Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ann Marshall (44)

-Maybe Baby-
Pastel and paper collage
on paper
44 x 60 3/4

Ann writes:

Within the last year, I was in a freak accident where a tree fell on me while I was walking on the sidewalk. It hit me from behind and broke several of my ribs, vertebra, and blew my hip out of its socket. I found out later when examining what remained of the clothes the paramedics had not cut off from my body, the soles had been blown off my new boots -- such was the force of impact. It was the most traumatic painful event I’ve ever experienced. I will spare you the details, but I’m lucky to be alive and still have the use of my legs.

While still in the hospital, I noticed a sign for art therapy on the wall in my room. Bored and looking for comfort, I asked what was available. The night nurse told me to inquire with the day shift, but instead I asked my boyfriend to pick up some Playdoh next time he went out to run errands. Curiously, I didn’t want to draw. I’m an artist by profession and sometimes the self-pressure to perform is too acute. I was a broken person now. I didn’t feel like trying and then being disappointed. Instead, I was looking to escape and forget. Before personal ambition set in, I had spent many fun afternoons as a child unselfconsciously playing with clay on our kitchen table, amused by my ability to bring even the crudest figurines into existence only to flatten them later with a rolling pin. That was the speed I was on now.

After my boyfriend returned, I spent the afternoon making silly sculptures in between naps (I was pretty heavy drugged) and lined up my creations on the tray beside my bed. I asked any visitors to bring clay in lieu of flowers and entertained everyone with my resulting creations. They made me happy in painful circumstances.

I soon went home but was highly incapacitated for a month. I was in a lot of pain. My greatest efforts went into physical recovery and the first very short exhausting walks gradually became longer. I was soon able to dress myself again--slowly, though for several weeks I had to use a grabbing device to reach anything on the floor. Eventually, my boyfriend no longer had to help me out of bed and I could shower by myself again. As I improved, I became bored with my confinement. Movies and television provided a glimpse into the outside world, but passively watching made me restless. I needed actual activities. I baked and cooked what I could. I hobbled down the block on crutches. I continued to play with clay. Surprisingly, the very crude sculptures brought me a happiness my professional work had been missing for some time. I posted them on Facebook in an album entitled “Percocet and Playdoh” and they were wildly popular with my friends and family. I made a mental note to myself.

Eventually, I healed enough and returned to the studio, I tried to remember to carry over the joy I had found in my small housebound projects into my real work. This was the constructive result of my accident, at least as pertains to art: have fun. You did once, and then all the adult pressures piled on. I try to appreciate and celebrate my subjects, and create work that brings pleasure to the viewer. Interest, joy, and excitement are contagious. I do not find them lesser goals.