Tuesday, March 23, 2010

After The Crash, Part One

For the past several weeks, I'd been resigned to the ineluctable fate of someone who had crashed and (quite literally) burned. Everything was at an end. I was trapped beneath the wreckage and I had no idea how – or even if – I'd manage to get out.
The clinic's psychiatrists advised a quiet life – a regular, highly structured, nine-to-five life, in which emotional stability would evolve through predictability, a life of work-free weekends and frequent social interaction. The way to happiness, they insisted, was to mimic a suburban everyday, albeit modified with psychoanalysis, hardcore pharmacology and the medically induced seizures of electro-convulsive therapy.
There is no cure for bipolar affective disorder. There is only tentative relief achieved through treatments with serious side effects. Most people consider the side effects (including internal organ damage and the risk of memory loss) a small price to pay for peace of mind, a modicum of stability and contentment.
The more I've thought about what I want, the more I realise I don't care that much about contentment. What I want to be is highly functional – to be consistently imaginative and productive, to be very successful. What I want requires long hours of self-disciplined, hard work, hours filled with uncertainty, obsessive commitment and an active and intact (if flawed) mind. It leaves little time for a life outside art. It discourages conventional relationships. But this is OK with me. For better or worse, I prefer it.
What drove me to a break down last year weren't the rigours of making art (although, I concede, the toxic enamel I used was enormously detrimental to my physical health). Rather, it was always trying to do what others – family, friends, doctors, even collectors – kept telling me was 'right'.
This herded me into a stultifying, bourgeois existence: I lived in the same area for five years. I set up a home and separate, large studios. I employed staff. I tried to keep regular hours. I even thought about having children.
I ended up losing any sense of myself. Ever since I was a teenager, I'd made art as a way of processing my life. I ended up making art to make ends meet and to meet the shifting expectations of long lines of collectors, many of whom really had no interest in my work and were solely concerned with catching the market and getting a high return on their investment.
I shouldn't have been surprised. My work has always dealt with commoditisation – of art, of women, of myself. In irony (and sugar-coated anger), I painted candy-coloured enamels of idealised women using myself as a model and argued for the role of artist as producer and of the art work as product.
Of course, my collectors began to demand the after sales services associated with any well-positioned brand or product. I was expected to advise on, create and deliver my art – and sometimes repair or clean it before it was re-sold – without ever encumbering the 'customers' with the messy personality traits that are typical of most artists.
As far as my collectors were concerned, being emotional, anarchic, fragile and unbalanced worked fine for my image but it wasn't good for business – even one as well-organised and seamlessly managed as mine was until about a year ago.
I can't say I didn't see the crash coming. But the suddenness of the impact – and its devastation – were traumatic. In just a few days, I lost everything. I defaced and burned every work in my studio, including several already bought by collectors, then I destroyed my studio. I left a note on the door telling my assistants to find another job. Thankfully, instead, they called my best friend and my mother.
I'm still clawing my way out of the wreckage. Even when I'm discharged from the clinic, there will be significant challenges to face: I've been made bankrupt, I have no home, I have no art to sell and no money to buy materials to make new art. And yet I can't help thinking that I've been given a second chance.
This is not the end. This is the beginning.

39 comments:

ABCcreativity said...

i honour your courage hazel.

rino said...

Agreed with ABCc above: I think you're very brave. Both to be aware of it and to force the change.

Jim said...

Wishing you many blessings in your new beginnings.
Campbelljane

cm said...

Your beginning reminds me a little of Ian Fairweather. http://www.ianfairweather.info/

jan said...

Hazel,
I wish I had something profound and comforting to say to you. There is hope.
Eliot's 4 Quartets has helped me get thru some difficult times "in the end is my beginning"
You are in my thoughts.
Jan

Shannon said...

I have no words you probably haven't heard a million times. So I'll just say that I hold you in my good thoughts.

C. k. Agathocleous said...

{{{Hazel}}}

I have bipolar disorder also. Sometimes I think the pdocs confuse cause and effect. They see what works well for "regular" people and assume that similar circumstances will help a person with bp disorder. Not always the case. You know what is best for you. You seem to be a very intelligent woman. Don't feel badly for not needing what they tell you you should need.

JenXer said...

I am happy that you can find opportunity and strength in something that would surely crush the type of person the psychiatrists wish you to become. I wish you continued bravery, and the ability to do the work you want to do, the way you want to do it.

amanda m. said...

"Barn's burnt down. Now I can see the moon."

~Masahide

ani said...

keep the courage hazel!

Zom said...

I wish the best for you.

ArneA said...

Hazel and Vincent a winning team.

C├ęci said...

your post is very impactant, so impactant that it's dificult for me to find words. I'm french and the language is a barrier to express such things. I feel very concerned and fear also for myself. "We" "artists" are always just so insatisfied, and that's just merely the definition of the artist whose job and motivation in life is to always seek for something new. Revolutions of oneselves. We just have to accept it with no fear, no resignation, just peace of mind, focusing on that unbreakable reality: a new spring will always come. If you're too impatient, just have a rest while, or a journey, or better, do something that worse for someone else. That's the way I had better manage it: 3 years ago, I decided to begin to teach my grandma who was 70 then how to read and write. Some people, I hope few, though "for what?", "she doesn't need it, she too old, etc. And you know what, she needed it so much. Self confidence, joy, ambition, attention; she's so brave. Do someone know that in fact the one who most benefit from it perhaps, surely, it's me? I do. Giving someone, truely, freely, a part of yourself, with "discipline" (I mean doing it no matter what it cost you, keeping the promesse you've done) and for a long time, cure every kind of disorder. Please try it instead of pills.
You're beginning a new beginning. I enjoy it. Try to be strong, yes, brave, yes, but must of all generous. Please try it. What you will discover focusing on someone else that yourself is just real happiness.
Wish you best things.

Aaron B. Brown said...

I don't know that I agree with the anonymous commenters suggestion. In fact from my perspective you were putting up something a pretty good front on your blog for of us to read, it appeared you were doing well and had things under control, when in fact the opposite was the case. For many weeks before you said anything, I had a feeling that something wasn't right, and even when some of your drawings disturbed me, I stopped myself from saying anything, thinking I had overstepped my bounds already.

When you talked about destroying your older art works, that was a red flag that made me feel as if I should say something in an e-mail if not publicly, but I stopped myself again because I got the feeling you were at a very fragile point, little did I know just how fragile, perhaps that self censoring was the wrong decision, but I was not in possession of all the facts. And I see here that the extent of the destruction was more than you initially stated. If I had been privy to exactly how far down you had gone, I would've most certainly said something sooner than I did.

For you see, unlike many of the commenters you'll encounter on blogs I long ago dispensed with polite boundaries. I'm a real person, therefore I interact with people on the net as if they were standing before me. And the more I read a person's blog the more familiar with them I become, and the more willing I am to speak my mind, just like real life.

At the time I was wrapped up in some misfortune of my own life, but I had a very strong feeling that things were not well with you, and I tried to reach you by e-mail, but they were being returned in some manner that I'm not familiar with. And while I may have some interest in your artwork, I am far more concerned with the person Hazel Dooney, she is what intrigues me. And though I may not know you personally, it disturbs me think of something bad happening to you, which I suspect was a very real possibility at some point. That would hurt me, and that feeling for you has nothing to do with your artwork or anything you produce, beyond your words and what lies between and beneath them.

Many people attempt the so-called Web 2.0 lifestyle, but it's really kind of unexplored territory and nobody really knows its boundaries or where they lie, therefore it's easy to push them, in my view few really do. I think it's all-important, if you're going to put your life out there for others to experience and comment upon, it should be as close to the reality as you are comfortably prepared to share. It seems honesty with oneself is where one must begin, for it is impossible to be true to others through what you convey if veracity with oneself is lack.

I can't imagine what life for you is like, the kind of battle it must be, the name of your blog aptly describes this conflict, Self vs. Self. But you seem to be able to hold your own most of the time, and that's on par with what rest of us experience and are able to do. And I assume from your demeanor, which is rather professional on your blog, that you wish to be taken seriously and treated like an adult. So I submit that if you want to generate valuable feedback from those who are willing to give you honest evaluation, then by necessity we must be privy to the most salient and pertinent facts related as accurately as you can transmit them. In other words if you want quality feedback from your readers, then those readers need the straight dope, and if we don't get it, if we get the filtered version, well then we're just being managed, controlled. Nobody really likes that, and those who practice such methods eventually lose the trust of those they are trying to control, and that's as it should be. Trust begets trust, while attempts at control invariably beget mistrust....

erinrichardson said...

I know exactly what you mean about a new beginning. I (also bipolar) had my most recent crash/meltdown 18 months ago.

I'm now stronger, more confident and far less tolerant of any crap.

I'm sure these things happen just to clear that crap out of our lives and get us back to being ourselves.

peace

matt said...

What a nightmare that must have been. Fuck the art world system and continue to be yourself, totally lovable and passionate.

andrea said...

I know this is going to sound a little fucked up, but I envy you the fresh start and everything else, with the huge exception of the psychiatric challenges you're going to have to face to remain as productive as you want to be.

Think Bombs said...

hazel... you continue to inspire

Anonymous said...

Hugs Hugs Hugs Hugs and more hugs from us all liv xxxxx

harpymarx said...

Thinking of you Hazel and think your analogy of the car wreckage is apt and I certainly can relate to it. I have experienced depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember which included stays in psychiatric institutions in the UK, not good experiences that is for sure.

Take care and solidarity to you!!

Andrea said...

I understand you.Totally.What is it that is so liberating about burning your own work. I don't know. Multiple hugs.

Lisa Byrne said...

Damn girl. your candor slays me. I hope that doesn't change. Love you. take care.

Anonymous said...

My god Hazel. Why don't you write a book about your life. There is too much to say already and it could be very therapeutic, make it an artist's limited edition illustrated book and charge a heap for each copy. I don't know what else to say. Wish you good times

vida

Zoe Tan said...

Have faith. It's not how many times we have fall down, but how many times we manage to stand up.

Success is how we manage to stand up through those setbacks.

And you are successful. Keep it going!

Solemn Reverie said...

sometimes, less is more.

I've been digging & clawing my way out of the "wreckage" I'm in my entire life. For some, it is a life-long process. One day at a time...

Dave Doolin said...

You have quiet fans sending you happy thoughts. Does it matter. Dunno. Not much else this fan can do until able to pony up for a piece.

You're on the right track with beliefs. There is no easy way out.

Anonymous said...

OMG

R u serious?

Aaron B. Brown said...

It’s Not Dry Yet

"And something else greatly reduces the chances of the death of painting: too many people — most obviously women — are just beginning to make their mark with the medium and are becoming active in its public dialogue."

Di said...

Here in Antwerp they might say sterkte! which means 'strength'.

Strength to you. It reads like a new beginning to me.

Mark said...

Definitely. It is after we're lost something then we are then again free being a new one.

awesome post!

Patti Trostle Fine Art said...

After reading all these posts, what I see is a lot of people that genuinely care about "you"! No pressure from buyers to produce. Just people that care about you! Please hold on to that. I wish you all the best. Blessings to you.

Lisa Klow said...

Hazel, my regular, highly structured nine-to-five predictability is the main cause of my stress! The crushing day-to-day monotony and boredom cannot be a useful prescription, at least not for a creative. I hope you find your own path, whatever provides peace and stability for you.

JD said...

Inspired, intuitive creatives such as yourself don't need to completely surrender to 'clock' time. Leave that to the lovers of compartmentalisation...

Be free to be you on your own terms.

x

Inspirasi said...

hope you was great now.^_^

Tanya Thiedeman said...

Dearest Hazel.
I offer my mantra in times of true challenge...
"this too shall pass".
Sending you much love and support x

lisa b. said...

Hazel,

Continue to be who you truly are; that's the most important thing.

I this blog post http://www.essentialprose.com/chatter-blather/madness-genius-and-the-things-we-dont-see and wanted to share it with you. lisa b.

Uncle Kokoe said...

This reminds me of an artist whose work I also like a lot, but liked less when I found out how constrained in expression his gallery and collectors made him. He took a job as an art professor, ostensibly to provide a stable base for experiments in artistry, so I got to take a class with him and see a little into his head.

His name was Ed Paschke. He was well known in Chicago, and as a member of a group known ad the Chicago Imagists. He seems less known in other places, but still became unaffordable to commoners.

Camilla said...

My breakdown, and subsequent diagnosis with Bipolar disorder was one of the best things that ever happened to me, everything was wiped out and I had the chance to start from scratch. I can't say it won't happen again, but I have firmer foundations now.

bec winnel said...

I'm so glad I found your blog. I always love reading your entries. You are an amazing writer, every word keeps me gripped to the screen. Thank you so much for sharing. I think some of the reasons I enjoy them so much is I can relate to your mental-health experiences, going through something similar. And as a person working my butt off to try and break in to and hopefully make it in the art world, you are a true inspiration, being an extremely successful artist and strong woman.
<3