Beautification of the difficult: collage of my left breast mammogram showing calcification, moon-like outdoor lamp, and setaria grass
Beautification of the difficult: collage of my left breast mammogram showing calcification, moon-like outdoor lamp, and setaria grass

As part of my breast cancer treatment, I am seeing a psychologist. Theoretically, she is there to help me through the challenges of being diagnosed with breast cancer and the treatments to follow. In practice, I think she is helping me with a whole range of other issues preceding the diagnosis, going back to traumatic memories as a child. One of the things that came up in my last session with her was that when encountering negative emotions, instead of acknowledging and releasing it, I had a tendency to internalize them by dissociation, often by talking myself into viewing the situation that caused it and or its effect in the best possible light.

When Vic and I first discussed this project, I confessed to him that I was sick and tired of making ‘nice art,’ because my efforts to do so was blocking my creativity. What I meant was that over the years I had developed a false sense of a higher self, which prevented me from making art that exposed my raw, unprocessed emotions. Not that I was afraid of exposing my weaknesses; I could quite bravely do so, as long as it had been worked through, and I was reflecting back on my less wiser self after a positive transformation had taken place.

Sometimes I encounter art that uplifts, energizes and inspires. They are the kind that makes me want to shake the artist’s hand, like a first year college student, and relay my wish to make art like them. On the other hand, sometimes I encounter art that drains me, makes me shake my head, and mutter to the artist under my breath, “Keep your problems to yourself, I’ve got plenty of my own without having to deal with yours.” I am now wondering if this reaction to the latter had been unfairly judgemental, and lacked empathy for a fellow artist. And like all critical judgements, it had been a response to my inability to face my own demons.

This project has become a way forward for me; to break through those self-imposed creative boundaries, and allow myself to take risks again, because it doesn’t allow the luxury of reflection, processing and refinement. It is unfolding in real-time. It is unruly and unpredictable in a sense that we are creating art in response to events that unfold, and through social media, we are sharing some of the resulting artworks and writing our thoughts as it happens. The work goes out there before I have a chance to edit, re edit, consult, workshop, reflect, edit, and re edit.

Having said that, Vic and I do discuss our work. And our collaboration is truly unique. It can only happen the way it happens because of what we have experienced together as collaborating artists and friends for many years. So I was reassured when Vic said that he would clean up after me if I spewed out my yucky stuff to the world and regretted it later.

So here we go… see where this process takes us.