On Friday the 25th, my brother had a birthday and my family lost our dear friend Gray. On Saturday the 26th my father had congestive heart failure, and we lost him for a moment. I said farewell to Gray - though I can feel her all around - but eventually was allowed to keep my father. Thank you thank you thank you, spirits and doctors and super-nurses and friends.
In the past week and a half, I have slept in a Coronary Care Unit in a fold-out chair, watched my father turn into a lion and growl at people, lost my appetite and gained it back, been to Boston Logan airport twice, and encountered a man named Tony Ceprano (pronounced "Sop-rano"). I argued with countless nurses and doctors, and fought outright with an uppity physicians' assistant. I have also been to a funeral, watched parts of movies, read parts of books, and walked the dog on the beach. My skin has broken out, I've lost my voice, I've cried an ocean, and flipped out at random. Finally, somehow, my dad stabilized, and my mother and I brought him home to recover in his own bed. The doctors still don't know how this all happened. They only know how to stabilize him.
Throughout this whole late-winter calamity, I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be an artist during an extreme emotional tragedy/hospital situation/freak out.
Here is a list of all the artists I thought about:
- Sally Mann
- Rube Goldberg
- Bill Viola
- Fred Tomaselli
- Annie Liebowitz
- Susan Sontag
- Paul Klee
- Buddy Bolden
And here is a list of all the art I considered making:
- Rube Goldberg-style drawings based on cliches I heard in the hospital (e.g. tip of the scale, roll of the dice, the way the wind blows, taking a turn, the way the cookie crumbles, etcetera).
- Drawings of future sculptures for my show
- Drawing my father while he slept
- Laying a green screen over my father as a blanket, and shooting video footage where the blanket would be replaced with images of paradise from Key West
- Making watercolors on watercolor-paper postcards I carted around for a week
- Making collages from hospital journals
- Making a clever word-drawing on top of a hospital terminology word search puzzle I took from the lobby.
In the end, I made nothing. I couldn't focus on a single idea long enough to watch a movie, have a phone call, chat with a friend, or do more than one errand at a time. My father, on the other hand, was lucid and awake for probably 10 hours cumulatively over eleven days, and managed to write two poems and make a collage/drawing with crappy ballpoint pens and some gauzy adhesive tape. All without his glasses, which had been misplaced in the kerfuffle.
I have a lot to learn.