Thursday, February 09, 2006


My collage: My Castle

This is a collage I have needed and wanted to do for a long time. I mentioned to Judith Heartsong many months ago that I'd started on a collage about my healing from my surgery of 2002. I told her that I needed to finish it (she has been an inspiration to me and has given me the courage to express myself through visual art once again). I never did finish that collage I spoke to Judi about; but this one is perhaps better at expressing my feelings.

My Castle isn't based on a particular piece of Kahlo's artwork, but it is done on a card with biographical information about Frida Kahlo on one side and her signature (plus a drawing of her head and shoulders) on the other. My Frida has no arms or legs and she is being burned at the stake. She has wings, but she cannot fly. (Think of an insect that has been tortured by a cruel child.)

I have titled this post "Exile," and if you go through my AOL Journal, you will find at least three entries on the subject of exile. This is because I have begun to see life as a series of "Falls" from one state of being into another state of being. This fall is very painful. For a while, the loss of "paradise" is almost intolerable. That is what this collage represents; the feeling of helplessness resulting from being exiled from one's "castle" (self).

Exile, in days of old, was no small matter. To be locked out of the castle and cast out beyond the walls of the city meant certain death. Of course, modern life has its own forms of exile. Nothing, to me, is more frightening than exile.

Christina asked a question in her comment to my former post: why do I return to Gauguin again and again for my imagery? I think it is because his paintings represent an attempt to find paradise, to find wholeness, and that is what my life search is about, trying to find wholeness. Erin also mentioned in her recent post something about the changes she is noticing in herself, in the way she sees the world. She wants to embrace these changes, yet at the same time she mourns what she has lost: she mourns "the fall."

The reason this collage is so disturbing is that my Frida has been deprived of her arms and legs. She is missing her hands which express compassion and grace and also help her to complete her creative mission; she is missing her feet, through which the soul enters and leaves the body. Her organs are exposed. Anybody who has ever had an operation will relate to the feeling of being invaded, exposed.

Yes, this Frida is in real trouble. She is exiled from her castle and is burning at the stake. The writing on the postcard is from a story I wrote about my surgery. This is how I felt: like this burning Frida.

*Important: I am okay now. I am healthy and am on track both physically and emotionally. I am dedicating myself to my creative life with even more passion than I did before my operation. So everything is good!


Vicky said...

This is fascinating, Theresa. And I immediately recognized the quote, even though I had to read it sideways! The exposure of the soft insides brings to me memories of invasion - that the moat did not protect from. But your castle looks strong and fortified now. And it is sitting on a fertile green sward. Frieda has a determined look on her face, and her wings are still defiantly raised. She is not going quietly. I see great strength in her, even as she is being violated. She will rise from the ashes of this exile, stronger and more powerful in her art and her womanhood, I am sure of it. As you are.

Love, Vicky

beths front porch said...

" as a series of "Falls" from one state of being into another state of being." Theresa, I was fascinated by this, especially after reading Erin's blog about the consistent mourning of a loss. It seems like we are constantly being swept by the current over these falls, at times, and as much as I would like to stop my canoe--and I often have tried to do this--it's inevitable that we go over them. When I stop, and portage my canoe--the falls are harder to go over and take more time to heal. Searching for wholeness-good luck on our respective journeys. Thank you for the wonderful blog entry.--Beth

Judith HeartSong said...

These are powerful pieces and I can see you publishing a book that includes them with your writings about them.

The work here is precise and masterfullt expressive and I do believe that you are on to something here.

Keep these coming... they are incredible Theresa.

TJ said...

I looked as deep as I could into your collage. I found it appropiate that Frieda was presented in such away as she was known for her Disturbing Arts. When in Mexico I think ( I am trying to remember) I was told she had a disturding cremation and soon after many thought of her as Saintly in the arts cult. Personlly her visions creep me out. I seen Ted Bundays name mentioned on the card..there is another who creep me out. I sit naive how they are connected to the same collage..?? Maybe if you would help me to understand..I am missing something here.

ggw07 said...

First- "healthy" and "on track" "physically and emotionally"- Glad to hear it! When anyone has surgery, you are brought face to face with your mortality- There are two ways to go with this- denial or confrontation and acceptance- If you choose the latter- and are an artist- it can only enrich the work- This is what I notice in this building series of collages- Exposure, deeper insights- facing fears- moving forward- So when you say, you are more committed to your creative life- It makes total sense- you must continue- Something powerful and transcendant is happening.

Anonymous said...

"fall," Amy Newman.

reviewed in Ohioana Quarterly by a certain blogger on vacation. most certainly available somewhere on campus. or, borrow-able. maybe.

Erin said...

Theresa--I enjoyed seeing your new piece of artwork. I am especially enamored with the castle in the corner. It looks like it has almost polka-dots, like a castle that would illustrate a children's book perhaps. That association gets me thinking about childhood and how much has changed since then, how many "falls" I have experienced. I am glad to hear that you are healthy and good, though. Is the story represented on this postcard one that was published in The Sun? It seems very familiar to me.

Theresa Williams said...

"TJ"--A lot of the people who comment on my blog have read the story that mentions Bundy. I didn't think to explain the reference. In the story, the main character is indeed "creeped out" by the fact that Bundy was executed on her birthday. Bundy represents terror and death. The character feels terror and is afraid of death. Thank you for bringing this need to explain to my attention.

TJ said...

Thank you Theresa,for the help.
I felt as if I was jumping into both feet without reference.
This was such a powerful post. I loved when you said you totally more committed to your creative have so much to give.

V said...

For me, the most important Bible story attempting to explain what it is to be human is the tale of Adam and Eve`s exile from Eden.

The parable is not really about the loss of Paradise. On a deeper level, it is about the gift that the Creator bestowed on us that truly makes us human. Only humans have been given self-awareness and the freedom to make conscious choices in their lives. Of course, this freedom comes with a price, the knowledge of our mortality.

For Otto Rank, this knowledge is intolerable for the great majority. All of the mind`s defensive postures are designed to spare this from consciousness. Our personal growth is therefore severely restricted by the very gift that makes us human.

For Rank [and myself],the few who can truly call themselves Artist are those who choose to live with this precious gift, who choose to confront their fear and express it in creativity.

Theresa, I believe this post can be viewed as a wondrous look at what an artist must confront continually. I love your writing and your courage.


McFawn said...

I too liked the idea of a series of exiles or falls ...hopefully Death isn't finally hitting the ground, though. Maybe that's something we can fall "through" as well!
You also mention searching for wholeness. The more you are the more you lack. Being unwhole is way of saying you want more...and those who want more from life are usually those who are more.

I used to say "What does the hole imply about the whole?" when discussing argument. Bascially, I was saying that the limits of an argument say more about it than the substance. Sometimes a person's limitations or imcompleteness are actually what's most interesting about them...because they have to develop other (sometimes sublime) qualities in other areas to make up for what they lack. Being un-whole might have its advantages.

ckays1967 said...

First, I have to admit to being guiltly...when the page loaded and I realized that the collage contained your very own handwriting I felt JOY. Real joy. Then I clicked on the picture to get a better look at it and this is where the guilt plays in.

I printed it out.

I did. Of all of the collages you have posted this one spoke to me on such a profound level before even reading your words that I just could not resist. If you tell me to destroy I will with deep regret but I will.

Second, this post is literally rich with life. With artistic zeal. The inspiration to create and to be more alive truly thumps out of the words. Maybe it is because castles are a theme in my own little world or maybe it is because you have so delicately exposed yourself.

I've said enough and said nothing.


Theresa Williams said...

Christina, I am honored that you printed out the collage. Of course you may have it; I did think of you as I was making it, along with my other blogging friends with "body issues." I hope the collage leads you to acceptance, growth, and profound thoughts!

ckays1967 said...

Now that I have your permission I shall tell you what place of honor your collage will have in my life.

I have printed it on a 70 lb paper so it is good and strudy, I have printed it in color so it looks very much like the one in your journal.

One of the books you encouraged me to buy suggested that the fledgling writer keep a log of their submissions (when, where, what, ect.) which, I suppose is good solid advice to people who are stictly creative types. But alas, I am also an accoutant so I have taken that advice and gone two steps further. I have purchased a big white binder that has those clear picture holders on the covers and divider tabs that I have labeled:
Rough draft (your critque is there and Paula's critque)
Final draft (my first leap is there)
Reworking (notice I choose to not label it rejected? Wise, I think. Self affirming.)

Anyways, because your encouragement was the last push over the edge, I placed your collage in the front clear display of my newly created submissions binder. To remind me to be brave and to always remind me of you.

And I have told this story here, in your blog, so that everyone else would know too.

Nelle said...

I am enjoying these collages very much. Two years ago I had surgery on my heart. I had to have a damaged valve replaced with a mechanical one. It was quite traumatic. I think it's wonderful that you have found an artistic way to express yourself about your surgery.



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"I was no better than dust, yet you cannot replace me. . . Take the soft dust in your hand--does it stir: does it sing? Has it lips and a heart? Does it open its eyes to the sun? Does it run, does it dream, does it burn with a secret, or tremble In terror of death? Or ache with tremendous decisions?. . ." --Conrad Aiken


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