Friday, February 28, 2014

Coming Clean

This is how it starts. You look at something that you've been keeping close because, in that particular raindrop of time, it captured something essential. For me the "essential" usually comes swaddled in memory and memory is usually accompanied by something sensory--a sight, a sound, a smell. In the case of the collage series at the heart of this recounting, my Dirty Birds series, the ambience was tuneful, as I was in the midst of a Rufus Wainwright iPod marathon. There's more, though. There was Gloria Steinem. Her 1993 book Revolution From Within had been languishing in the to-donate-to-the-library pile. What made me pick it up and flip to the spread...that had a story about a woman named Laura...who had been on a personal journey not unlike my own? Some would argue that in life there are no coincidences. I didn't argue anything. With Rufus Wainright bouncing off my studio walls and my scissors on fire, I sliced all the Laura passages out of Steinem's book.

The Dirty Birds series was born. The pieces, all four of them, have graced the entry wall in my home since 2012.

But today they entered rehab. I invite you to witness the passage. If you have been following along with this blog, you know that, as the daughter of a narcissist, I have been engaged in a journey of recovery. It has not been pleasant but it has been vital. In recovery, the emotional as well as the physical sort, things can happen so slowly that you don't really notice any changes until you find yourself carefully un-framing a series of collages because it has suddenly become imperative to redo that which was made in a state of almost unbearable pain. So there you have it.

Let's have a look, shall we?

This is the original Dirty Birds #1. You can see Steinem's Laura text is prominent, just a little above center. 

Original (2012) Dirty Birds #1.
Paper collage with décollage on 5 x 7 canvas board with direct-to-paper
 gel ink transfers,  mica splits, charcoal, and beeswax.

This is the Dirty Birds #1 redeux. The Laura text has been covered up, and the textual focus has shifted to a larger concept--the American family. I've added a number of paper scraps as well as another mica split, some dye ink for that luscious blue, some chalk for sheen (which you can't see here), and more beeswax.

Revised (2014) Dirty Birds #1
Same as the above with the addition of more paper, mica, dye ink, and chalk

In the original Dirty Birds #2, the Laura strip is in relatively the same position. I remember circling the word "violin" in pencil because my parents used to make violin-sawing motions with their hands when they thought I was whining, and in 2012, even I was sick of putting up with me.

Original (2012) Dirty Birds #2
Paper collage with décollage on 5 x 7 canvas board. Antique papers, direct-to-paper
gel ink transfers, mica splits, charcoal, beeswax finish.

In the revised Dirty Birds #2, the Laura text has of course been removed and in its place remains only a fragment that more or less reads "will never again" (my motto). To obscure other text in the original version, I used sewing pattern paper, creating a matrix of broken lines with the pattern pieces. The blue ink from the first revision made it into this piece, too, and then I gave myself two stars (from a music practice book, vintage 1950s) for effort. One of the things that children of narcissists have to learn is how to be kind to themselves, and this seemed a good start to the exercise.

Revised (2014) Dirty Birds #2
Same as before, except more paper, including sewing tissue paper,
another mica split, some blue dye ink, and brown chalk

I haven't altered the third piece in the series. That doesn't mean I won't, just not today. I'm still kind of attached to Steinem's line about "the Confidence Clinic," and part of me wants to keep a remnant of how I used to be. We'll see how long that lasts.

Original (2012) Dirty Birds #3
Paper collage with décollage on 5 x 7 canvas board. Antique papers, direct-to-paper
 gel ink  transfers, mica splits, charcoal, beeswax finish.

Here's the last in the series, the original Dirty Birds #4. The Laura strip has migrated to the bottom in this piece.

Original (2012) Dirty Birds #4
Paper collage with décollage on 5 x 7 canvas board. Antique papers, direct-to-paper
gel ink transfers, mica splits, charcoal, beeswax finish.

And here's the revised version. New paper has been added, old text has been obscured, but mostly this revision is about the shift in contrast and in color. The blue is brighter and I sloshed some brown ink around until I got an effect that I liked. Less dark. Less stark. More like me. 

Revised (2014) Dirty Birds #4
As described above, with the addition of more paper, dye ink, and chalk.

But it didn't stop there. When I posted the link to this blog on Facebook, one of my friends pointed out that she really liked the Laura text line in the original Dirty Birds #4, the one that said "Having rescued herself, Laura is now the rescuer." It struck me that I really liked that line, too. Thanks to the magic of collage, I was able to restore it easily, simply scratching away the top paper to reveal the text underneath, which had been embedded in a protective casing of beeswax, rather like an artifact in amber.

Second revision of Dirty Birds #4
The new paper has been abraded and the Laura line about rescuing is back.
Because it was embedded in beeswax, the original text was always protected,
even as I was scratching away at the top layer.

Clearly a lot can happen in two years' time. To those who may be struggling, I say...stick with it. There is light, and there is hope, and there are definitely brighter and more vibrant blues.

As always, thanks for listening.

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