Saturday, June 28, 2008

Good Old Days

This is an etching I did in school about 10 years ago. I found it as I was trying to clean up my studio and was glad to see it because I thought I had lost it. The printmaking class was making a portfolio with one image from each student. We were supposed to come up with a modern icon. I chose the individual as an icon. I felt, and still do, that we had come to worship ourselves as individuals so much that we had lost track of the human race as a whole. I used the brass Buddha face that I had often used in paintings to symbolize myself because the thing reflects like a mirror. My own image as I look at it looks back at me, but the image is distorted. In the self-image I am putting my hand out to block what I see. It is also reflected in a number of ways, with emphasis on different features of myself.

If you didn't get the point, which I doubt if many did, I supported the idea with a Narcissus bloom. Narcissus' vanity is pretty widely known. Still, it didn't much matter if the point was lost on most of the viewers. The image is interesting on its own (or so I think in my narcissistic way).

I spent the afternoon going through all the old paintings I have dragged around for so long........huge canvases full of symbols and allegories. I cut the canvases off their stretchers, rolled them up, labeled them, and put them in a duffle bag. My history as a student came back to me and I felt melancholy about it. Never have I experienced approval and encouragement the way I did then. I was almost a celebrity in the art department because of my bold, irreverent paintings and my technical skills. Scholarships rolled in predictably every semester. I became a member of Phi Beta Kappa. I hung my accumulation of ribbons on my wall until there were so many they became meaningless. Then I threw them away. Professors loved me, fellow students admired me. I was wonderful.

I was also detested more than ever before. I was going through a divorce, my mother was suing me for $130,000 (or thereabouts...I can't remember), I had no money, my car was repossessed and my house went to foreclosure. My husband and mother were both furious with me. I was being accused of elder abuse, medicare fraud, and God knows what else. My mother's friends hated me for what I had allegedly done to her (neglected her and stolen her money), as well as her caretakers and the legal system. I was despicable.

These two extremes kept me in a heightened state of anxiety, disbelief, and despair. My intensity produced that artwork. Without doubt, they are the best things I have ever done.

That story, in case you are curious, ended a little over a year later when I was exonerated. I ran up a 30,000 dollar tab with the legal office of Rudman-Winchell, LLC, I owe my life to my lawyer, a wonderful woman who was both my defender, my support, and my counselor. We were in touch almost every day. She supported me and smoothed my way through the experience. When it was over, it was she who talked the law firm's board into accepting my paintings as full payment.

It's hard to know how to think about that time.
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from away said...

It's interesting seeing this etching. I've seen pieces of it in so many of your other works, yet never this 'original' collection of everything in one place.

Rabea said...

Hi Cheri,

There was a period in my life going through medical school when everything seemed meaningless and hopeless. I was a poor teenager who got a scholarship to a fancy American College in Beirut. Those rich people were fake and malicious and I didnot know how to deal with them. I had periods of intense confused feelings about the world and everything else and I painted a lot of paintings like yours. But I realised afterwards that it wasn't me who was the problem, and then I felt happy with myself. Now I am rather content, and that's reflected in all my brightfully colored paintings!!!