Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Friend or Foe?
"I'm selfish, impatient, and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I'm out of control, and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best." – Marilyn MonroeWhen I emailed my last monthly newsletter, Studio Notes, which mentions my brief profile in Vogue Australia, most of the people who unsubscribed were either former friends and lovers or artists and musicians who were long-time acquaintances. Over the last year I've received indignant emails from some of them, complaining about receiving my newsletters instead of personal emails from me. They tell me, huffily, that if I can't be bothered to write to them individually, they'd rather not hear from me at all. On the few occasions when I've caught up with them in person, their discomfort with my success – and the isolated life required to achieve it – is palpable.I don't understand how anyone can be threatened by a friend's success. Why wouldn't anyone want good things for the people they care about? Too often, in the past, my boyfriends were jealous of the time I spent painting. One even accused me of having affairs but he had only to visit my studio – something he avoided – to find me alone with a canvas. Another, who was also an artist, put down my work under the guise of 'helping' me. We collaborated on a painting, once. I'd been invited to participate in a group exhibition and I wanted to include him. After 'showing' me how to paint, he ended up covering everything I'd done with his own work, so it was really just his work - instead of ours. (Intriguingly, he still tells everyone who'll listen how much I 'owe' him).I've never had a lot of female friends. I have less now. I stopped being in touch with one after a string of subtle put-downs about the nature of my recent work (like 'joking' that she hoped my family didn't see it). Another, an old friend from art school, attributed my success to my manic depression: according to her, the narrow focus and nervy hypermania gave me some kind of advantage. I was, at once, shocked and hurt: I am not my illness. Besides, hypermania might contribute to bouts of physical and imaginative energy but extreme mania and depression are debilitating and destructive and I fight both constantly. Even one of my oldest and best friends decided our paths were too different and we didn't have anything in common anymore. Ironically, the one close female friend I do still have is married to a farmer and lives far away in rural northern New South Wales. They have two beautiful daughters. It has crossed my mind, more than once, that she is fine – and very supportive and caring – about my life and work because she is secure in her own.