“I am just a memory, dead in the dust, gone like the wisp of smoke that curled from the tip of the gun that killed me…”
So Long Ago was Yesterday; I thought it was Gone…but I was wrong. I understand now; I was stuck Here all along.
Now that I know, can I go?
No. Not now, maybe not ever. You have to remember, see? I need you to remember me. My family long ago passed on, they kept my picture right above the mantle, and I carried theirs’. I carried ours. Draped it around my 18 year-old neck like the roses on a Derby winner; around my neck like the rifle I carried. Around my neck just like my dog tags-the one’s that made that certain sound when they touched. You must remember. I am not a ghost, there are no such things. I am just a memory, dead in the dust, gone like the wisp of smoke that curled from the tip of the gun that killed me. Remember me, now and then.
More now. The children are on the battlefields today- at this very minute-with eyes of cornflower blue. Searching the horizon, squinting against the glare of sunlight that slants off the desert rock like a razor. Blue eyes scanning roadsides, green eyes scouring midnight skies for tell-tale vapor trails. Brown eyes staring blindly back at the insides of their night vision goggles, looking into eternity.
” Sweet Child in time, you ought to see the line-the line that’s drawn between the goodness and the bad. See the blind man? He’s shooting at the world; the bullets flying, taking their toll…If you’ve been bad (lord, I’ll bet you have) and you’ve not been hit, not been hit by flying lead; you’d better close your eyes-you’d better bow your head…
I came across this post I wrote a few years ago, and it resonates with me today in light of recent events. War is always the worst of mankinds’ inhumanity, nothing has changed in the years since Vietnam. I was a baby when first exposed to war thru a little black box that sat on a shelf next to where Mother sat me in my crib some 50 odd years ago. To this day the sound of chopper blades overhead stops me in my tracks; I peer up in questioning wonder-not sure what I am looking for. Maybe my Mom’s cammo-clad lover to rappel down and proclaim fatherhood of me, maybe for shots to ring out and stop my questions forever…
Today I am exposed to a little black tablet that bombards me with images of my unborn sons and daughters dressed in their uniforms, riding in Hummers, riding in wheelchairs, riding in hearses, riding away, always away…Day after dreaded year the casualties mount while my one life ebbs away: How many have sacrificed themselves in my 57 years? Have I even cried that many tears in this lifetime? How many is enough (Children? Tears?) to give to the General’s who orchestrate this endless miserable charade.
I feel sick. All the time. And when I think of Johnny, I cry. I know and I believe and I am promised and he is promised, PROMISED a resurrection by the One true Ruler of this Universe, so soon I will hold my soldier in my arms and look long into those crystal blue living eyes.
Until then, I will think of Blue-Eyed Johnny, and I will remember…
Woo Hoo ! I am an artist WHIRLWIND again! Hang on, cause art is flowing out of me in a torrent, and I need more hands. I am happy to be out of “funk town” for a while! I entered six shows in the past month and now have 5 paintings accepted into these shows . Four of the five shows. I can’t believe how things snowball. The piece above is a Work in Progress, one of my Surrealist pieces, with a working title of Angry Birds, a little pun on the silly game people play on their devices. I’m rethinking that right now, I may put people off by that. But who cares if I like it, right? Naming Art is the Artist’s privelege. Kind of like children; you made it, you name it! And here’s a fun little twist…how many Birds do you see?
I painted what I believe to be my best piece as far as figurative art, it’s an acrylic mixed media piece which is a statement piece about justice and human trafficking…It is named “Stuck in Traffic (Framed) and I will post it, and the one mentioned above as soon as I sign them in a few minutes here… Be patient, I had to lie down for a minute. I decided a while back that I must sign my work before I post it online… Silly, really, you can’t stop the thievery no matter what you do, if you decide to post your art online. I recently read a piece considering the benefit vs risk of putting your art online. If you decide not to you are missing out on reaching millions of people, perhaps billions. If you want to sell your art, and/or share it with an audience, then the risk is one you must take. Unless of course you are going to let it spead just by word of mouth. Then it would take 100 years telling 5 people a day to reach 182,500 people, if they did not tell anyone else. If each one told 5 others then… wait a minute, you get the idea. It would take a long time.
Impressionism is my dearest love, and I hope one day to paint like Pissaro, or maybe Gauguin… Of course I have my own style, and I concentrated more on my brushwork in this piece, and multicolored skin to show my feelings rather than accurate realism. I especially love the dramatic shadows, I tried to be brave! Like I’m not passionate enough, right? I’m proud of the results! I will list all the shows I’m in in the next few days, with their websites and dates…
How true, how true that Pennsylvania Dutch saying is. I squander my art endeavors, rushing from this deadline to that, frazzled, befuddled and unsatisfied. That may be what drove Van Gogh insane, the constant turmoil to do better. I am making the presumption that perhaps the rapid cycling Bipolar Disorder that I enjoy(!) was somehow effecting him, too. Many artists share this mental illness, I know that The Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundation has held Insights Art Exhibitions, to establish a permanent collection of works by artists who are effected by this disorder. I am proud to be one of the Founding Artists of that collection, and proud to know these beautiful people who have done so much to further research in the field.
Three years, three works of my art in this collection. It blows my mind, just as my art has been blowing peoples minds since I was a child. How easy I forget, and wallow in my mire. That is part of this disease also. The dark days, when no amount of internal dialogue can push me out of bed, out of the bleak landscape in my head. Do you think Van Gogh, or Matisse, or Dali had such dark times? What about Francis Bacon, Pollock, Warhol ?
Then why do I feel so alone in my efforts? Yes, I’m sure the worldwide pandemic has a dampening effect, on artists as well as everyone else. Perversely, I also treasure the isolation it affords me. No one can chastise my late hours, or visit to be aghast at the paint on my floor, on my walls, on me. I think I need to get out of the house more, go walk on the beach, visit a park. All things strange and alien nowadays. I know this will pass, I have been in counselling and under proffesionals care for my Bipolar Disorder and PTSD for nearly 30 years, I take my medication every single day, because I have been all the way down into the abyss and made friends with the monsters lurking there. Only to find out that they all wanted me dead. I don’t want to be dead. I can fully understand why I did, because this pain is all encompassing. I feel each cell screaming at me to give it relief.
The only thing I can do is paint myself into a painless reality, a utopia of color, a sweet dream of lavender and silk, a field of gold. When sleep won’t come I will disappear into the garden that flows out of my pen, winding its way into sweet fantasy-lands where no one is mean and there is no such thing as loneliness…
I’m in “Wonderland” right now. Been here for a week or so. Time seems to be inching by, my head too heavy to lift off the pillow. Not sick physically, I’m just…just…what can I tell you? I have had some unknown trigger going me headlong into a timewarp. Into a place I never ever wanted to return to…
Is the reflection REAL?
My art, from it’s earliest inception, has contained 2 sided faces. Always compelled to create a smiling side juxtaposed to a moody/dark side. Even before I consciously knew the face was symbolically my own, before I had ever heard of mental illness or anyone called manic depressive illness bipolar, I was painting my double sided inner person. I have doodles and sketches from grade school where this manifested…it was a necessary act to portray my protagonist self this way. This was the girl inside of me, who would soon find ways to hide from physical reality in altered states…
After the traumatic events of my young life had begun, my self-image became warped and twisted. My mental despair manifested itself in self harming behavior: anorexia/bulemia, punching walls, suicide attempts…to this day, nearly 50 years after the onset of the abuse, I still cannot eat without feeling ugly afterwards.
“…running to the window, still asleep, she fell thru the glass with a crash…”
A short story by Susan T. Martin…
She was never very confident. Her mother said she was ‘pretty’. She did not believe her. She didn’t want to be ‘pretty’, anyway. No. She wanted to be ‘breathtaking’, achingly ‘beautiful’, devastatingly ‘gorgeous’. A ‘real heartbreaker’, ‘homewrecker’, a ‘ten’. A ‘perfect’ ten.
Like Tracy. Her best friend with the huge blue eyes and pretty lips, nice hips and long, long hair. But she was none of those things that Tracy was. She had a sneaking suspicion that her mother was lying about ‘pretty’ as well.
The boys did not say she was pretty. Not that she liked them. Only one. Joey. He was super smart. Super duper smart. Almost as smart as she was. But smart didn’t rate very high in her circle of giggly little girlfriends. It especially didn’t rate with Tracy who thought being smart was ‘stupid’ and ‘a drag’. A drag with a roll of the eyes added on.
It seemed she was just doomed to be a ‘bookworm’, which was a term that also elicited an eye roll from Tracy and the gigglers.
Oh, how she loved her books. She longed to go to the exotic places depicted in her ‘National Geographic’ magazine that her dad had ordered for her. He thought she was beautiful, but not in the ‘Tracy’ way. No, dad said she was beautiful for her brains, her intelligence. This made her feel very good. Her and her dad would walk in the garden and he would point out different creatures and plants for her to name, from her study books in the library. Oh, that’s a salamander…or, That one is a chickadee. His eyes glistened when she got this right, especially his beloved songbirds. He could whistle just like them, he knew every call. She could not whistle, because her tooth was missing in the front. He said he would make sure the tooth fairy knew that she had to have a mouth that would whistle for her next birthday. It was coming up soon, so she was excited.
Something bad happened that next month, tho’. Her daddy had a heart attack and died, and mom said he had gone away to a better place, in heaven. She didn’t get to tell him that the tooth fairy gave her a whistle, or that she could now tweet, almost as good as he did. She didn’t believe that heaven business, her dad said that heaven was a place where the birds lived, not dead people.
She spent a lot of time alone that winter, walking alone in the garden. She would whistle all the time, and learn about new animals and birds. She dreamed about her father every night, sometimes she would sleepwalk.
One cold, rainy February night she had an especially bad night. In her dream her dad was locked out of the house. He was calling to her, from the garden, and in her dream she wanted to fly down to him, like a beautiful exotic bird. She knew if he saw her, all arrayed in bright and glorious feathers, that he would be saved, and they would be together again. If only she could just fly down there. She started whistling and flapping her arms, and running to the window, still asleep, she fell thru the glass with a crash, landing unconscious in the garden below. Her bedraggled wet little body, so twisted and broken, was rushed to the hospital.
They said she would not be the same if she ever woke up. But they did not know that deep inside her amazing little mind, she was just fine. Her and her dad had both learned how to fly, and they tweeted happy little birdsongs back and forth as they flitted about a magnificent garden.
I eat a lot of my art. Great flow, free strokes, endless imagination…stuffed in my spare bedroom.
“What spare bedroom?”
You have a right to ask, especially when the door is always shut, the cat box takes center stage, there is no sign of any bed and the entire perimiter is taken up with painted furniture, sculpture, assemblage and canvases. As well as various and sundry art supplies.
There may not be food in the fridge, but there are tons of things to eat. I had such high hopes, you see. When I first began showing my work in earnest it was too easy. I started small, modest-like, in a gallery space I had never heard of. Actually, even though I had lived in Fort Pierce/Port Saint Lucie for over 30 years, I had only been to one(1!!) Art Gallery there.
Twenty three years of active addiction and utter chaos had stunted my artistic growth, even though I still considered myself a ‘gifted’ artist. Hah! If ever a gift had been squandered…well, you know the ole sob story. If, If, If. Poor me, pour me a drink.
My life only really began at sobriety, my little artistic endeavors after high school and still totally gonzo had amounted to some really bad free-hand tattoos in a state where tats were illegal…(“Is that a vulture, or an eagle, dude?” ” I don’t see a Black Widow, it looks more like a Tick!”) Thank God I didn’t sign them, whew… Oh, and an attempt at freelance Sign painting for a Crackhead who had somehow acquired enough money to open a “Bar” in a very old, abandoned Ice House (yes, these did exist) along a very old , abandoned highway in the deep, dark, old abandoned South. It was going to be named, remarkably, “The Ice House”, and Mr. Tavern Owner/Crackhead had a brilliant idea for his sign(…or was it my idea? Ah, well, gimme another hit and pass that ‘shine over here…)
Yes, you guessed it: ICE. Not just any old ice, either. No, this 4′ x 5′ sign was going to have an image of an ICEMachine !! And a Penguin in a striped hat and scarf getting ICE out of it!!! And, to top it all off, (wait for it…..wait for it…..) I was going to letter it without laying it out first…Freehand!!!
WOW, was this dude getting a deal, right? He could have paid me with dope, it’s so long ago(thankfully). I guess for that part of the world talent was hard to come by, but I happen to think if a deer had #@$! on that piece of plywood, it would have been way better!
Anyhoo… Done deal, and I even got an extra 50 bucks to hang it. I know what you are thinking…I should have paid him 50 bucks to burn it.
So right there in old South Cackalackee hung my little rendition of a drunken Penguin inviting all to come get snookered at The Ice House! Fortunately, the Owner blew all his money at The Crackhouse before the ribbon cutting, so aforementioned sign was taken down and used to board the place up…with the blank side facing the road, of course…
This was going to be more of a three-course post, but I have depressed myself now. So I am going to sign off and flop on the couch with a couple of my decadent Pumkin Scones I just made. Now they are a Masterpiece!!
“OLD McDONALD HAD A COMMISSION…Oh no, Oh no, Oh no……”
So, I had a “Patron”, and I am envisioning a relationship similar to Michaelangelo had with The Pope.. Endless coffers, freedom of expression in my own magnificent style, expensive dining and and more and more projects to work on. What a dream come true! I even mentioned to this kind person and lover of my art that I would give her privledged pricing on all future projects! Why not, right? I was on the gravy train from here on out, the best brushes, high quality paints…maybe marble or a bronze sculpture…or a glorious garden full of exquisite welded work! Ah, I basked in the glow of this fantasy, every artist’s dream!
THE BIRDHOUSE RACKET
Don’t get me wrong, I like money…I don’t yearn for riches like some do, which is a good thing because I would spend my life disappointed, but I do like to earn money. It validates the work I do, and it also buys good hot cocoa. So, every now and then, when I want to market my work directly, and it’s not stuff I want “too much” for; I resort to online marketplaces. To make a quick buck I’ve been known to paint palm fronds with funny animal faces for people to stick out in their gardens, and I’ve turned a quick buck…or twenty. In the recent past I painted and sold four or five birdhouses that I knocked out pretty quick, and sold them on Facebook marketplace…I was pleasantly surprised at how they were snapped up. “woohoo” ten bucks here, fifteen there…
I know what you think…you think I am ungrateful. That anyone with a talent like this that can make a dollar should not scoff at that ability. Believe me I am SO grateful. That’s not the issue. I made the choice to undersell, just to get that dough in my hand fast, I know that. Let me finish…
So, off I go (one day last month) to meet a customer for a sale. For good measure I loaded up a bunch of do-dads I had accumulated, thinking I might do some “suggestion selling” (Thank You Business Certificate). To my delighted surprise the person did buy more than one item! Not only that, they asked for more! I was tickled, really. So tickled, in fact, that I wrote a post about my new found angle on artistic marketing success! I rushed home to make more, but decided on a nap instead…
“He bandaged my broken hands that had beaten down my own hopes…”
Not Famous…no where near it… Glad of that, today. Happy inside my little cottage, warm and contemplating making a dessert recipe. Maybe I’ll share it with my Friend across the way, she’s a true friend.
Thinking fuzzy thoughts about my Mother, Carol, today. Remembering her smell, her feel when I embraced her. The soft place between her breasts where I would lay my head as a child. Mummy…
She was always hiding…her emotions, her loves, her hates. Hiding inside huge tee shirts and under handmade afghans-waiting for that rotten husband of hers to say or do something kind… Hiding because he was never kind…
I grew up a cross between the two of them: Needy and uncertain juxtaposed by selfish and unkind. A brutal mix of warring selves, hating myself more than the world, then hating all the world and myself.
Brittle and broken around the edges, warm and soft in the middle-like a cookie baked at too high a temperature…
I had run hard, played hard, fought hard and burned out, the crumpled package of me still held a broken and beating heart. My God reached in and ever-so-gentle pulled me out of the fire. He helped me as the layers of the skin I had worn sloughed off, he brought me across vast deserts filled with the skeletons of my broken dreams, over pits full of the venom of self-loathing…He bandaged my broken hands that had beaten down my own hopes, and placed me gently on a bed spread with forgiveness and love. He pulled the covers over me like the wings of the Eagle and He held me fast with ropes of loving kindness…Oh how I love him now, how much his love has filled me. I don’t have to hide, because I am healed, the scars on my face have faded. The scars on my heart remind me sometimes that I have to stretch out further than some to forgive…
When you work at a scarred and injured part of your body, you have to rub it and work it over and over, over and over to break up all the scar tissue. So when our hearts are hurt it takes working at this loving, working at this forgiveness, working at this gratitude to learn to expand our hearts again…to open our hearts wide…
“…I was a rebel…not knowing thousands of feet had gone down that same road days…months…centuries before…”
Always seeking New Horizons, Learning, Growing, Never Stagnant !!!
ARE YOU READY TO LOOK THRU MY EYES?
Did I really want fame? Maybe when I was 13 and dying to “Be Someone”. Telling everyone I was born on the same day as Michaelangeo (I was), like it meant I was as good as him (it doesn’t). I just wanted to be SEEN!!!!! NOTICE ME!!
Full of TEENAGE ANGST AND ANGER, HATING MY CIRCUMSTANCES, THE INJUSTICE OF IT ALL…WANTING TO PROVE SOMETHING, TO SCARE PEOPLE, ALL TO PROTECT THE HURT AND FRIGHTENED CHILD I was inside.
I PAINTED ANGRY, SHOCKING THINGS: DEMONS, GORE, DEATH, RAGE, VIOLENCE…I WAS A REBEL , FORGING NEW GROUND…NOT KNOWING THOUSANDS OF FEET HAD GONE DOWN THE SAME ROAD DAYS, AND MONTHS, YEARS AND CENTURIES BEFORE….
NEW WAS OLD, I WAS CRAZED AND VICTIMIZED, DRUGGING MYSELF TO EASE THE PAIN IN MY HEAD, THE TEAR IN MY HEART, THE LOSS OF MY INNOCENCE…MY ART WAS MORE RADICAL THAN whose? My classmates? So what, I was in some obscure high school in Pennsylvania, I was not working as an apprentice to DaVinci… WHO DID I THINK I WAS?
The baddest of the bad, I would get higher, drunker, do more crazy deeds, fight with the boys, flirt with abandon, try to inflict the most pain on my family, but mainly… INFLICT SUFFERING ON MYSELF.
MENTAL ILLNESS…DOES IT MAKE ARTISTS GREAT? It makes Mentally Ill artists lonely, lost and suicidal, just like everyone else. But in my mind NO ONE HAD EVER HURT LIKE I DID. I WANTED YOU ALL TO KNOW. I WANTED YOU TO REALLY FEEL THE PAIN TOO…isn’t that what GREAT ARTISTS DO?
The Painting you see on the left is inspired by the Battle for Hill 937 in The Vietnam War, which I relate to in my experience as a survivor of my own Battle for survival , my Hill being my own body and mind, my enemy being my abusers.
The next Image is a Detail from a Self Portrait, depicting my inner Bipolar Struggles…(Price Upon Reqest)
“AD INFINITUM” Mixed Media on Gallery Wrapped Canvas by Susan T. Martin (Price upon Request)
Would you like to become my Patron? Any and all help is most appreciated…I have so much to give and, very often, no funds to create! Lack of financial stability has made me experiment and have success with many new substrates and methods! For example my “palm frond” critters and “outrageous jello molds”… But, OH, want could I do with a LARGE CANVAS or Sculpting Clay, a Plasma Cutter or even Good Brushes? Wow! The SKY is the limit!!
Thanks and a Huge SHOUT OUT to ALL my FRIENDS, FAMILY AND FOLLOWERS!! You know who you are!!!!
I know that we change, it is a natural thing. I’m not hung up on the aging process… the CREATIVEPROCESS is where my interest lies. My creative life ebbs and flows like the ocean, like my moods, like my illness…
Must I always speak of my art as it relates to being mentally ill with Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, OCD and /or whatever else plagues this brain of mine? YES, I think I must, because they are so intimately entwined and entangled. The Creativity comes out of the Mood, like a hand from the mist, holding a paintbrush. Flick of the wrist, this way or that- a line drawn here, a dot placed there…Mind expands, engages with the mood, holding the brush…as these wheels turn emotions are enhanced, a certain recognition occurs-as the act of painting plugs into the unconscious. Now I am unburdened, unbridled…set free to run as far and fast as I please. My physical self is left far behind on distant shore, I am just line and color, shape and opacity, flow and ebb, ebb and flow.
I want to stay suspended in my artistic dream forever, and I try. Forgoing sleep, even food, I immerse myself in the sensuality of creating beauty, even if my beauty is ugly on this day. It is a feeling felt, a thought expressed without words, a slash of yellow, a bobble of green. Fresh, lively-dank, dark. Run the gamut, go the distance…
I never stop at “dainty”, or find relief at “pretty”….no, I have to press on, and pile on the color, make it scream with indecent pinks and green. Make it cry out in crimson, dance wildly in plum. Bring on the tears in every shadow of the colors of the night.
I remember these works. I want to make more.
I like selling little birdhouses, but painting them is hurting my fragile psyche. I wasn’t made to paint smiley faces, was I? Am I selling, or am I selling out…?
I have to get the mix just right: a smidgen of anxiety, a pinch of hunger, a good dose of caffeine and just about 48 hours without sleep and *BAM*! The NY creative lightning strikes! Tonight was the night, today was the day, cleaning off my museum pieces with fine brushes, repairing and sprucing up the shelves to display new work… Giving my custom painted floor a deep cleaning in preparation for the faux Renaissance tile I will be handpainting there.
I am pulling out all the stops while the proverbial light is green for GO!! I pulled out all my nearly finished projects for a big push to clear the studio, putting all the months (years?) of pondering into real execution. Clean the brushes, check all the supplies and paint paint paint!!
“…a drive to put what is playing on my internal projector out into the real world, for others to see…”
Stick your neck out. You gotta fail to win. Break a leg. And on and on…
Do you think of yourself as fearless? I used to think I was-when I was very, very drunk. Then I would cling to my “old man”, laughing like a lunatic, as we would race down I-26 at about 120mph on his old shovelhead. Whew…
That is not fearless. That’s just insane.
I was asking God the other day, to let me know what kind of art I should create. He did not suddenly give me skills like Michaelangelo, unfortunately. However, I share the same birthday with that marvelous personage. (Michaelangelo, that is…)
God has remained quiet, and has allowed me to decide what to make. That is why he gave me an imagination. And a drive to put what I see playing on my internal projector out into the real world, for others to see. Sometimes what I choose to show is not pretty, but has some meaning for me. At times my work is mildly odd, at others it can be painful for me to see, because the images or emotions have come from a deep and scary place. This particular type of art can be very therapeutic for me as a survivor; I take the monster out of the box, turn it this way, then that, think on it a bit, maybe beat it up a little, and then put it safely away again.
I feel strong after I do that, because I chose how to interpret the emotion, not the perp.
I saw it thru my lens, from a distance I am comfortable with, and I share what I choose to share. When I am at my bravest, I am not considering what the viewer might think at all. That may sound counter-intuitive , after all, don’t I want to please the viewer? Coax them into buying my art?
Aren’t I actually shooting myself in the foot?
( It really is going to be Allright, Mother…I will not starve…)
I feel like such a big chicken when I create art to please the masses. Well, I don’t have “masses”, how about a ‘mass’. How about a ‘mess’? If messes were my main concern I’d be Uber famous, because I have messes everywhere.
Anyway, I create art because I am an artist. It’s part of me. It’s not a job, it’s my identity, my natural state of being.
Should I paint “safe” so as not to “fail”….
I will create art, that is what I do. As long as I do this , I will always be ‘safe’ in the knowledge that I gave that which I have so graciously been given.
Don’t let fear of failure cause you to fence yourself in. Find a break in that fence, gather your courage and break thru!! When you free yourself from the constraints of creating for someone else, your imagination will soar to great new heights!!