Paper and Pain

It is always a bit of a dilemma to decide what to reveal of the personal life of the artist in this blog. 

A recent conversation has made me examine this a bit more.

Those who read regularly might know that I have osteoarthritis, and that it is getting worse. Because of this my world is shrinking. I can no longer zoom around the country (let alone the world) without considerable research and planning.

It takes courage and energy to say to people “I can’t do that” and face the “oh why not? It’s right by the tube station!” Well no. “Right by…” is subjective. Off the train, up the platform, across the concourse, down two escalators and through three tunnels is not “right by”. And I feel resentful that some people demand medical details in order to believe me when I say what is too far for me. (Admittedly it’s not made easier by the fact that some days I can do it and some days I can’t)

So, anyway…inevitably this situation makes its way into my work. To me it is obvious which drawings were done on good days or bad days. One day maybe I will explore this, maybe part of my brain already is. I think the few people that know my drawings very well can see it too. I thank them for this. It helps to have people understand without asking or commenting.

The thing is… this is my information to reveal. I don’t want people saying loudly “Elena has a BAD KNEE!! Clear the way to the lift!” I’d rather be slow and dignified and do it at my own pace, only revealing when I choose, or as needed.

I reveal it in the drawings, or rather, it is revealed. It is expressed in all its glory: my rage and fury and pain and frustration. The paper takes the punishment, absorbs it, feeds back to me a gentleness. 

I fall into that deep chasm that contains millions of people. I am not DISABLED and at the moment I don’t want to be labelled as such. But sometimes, somedays, I am disabled.

I don’t need a stick, crutches, a wheelchair. I just need to be believed.

I don’t want me or my work to become prefaced by “Disabled Artist” any more than I want it to be labelled “Female” or have any reference to my age or marital status or how many children I’ve had, or where I live. It’s just Artist. Any qualifier makes it lesser: “Not bad for a girl”

But the other thing is, I wouldn’t be working like this if my body wasn’t like this. The work comes directly from my brain, down my arms, into my fingers. I sit in the chair, leaning across the table as I cannot stand to make these drawings. Whatever is encountered on the way from my brain to the paper drags at the pencil and makes its mark.

But it’s still mine. You can look at the drawings, love them or hate them, be indifferent to them, buy them even! But how and why they are like they are? That belongs to me.

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