Two examples of embroidered photographs to show Veronica, who had not seen these kinds of works before. Unfortunately attribution is lost in the fog of time and distance and I am not sure of the artists here. I am sure it is some very skilled needle work.
I do know this work is by Ana Barboza, my favourite artist of the genre. She uses knitting in her art also, as part of her manifesto is to ‘bring the value of manual craft back to life.’ Solidarity, sister.
It was good to see Veronica and Kerry again after such a long break. One thing I learned is that it is going to be continually uncomfortable being challenged on my work, however respectfully, when it also represents an experience that is deeply personal, literally painful, and difficult to translate. I’ve spent the last couple of days thinking through how to keep facing these kinds of conversations without hiding the bits I don’t want scrutinised (because they are often the most interesting, the most resonant), and without developing defensive prickles (because the challenges are necessary, I signed up for this thing, and no-one likes a sharp poke in the eye).
Part of it is being clear in myself what I need to justify and what I don’t. I don’t need to justify the pain itself, I don’t need to justify the methods I have used, or will use, to cope with that pain. If disparate bunches of scribbles got me through months of agonising pain, then god bless disparate bunches of scribbles.
But I do need to justify the way I present and give context to both pain and coping. If I choose to use those disparate bunches of scribbles as research data, or research artefact, and they look like a colossal waste of time outside of my own head, then I need to explain why they’re not. What they did for me. What they mean to me. How I see triumph when I look at that big fat pile of messy unintelligible nothing because what it represents is that I’m still here. 2017 was a marathon of grit and persistence and an unceasing barrage of physical torment that I will never be able to adequately explain, but god damn it and god bless it and fuck it all to hell, I am still very much here.
I bought myself a tiny garnet ring to wear on my little finger to remind me of the separation of my work and my self. It’s a trick I learned from Julia, the psychological power of a well chosen talisman. The red is for fire, a destructive, life-giving force, representing the pain I have (and yes, continue to have) gone through and also the power of the patience and persistence I developed in order to keep standing up every time that pain knocked me down. It’s small and fragile because life is small and fragile, and we all have so little time available to us. Spending that time on self-pity is not a choice I want to make. It’s also a garnet because the name comes from the Latin ‘garanatus’, meaning ‘seed-like’; this is to remind me how very much I still have to learn, how very much more room there is to grow. A seed is but the possibility of a tree, and without soil and food and a lot of time, it can only remain so.
To be proud of my self, to remember that time is short, and to remain open to input, to growth. It’s a lot for one tiny ring to handle, but she can cope. She already does.