Sunday, January 24, 2010

Being vulnerable...taking a risk...

Keep all the important doors open. After a major reality check this afternoon and charging $197.00 for four of my fourteen medications needed to attempt to remain in remission I had a good cry right there in my pharmacy department. Life is sometimes difficult and after the realization that this is life as it is in the moment and I need to just accept that I want to live...Live! I went through the rest of the grocery picking up fresh fruits and vegetables, tilapia, a small pork roast, milk.eggs, and the real treat... pretzel sticks. On my drive home in the rain I was grateful that we could have good foods and the opportunity to pick up and charge our medications to keep living with a chronic progressive disease like Lupus. I am vulnerable but I am still here.

This incident reminded me of my disintegration collaboration project I participated in with Seth Apter ...from the The Altered Page. From the month of January until May we were asked to make a work of art and then bury it in the ground or leave outside to demonstrate the fragility of our art materials and our very human bodies when left to survive exposure of nature's elements. I created a small accordion paper book with drawn, painted images, ribbons and fibers, collaged elements to demonstrate my affirmation for a world/ mother earth free from disposable trash. I included photographs of my children and family members and words and poetry to create a humane statement to simply express this affirmation for a cleaner, healthier planet earth for all families in the future. I buried my precious book under my purple clematis plant outside my backdoor in my very small garden of lilies and perennials. I watched anxiously as the weather raged and blew frigid winter winds and heavy snows. I feel responsible for this slow process of decaying fibers and papers and to be honest there were times I wanted to retrieve my words and marks but on May 1st I uncovered my small token of disintegration and Mother Nature to discover how resilient my marks had behaved in the ground. Gently I opened my accordion to discover several small creatures had made their shelters inside the pages of the book. The watercolors were still soft and visible and there was evidence of a slowly moving growth of a soft velvet gray mold. The pages were stuck together...possibly a reaction with the moist soils, condensation of snows and rains and the Liquitex gel medium I had employed to help preserve the words and images. The ribbons and lace fibers were still intact and I felt an intimate realization that as a human body struggles to survive against the elements of daily living...the metaphor is visible to those participating in this unique process. Suddenly I found my eyes totally aware to disintegration processes like decay, rusting ...beautiful flows of the chemical reaction in the process of rusting metals, torn bits and pieces of vintage fibers and the stories they tell. I was so aware could I have been blind to this magical transformation right in front of my eyes? Aging and the marks we wear on our faces and skin were now so visible and told a story about the manner we live our lives. I now studied faces of dear older friends and their beautiful wrinkles and smile lines with a new appreciation of the cycle of making a life and living in the present moment...the gift of life to the fullest.

Seth then asked us the artists to perform another step in this Disco project. We were to make a decision to reassemble parts of our disintegration design elements into a new work...a new articulation of bits and pieces into a new life. I discovered this would be a bit difficult to begin and develop a new interpretation on my paper and fiber assemblage. I also found myself seeing with a widen lens... to see with my own eyes the commercial advertisements and reports on how to remain youthful in a woman's appearance...this project surprisingly had me questioning the definition of beauty in our culture. My small work became like a fern fiddle..slowly unfurling to the sky's sunlight and life cycle unfolding. This perennial fern is a favorite of mine to experience when I witness this miracle opening up to a new seasons promises. This cycle of life in living in the moment. This new beginning..a rebirth is the metaphor I relive when I make my sacred marks and witness the transformation we live as artists living in a moment of time. Imagine and Live in Peace, Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart


  1. Wish risk there is reward! Amazing to see all your pages laid out one by one. Thank you so much for posting this!

  2. My friend with lupus found that going gluten-free (following a strict celiac diet) greatly reduced her symptoms. HHTH

  3. I am working hard to eat fresh and unprocessed foods but I will investigate the gluten free celiac diet..than you for this information. Imagine and Live in Peace, Mary Helen