life is pain, princess

That is a quote from one of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride. It was on the other night and as my husband and I watched it we happily shouted out all the good lines that we have memorized over the years. (He’s only mostly dead; you are the brute squad; hello, my name is Inigo Montoya…)

Wesley says this pain quote to Buttercup just before she sends him tumbling head over heels down a steep incline. I have had this saying running through my head all day today. The day started with a painful yoga class due to a sciatic thing running through my body. Because of this I started thinking about pain and how I deal with it. (Not very well.) I have been a dancer since I was little but am now having to honor the fact that my body gets off to a verrrry slow start every morning. I don’t just have stiffness, I really hurt when I start to stretch and move around. Because of this I am coming to the conclusion that I need to pull back on my yoga class, perhaps go back to level 1 instead of trying to power through level 2. I don’t mean give into my morning aches and pains, just try to work around them a little more. I know from experience that there are ways to stretch out muscles by stretching the ones around them and there are teachers in my yoga studio who are really good at it. Yoga is supposed to be relaxing and fun but when I am gritting my teeth, I am definitely NOT having fun. And it’s no use telling me that I don’t have to do the poses full out like the rest of the class, I am much too competitive and stupid not to push things to the max. So I will probably have to move my schedule around to fit in a different class, but in the long run it will be worth it.

After pondering this for most of the day, I then started thinking about this post and how pain fits into my subtitle, “finding art in my daily life”. And I started to ask myself some questions.

What does pain have to do with art? 

Um, everything? Pain is an everyday experience for most everyone I know. It is part of being born, it is part of growing up and it is definitely part of aging. For me, the physical act of welding can cause pain (big helmet, awkward stances, lifting heavy objects). But there is also the mental anguish that is involved with creation; Is it good enough, how do I finish it, why isn’t it working, will it sell? And finally, there is the pain of having to let a creation go, sending it on it’s way with nary a backward glance (if you’re lucky).

So, what does pain look like?

I have a simple answer…La Pieta by Michelangelo. I know, I know, there are an infinite amount of answers to this question but this sculpture, for me, is the most beautiful representation of human pain that I have ever seen. But you don’t have to travel to Italy to see grieving, suffering, sadness and all the other facets of human pain. The fact is that pain in art is all around us. Poetry, prose, music, theater, visual art…all the arts are filled with pain.

How do I deal with pain in my artwork?

As an artist I think that my job is to recreate life and all my experiences in this life through my particular media of steel, polymer clay and all the other pieces-parts that make their way into one of my sculptures. I am not a puppy dog/rainbow/”cute” kinda gal. I have no problems with that kind of art (much) but I would not be authentic to myself if I didn’t go deeper than that. Not too deep, mind you, then I think it can cross the line in to therapy and lord knows I don’t want to share THAT with you. No, I want to think of it as more like a conversation between me and the rest of the world. Perhaps it can be a  conversation that doesn’t necessarily use words but connects with something nonverbal, something that you may not even be aware of.

Isn’t pain too ugly to show? Why would I want to make art that shows such a negative side of life?

Oh my gosh but these questions are getting harder and harder! Will someone turn off my brain please???

I think the answer lies not in whether I should hide pain in my art because it is too ugly but whether I am okay if other people are not in a place where they want to look at it. There will always be people who find pain in any form uncomfortable to look at and contemplate. Sometimes you need a break from the daily struggle. I’m okay with that. That’s why artists like Thomas Kincaid and Norman Rockwell are so popular. But I’m definitely not okay ignoring an integral part of who I am. That includes the good, the bad and the ugly. And perhaps my challenge is to transform pain into something humorous, loving and well, less painful.

I leave you with a humorous, loving and definitely less painful picture that captures my thoughts perfectly. Thanks to my two ridiculously cute “grandchildren” who have no problems hamming it up for the camera.

Aidan and Davey, July 4, 2013

3 thoughts on “life is pain, princess

  1. Arrgh, tell me about stiffness in the morning ! For the first few hours of the day I go very very slowly…. Yes, pain is a tricky business. I am not good with it and I would rather not see it or experience it, but it is part of the human condition and we do need to find a way to acknowledge it, communicate it and transform ( or is it transcend?) it.

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