Half-baked Chicken, a paper mache-in-progress chicken started years ago, photo © 2007 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.
I have a retablo painting I did of Santa Lucia carrying her eyeballs on a plate. Saint Lucy is the patron saint of the blind, the saint to invoke for clarity. Vision. She is my favorite saint, possibly because of those perfectly round eyeballs that sit like a teacup on a saucer (and the fact that she walks around not with empty sockets but rather with another set of seemingly perfectly functioning eyes).
Unfortunately, I haven’t finished my painting of Saint Lucy. I started it about four years ago. She’s gone through several metamorphoses. A high-collared purple tunic. A low-collared maroon tunic. A low-collared maroon tunic and cleavage. (Scandalous!)
The clarity she’s given me is that I’ve always struggled to finish my art.
I’m trying to figure out where this comes from. I don’t not finish my work projects. But my work projects have deadlines and people checking to see if I’m meeting my deadlines. I complete most my daily chores — making breakfast and packing lunches, doing dishes after dinner, posting on the blog. If someone is relying on me for something — a letter to the editor or an appearance at a political event — I almost never let that someone down. Yet, I let myself down all the time.
On the shelf across from Saint Lucy is a half-finished chicken. I made its body out of the torn-off corner of an empty dog food bag. It’s a paper mache project I started five years ago. I wanted to paint it bright blues and pinks and greens and shellack the whole thing into a shiny, festive piece of folk art. I even made the feet, although I couldn’t figure out how to attach them to the body. I have everything I need — the paint, the wire, even the shellack. I just need Me. To. Finish.
Personally, I’d like to blame it on my air sign. I am, apparently, mercurial. I’m supposed to not be able to stick with any one thing. Yet, I’ve always done art and writing, and I’ve always seemed reliable when it came to not finishing my art and my writing. I can’t get more stable than that.
Maybe my parents did it to me. Except, Dad has completed everything he ever set out to do. Years before he retired he started a list of Things To Do When I Retire. He was worried he might run out of ideas, so he grew his list for several pages of his pocket-sized memo pad. As far as I can tell, he’s done them all. Learned to oil-paint and completed many of the historic churches of New Mexico. Wrote his memoirs. Perfected his golf swing. Went to Spain. Built a patio deck and raised all the flowers he loved as a child.
Mom was much lazier. She watched As The World Turns and read National Enquirer, eventually graduating to Harlequin Romance. I could say it’s her fault. In fact, I will. And tomorrow when I call to tell her, she’ll remind me that while she might have put off the ironing and never made us breakfast, she did finish big projects. She and Dad refinished three large pieces of furniture, I now remember, including transforming our formal dining room table into a coffee table by chopping off its legs.
No, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all mine. I don’t show up for me.
My two mentor teachers, Juanito and Natalie, finish everything they start. I’ve asked them. More than once just to make sure they answer the same way every time. They do.
So I’m making an effort to do the same. When I drew Bethanny, I hated her. Where did she come from? She just showed up on the page, and that smile of hers. And who was the guy in the picture frame. Bethanny wasn’t like any of my other doodles, and I wanted to skip over and start a new drawing. Which is what I did. And if it weren’t for the fact that I disliked that one even more — you should see him; he’s got a long neck and goofy glasses — I wouldn’t have gone back and finished poor Bethanny. But you know what? I did finish her, and I kind of like how she turned out. How’s that for clarity?
Saint Lucy, how do you work your magic when your shoes aren’t even filled in? The shawl on your shoulder was supposed to be yellow, I think. I notice that your pose is almost exactly the same as Bethanny’s. She’s got a grapefruit; you’ve got eyeballs. What a combination. I hadn’t even noticed until I started this post. I’d like to promise I’ll go back and finish you, but the truth is, it’s hard to go back. My style has changed. Plus, maybe you’re a better beacon unfinished than you are fully done. Maybe that makes you vulnerable like me. Me, you, and the uncooked chicken. Looking at what’s in front of us. A blank page to fill.