Besides journaling, that is when I turned to art to express what was way to overwhelming to put into words.  These two paintings represented the polarity I felt - one minute being in a high school class room, the next minute (or months later) waking up in a hospital bed, wondering what the heck had happened!
My World Has Split

Self Portrait

In my earlier art, there are a lot of birds and hearts - my happy place of peace and refuge - juxtaposed with tear drops and lightning bolts - my inconsolable sadness and the striking and alarming nature of trauma.  And then my work started featuring trees, who I felt were the totally synthesis of both the good and bad, past and presence - it is in the trees that I found a sense of peace.
The Day Is My Friend
I Can Hold On

Winter Meeting
End of Summer

Blushing Tree

For me, Singing Tree is the symbol of everything - what I've been through, how I feel, and what brings me peace to this day.  I created “Singing Tree” during one of the most difficult periods in my life.  In 2010, after a seemingly successful surgery, I took a trip to California, only to be air-vacced back to Yale Hospital in the middle of the night because my wound had burst and I had suddenly developed several fistulas.  I spent almost three months at Yale, again being unable to eat or drink,  as doctors wrapped their heads around healing this fistula and open wound.  At a time when hope was extremely sparse, I yearned for some sort of outlet to express not only my agony, but the “me” that was laying dormant underneath the medical crisis – the “who I am” part of the patient – my vitality, ME.  I found my way to painting accidentally on the road to healing.  My mother went back to our house and gathered whatever art-related supplies she could find, running to an art store to grab some paints, brushes and scraps of felt on the way.  Armed with these, a pad of canvas paper, and some Yale toilet paper for added texture, I obsessively created every day.

 Each morning before the doctors came in for rounds, I’d paint feverishly whatever abstraction came to mind and what evolved from my situation.  When I completed my pieces, I felt like I had not only gotten out my frustrations and worry, but also found a place of joy and gratitude.  I would put each canvas outside my hospital room, and soon the unit began to catch on, even taking patients by my room to see whatever I had created that day.  Now, I was sustaining my aliveness and inspiring others, which filled myself with unanticipated meaning and satisfaction.  

Ironically, the darker the circumstances became, the more joyous my paintings seem today.  Every tree seems to be singing and dancing, although the tear-drops and lightning bolts are always streaked across the bold backgrounds. 

Singing Tree
As I'm getting ready for my artist's reception this Saturday in Ridgefield for Canvas Talk:  A Forum of Dreams, I smile.  The scars have mostly faded, and I no longer have those tears, frustrations and lingering uncertainties.  All that remains is the art.  And that is reason to celebrate.

In other news, my art is starting to have pinnability!  So if you go to my gallery section and see a painting you link, just put it on Pinterest!  For example, Laugh At Fear.

In other inspiration, I took a modern dance class last year where I saw Kyle Abraham's beautifully choreographed "Pavement."  You don't have to be a dancer to be inspired by this short little trailer.  It's really amazing how dance can be used to tell such powerful stories.  Watch it here.

And speaking of dancing - for some awesome tapping brothers - please do check out this video of the Nicholas Brothers!!!  Sheesh.  Talk about eye-candy.

In the studio recently, I created a companion piece to "Lovers In The Snow" which I created a few years ago.  The "sequel" was done by the same process - ripping apart cardboard, gluing to canvas, painting all over it, and then having some fun...
Lovers in the Snow

Lovers in...MORE Snow.
And don't we know how much snow we've been getting lately.

And now...for some food love, I do happen to love my salty-sweet snacks...very much.  I'm obsessed with chocolate covered pretzels, so these pretzel-ish dessert recipes were right up my alley.

Speaking of salty and unexpected - chocolate covered potato chips are also a guilty pleasure of mine.  And here's some more things you can do with potato chips - besides dip 'em!

This blog is great - Second Rate Snacks compares the knockoff brands you see in stores with the original (usually pricier) brand - you may be surprised at what tastes better!

And although these aren't to eat, boy oh boy do these look good enough.  I've experimented with making miniatures from polymer clay, but these are sensational.  My birthday is April 10th, if anyone needs present ideas!!!

The last link I would like to leave with you is a book that is very special to me, Taking Flight.  I was never an artist before this happened - thank you again, beautiful detour - I literally just was obsessed with acting and musical theatre.  When my various traumas happened to me, I was forced to seek new avenues for self-expression.  As an artist, you just want to CREATE - whatever form that takes!  Theatre, painting, juggling, hocus pocus, anything where you can use that passion for life in some kind of expressive manner for connection.  My mother and I found this book by accident, and by reading inspiring stories of how others had used art for more than just mounting in a gallery - how it can be a way of journaling and medicine for the soul - this blew our minds.  It took the intimidation factor away.  So click that link, check out that book, and courtesy of, it also lists a bunch of other books very similar that I also have.  And...the question I want to leave for you all today is:

What is your intimidation factor when it comes to creating?  And what is a picture of what your life would look like without that factor? 

(Got it?)

Draw it!  

(and feel free to post or send me the results!)  :)

I actually challenged myself recently as an artist, for The Mixed Media MC's February "Think Pink" Challenge:

Nature Choir

I was thinkin' PINK!

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  1. What a pretty mixed media piece. I love the bundled up singing girls! Thanks so much for joining us at the Mixed Media Monthly Challenge.

  2. I am glad you challenged yourself as an artist to join in and share your work - Thank you for playing along with us at The Mixed Media Monthly Challenge!

  3. What a beautiful make! I love how you put this together! So glad you decided to Think Pink :o)...Thanks so much for adding it to our challenge at Mixed Media Monthly!

  4. gorgeous painting! the girls are so darling. Thank you so much for playing with the Mixed Media Monthly Challenge!

  5. Madwoman is a great song! Thanks for sharing :)

  6. These pieces are fantastic. I really admire anyone who can paint their feelings and capture what they are feeling so well. Beautiful.

  7. Wow, what a journey! Thank you for sharing your story and beautiful artwork. It's amazing what we can create during tough times.

  8. Your artwork is incredible! Expressing oneself through creativity can be very therapeutic. Thank you for sharing your story!

  9. So beautiful! Thanks for sharing your life through your art.

  10. I'm a Madwoman, too! Love it!!