Monday, May 3, 2010

Word Play...a second installment to 'What's in a Name'

Journal #146 collage, Drozda 2009
11x14 inches

This is the second in a short series: What's in a Name. Perhaps you'll find that this installment doesn't directly relate to a name... unless you want to toss around psych hospital and art studio...this post is actually more about how words impact this Art Life. Ok so here's a little lead in...

I'm reading The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World the third in the Art of Happiness series by HH Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler, MD. A Booklist review statement on the back cover  reads: "There really is such a thing as an art of happiness, and this is one of the best how to books a reader will ever find."

My Art Life focus has been all about learning to embrace the Art of Happiness...not a likely goal following extreme violence....but thanks to my mentor the only direction I wanted to move.

One day in the early 1990's I was walking through my cavernous studio. The space contained more than 25 rooms and more than one hundred feet of hallway. Eight years earlier the entire facility had been closed after decades of use as a psychiatric hospital. My studio space had been the high security lock-up ward for women.  Across the lobby was the dismal abandoned high security ward for men. Between the wards were the two huge freight elevators and  a wooden door with two glass panes (like all of the windows, embedded with a heavy wire mesh) that opened out onto a caged roof top outdoor 'recreation' space. Caged to prevent suicide jumps.

In the morning when I arrived, usually before sunrise, I'd strap on my high top suede roller skates and limber up by sailing down 'my ward' and into the men's area. After a few back and forths on the smooth linoleum I'd go into my painting room, also called the room of the skill, and go to work.

Since it was a high security ward it was necessary to use a special key to enter or leave. When a visitor came by they would ring the bell at the huge double entrance doors. I would walk, or skate, down the long hallway, lined on both sides with my paintings, to unlock the door.

One day the bell rang while I was writing in my work journal. I quickly made a note so that I could return to my thoughts later in the day. Several hours later I went to pick up where I had left off.

I read the passage and stopped. 
What was this.
I had been writing about the fact that  'I'm scared'.

                                                                               The Call, Drozda 1991
                                                                                                                                        60 x60 inches
                                                                                                                                        Acryic on canvas

When I came back and looked at the word on the page I was stunned to see: sacred. My dyslexia had switched the letter c on me.

Since that day I voluntarily practice this shift whenever necessary. I remind myself that my thoughts and my feelings, and thus how  I create,  depend upon how I 'C'.   I then explore my 'I'm scared' so that I can move to 'I'm sacred'.

Aren't we all given opportunities every day to be scared sacred?

~Sing the day


  1. I love your collage and painting, I have never attempted a painting of this size.
    Your 1990s studio sounds rather spooky, I'm not surprised that you wrote 'scared' but the transposing of the 'C' is intriguing.

  2. That sounds like a really interesting place! I like the idea of turning scared into sacred... turning a negative into a positive.

  3. What an intriguing post ... I was captivated.

  4. Thank you for sharing a bit of your history so vividly....
    I really like the idea of asking what will make the c switch and become's a tip I'll work with...thanks...enjoy, j

  5. Thank you (again:)) for another beautiful, thought provoking and meditative journey to your past and now.

  6. I was in a psychiatric hospital during the early 70's and can picture vividly what it would be like later used as studio space - creepy and vacuous. Scared, sacred and scarred.

  7. Again, very moving and beautifully written.

  8. I always love your insightful play on words. I feel there is a kind of magic in letters and their arrangement - I love when my 'typos' create the real word i need to be reading/thinking about!
    That studio was such an amazing space. You brought inspiration, life, and a great deal of healing to it - I'm sure it was transformed by your presence and all the gatherings you hosted there! xox K

  9. I can't imagine the "energy" that would inhabit the space you describe and I love the picture of you rollerskating down the hall of the former psych ward! Wonderful story. I love the sentiment of the collage, very Buddhist! Encourages us to do what's important to us.

  10. Rollerskating- that would have shaken up the ghosts! (Many of whom would, no doubt, have rollerskated, too, if given half the chance!) Turning a place of despair into halls of healing- so important.

  11. Thanks so much for visiting Ian. Yes it was quite the spooky space yet it seemed like an appropriate environment for learning deeper lessons regarding what can happen when we are divorced from more creative ways of addressing dis-ease. All the women there could do during their 'lock-up' was carve their names and messages into the wide window sills, covered over by layers of paint.

    Claudine you're right about the opportunity for shape shifting the energy to something positive.

    Meg...thanks so much for coming by.

    Julie...the little flip from scared to sacred has eraped many rewards I hope you enjoy what it reveals for you.

    Indigo...yeah that ol' journey from "past to now" is a useful one provided we don't get mired in thinking anything ought to have been different.

    Julie. You stop me. I can feel the intensity. Scared. Sacred. Scarred...AND making art = empowered, fearless and resilient...I salute you. Funny about the vacuous and creepy part...mostly it felt deeply sad and inhuman...listening to the walls wail was part of being there. A stunning sound...I sometimes wept to hear it.

    Kay..thank you.

    Hey K I know...I've learned to pause and look before deleting my typos because there is often a jewel hidden waiting to be discovered. I'm so glad that you got to visit the fairhill studio...kinda hard to believe the expanse of it.

    ZenDot...I'm so glad that you came by. I enjoyed visiting your 'Buddhafied' site....and will return.

    I think you're on to something with the image of roller skating ghosts...when I'd get some speed up I'd get the feeling that 'someone is coming up behind'...especially as I passed the padded cell....whoa...let me outta here....but over time I calmed down about the spirits floating about.

  12. funny how re-arranging one letter of a word changes it from a negative to a positive, or the other way around. you have such a facility with words and images.

  13. I forgot to mention there is a movie (by a Canadian I believe) called Scared Sacred. I remember the title because I found it so intriguing but can't actually remember the movie!

  14. Donna, this is such a great story, and you are certainly a great storyteller. In the tradition of shamanic storytellers, your stories have spiritual insight and lessons to share. I agree with Karin that wordplay can indeed lead us to the sacred.


Thanks for stopping '-)