Sunday, October 08, 2006

Welcome Back, My Addiction

I painted with enamel for about four hours today and now I am sick. I have washed twice but I can still smell the fumes on my skin and taste them at the back of my throat. My eyes are dry, I have a headache, a dull throb right at the top of my skull where only enamel fumes seem to reach. A familiar, lung-wrenching cough has returned.
I get these side-effects despite new, health-protecting work habits. It would be worse without them. I used to paint with little or no protection and I painted until I was sick, or fell asleep in my clothes. It made me sick but I liked it. I liked to feel the effect it had on me. Now I care about my health. I don't want to damage my body any more than I have already. I keep a few clean shirts on hand in the studio to change into so the fumes that are absorbed by the fabric don't sit too long on my skin. I rub vaseline into my hands, and around my mouth and nose. It stops the fumes burning my skin. I also rub it inside my nostrils to protect the sensitive membranes there. I've bled inside my nose because of using this paint and for years afterwards, whenever I blew my nose, there were traces of blood. I wear a mask, with chemical filters.
None of these things, alone or together, stops the effects but they would be much worse without.
I still love enamel paint. Even when it's dry, it appears to be seductively, wet. When I'm using it, I mix it so the viscosity is smooth and glides on in an erotically suggestive way. I love its creaminess, the way it settles after the brush has left the surface. When I apply it, the action is more like stroking than brushing. I've been using enamel – with certain brushes – for so long that it feels like an extension of my fingers. I can make it do whatever I want, without conscious thought.
I can't help myself. I have to keep using it. It's a beautiful, self-destructive addiction.

1 comment:

PunkClown said...

Good heavens!
Talk about suffering for your work. I had no idea painting with enamel could have such physiological effects until reading this entry.
Please take care of yourself Hazel...