Monday, May 20, 2013

Coloring the Line

photo by Hilary Scullane
This past Friday (May 17, 2013), I participated in a small group art show, called The Hilary & Nikki Show, at the Hardy & Nance Street Studios. Some folks from Continuum Performance Art were involved (most significantly, the titular Hilary Scullane) and they let me play once again on their playground.

For those who don't know me or don't follow my other blogs, I had a fairly big surgery last month. I'm recovering wonderfully and all is well, but being cut open from sternum to navel is a bit traumatic all the same. It's fair to say that I'm a bit obsessed about the experience.

You can see the line of the incision on my belly here, but not how it curves around and under my navel. In this performance/action, I drew the line of my incision on paper with a red crayon, over and over. Through the night, more marks accumulated on the papers. At intervals, I'd turn so spectators could see my belly.

I'm not entirely sure what to make of this piece. It felt somehow necessary to my own processing of what happened to me, but I'm not sure what I was trying to show people (and as I note in the blog masthead above, I aim to be a "servant to the showing"). My friend, Misha, tells me to rethink saying it's self-indulgent, which is what I've said about it. She wasn't able to be at the show (she had her own gig to attend to), but she said when she saw this photo on Facebook, she knew exactly what it was about. But of course, she's a friend and knows my story.

I put this out here on the blog to admit (as not all artists will) that sometimes I don't know what or even why I'm doing what I'm doing. Am I doing it for myself? For my friends? How am I communicating to strangers?

In another post on this blog, you can find a photo from Tell Me Where It Hurts, a pre-surgery (even pre-diagnosis) performance that I felt was much more successful than Coloring the Line. In that case, I took my own unease about what was going on in me and asked other people where they hurt. It felt much more expansive, more inclusive of human frailty.

But, well, I'm far from the only person who has survived a major surgery. Perhaps my processing this in public is an entry way for other people to process their own frailty, too. It's definitely more subtle than Tell Me Where It Hurts, but that's hardly a detraction.

The next day, I went to a performance art workshop at the Lawndale Art Center. I was babbling on about Coloring the Line and the facilitator of the workshop asked me how I felt about it all. I said that what I learned was that I really do want people to see my scar. I want people to know that, while I'm healthy, healing, all that, this kind of traumatic thing really did happen to me, that it wasn't an abstract thing. It's as solid as the line down my belly.

And that may be where I go next with any performance growing out of this surgical experience. In a culture where we don't like to see or acknowledge one another's wounds, maybe these thoughts will develop into something that will honor the concrete, real, actual scars, wounds, hurts---and healing!---of the onlooker as well as exposing my own.