Posts Tagged ‘Saint Lucy’

Looking back I see myself lying flat on my back, unable to move. It was early February, 2009. I was literally lying on the floor of Burlington Coat Factory, my sciatica pinched. That’s how last year began for me. Immobilized.

My best friend from graduate school, Ana Lucia, had come with her family all the way from Brazil. It had been over a decade since I’d seen her and her husband, and I’d only seen her three children in photos. They were on their way to Santa Fe for a week’s ski vacation, stopping off to visit us en route. My sciatica had been giving me trouble for weeks, and then the morning before Ana Lucia’s arrival, I woke up and could hardly get out of bed. I managed to get a chiropractic treatment that morning, acupuncture the next, plus a handful of painkillers from my mom, who suffers from lower back problems.

When Ana Lucia and her family got here, the pain was masked enough to join them for lunch and then to Burlington Coat Factory to buy jackets for their ski trip. For a while, I thought I was going to be fine. Little did I know, it was Codeine that had me walking around the store searching for good deals on down coats. As the drug wore off, the pain became so unbearable I thought I was going to pass out. Panicked, I got the keys to Ana Lucia’s rental and told her that I had to get something from the car.

My plan was to get to the car, drive the less than three miles to my house, pop another painkiller, and come right back. But when I got to the foyer of the store, that space not inside nor outside, I was close to passing out. I plopped myself down in a spot of sun, moaning and sweating. The automatic double doors opened and closed, opened and closed. Shoppers passed through the space, glancing my way. Not a soul asked if I was OK. I’d sit, try to get up, fall back again.

Finally I mustered the strength to hobble to the car. I turned on the engine, put the gear into reverse, and started to back out. When I almost passed out again, I turned off the engine and reclined as far back as the seat would go. I was stuck. I couldn’t drive home and I couldn’t walk back into the store to let Ana Lucia know what had happened.

And that was how my year started. Stuck.

The pinched nerve, I am convinced, had everything to do with a commitment I had made months before. I had been invited to submit five paintings to a show in Manhattan. Thrilled, I signed up to do so. But as the show’s Spring 2009 deadline approached, I let fear get the better of me. I had it in my mind that the pieces were due in New York City in April, but I didn’t go back to verify any dates. By early February, when I finally checked on the due date, I saw that the paintings were due in the gallery by February 28. I had less than a month to go and hardly an inkling of what I was going to paint.

To make matters worse, I had committed to taking on an exchange student from Mexico for two of the four weeks that I might have used to complete the paintings. In hindsight I believe I was subconsciously sabotaging any chance to actually fulfill my creative commitment. (Our experience with the exchange student was so enriching in other ways that I don’t regret having done that. But this is how the mind can work; this is how we create the obstacles to our own creative fulfillment.)

Back in the parking lot of Burlington Coat Factory, I called Jim on my cell phone and told him my predicament. He was there within ten minutes, went inside the store and found Ana Lucia. Then he got me home. I was able to see my friend and her family again on their return leg of the trip. We had a wonderful dinner and have kept in touch since.

Looking back I see that good things come of bad. Aside from my two weeks laid up on the ground, literally, I moved forward in 2009. I completed four paintings and showed them during the Corrales Art Studio Tour in early May. Went to Vietnam in mid-May and again in August. I met Pham Luc, learned how to make jewelry from my doodles, did two art shows in the Fall, and set up a small Etsy shop this past November.

Looking back, I woke myself up. I committed even further to the life I have—giving to my children and husband, to my job. I connected with old friends and new ones, gained from the generosity of other artists, and spent time with family.

Looking back, I see I found clarity. It’s as if Saint Lucy, that courageous woman who gouged out her own eyes so she could dedicate her life to what she loved most, was by my side, carrying her eyes on a plate so that I could see. I began painting her image probably a decade ago and never finished. She’s a constant reminder that if I look inside myself, I can see where I need to go.


This piece is based on a 15-minute Writing Practice I did on WRITING TOPIC — REFLECTION & INTENTION. Tomorrow I will post my Intentions for 2010.

-Related to post The Making of a Painting Painter

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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.

Santa Lucía, unfinished arcryllic on wood retablo of Saint Lucy,
painting © 2000-2007 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

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