In a previous life as a textile artist I used to make a lot of pictures which reflected the personal and emotional struggles that I was experiencing. They were turbulent times for me and that was bound to be reflected in my work. The interesting thing is that, although many of my images were quite dark and disturbing, people responded really positively to them and actually bought them to have on their walls. The reasons why people buy those kinds of pictures are fascinating to me too but that's a topic for a different day.
Anyway, I was reminded of this recently when a woman contacted me saying that she'd seen a picture of mine that she really liked and wondered if I still did it. The picture in question is on my therapist's consulting room wall and was from a period in my life when, through therapy, I was getting to grips with some of the dark stuff and struggling to see much of a way forward.
The idea for the imagery came from a previous point in my life when I was very taken by the idea of people growing wings. There were two novels that I'd read in which people literally grew wings on their backs and they both made a huge impression on me. One was Nights At The Circus by Angela Carter, and the other was Mr Pye by Mervyn Peake. Of course pretty much everyone is fascinated by the idea of flying – we dream about it, it embodies the very essence of freedom for us land-restricted bipeds (I imagine emus feel the same way).
Obviously thinking about the metaphorical growing of wings was the reason for me drawing the picture. We CAN fly, if we allow our wings to grow! Conversely, of course, we can very easily clip our own wings or even refuse to let them grow. Personally that's something I've been aware of for a very long time (the drawing that started this whole train of thought I did probably 15 years ago).
However for some dark and murky reason I still insist on ignoring the fact that I do have a pair of perfectly fine wings and am STILL refusing to fly!! Am I so wedded to the idea of remaining grounded? Clearly the need to remain safely on the ground has a greater pull than the desire to soar away to giddy heights! Don't we all want to reach giddy heights? Don't we all want to fly?
Maybe. But it's pretty bloody scary, isn't it? I mean, fantasising about it is all well and good – but imagine (and we do, oh how we do) – there you are, soaring above the tree tops, a happy and free bird, when suddenly – OH SHIT! - you lose a handful of feathers to a side-swipe from a bigger bird! Wing malfunction occurs and you start to swoop and dive erratically. You're desperate not to crash to the ground but your damaged wing just isn't doing the business. You try and try to stay aloft but eventually, exhausted, you descend, drop, sink to the ground, worn out with the effort, depleted and spent.
'Ha!' scoff the land dwellers. 'Look at you! Thought you were better than us, didn't you! Flying off up there with your fancy ideas. Look at you now! Don't look so clever now, do you'. And you sit, in the dust with your battered wing hanging limply at your side, looking down at the floor in embarrassment and shame at having such lofty ideas.
Wow! No-one wants to go through that, do they! How embarrassing, how humiliating! Better not to bother, right? Stay on the ground where you belong, and go back to your dreams and fantasies about flying......
But...what about those amazing views you're missing out on? What about that feeling of exhilaration that you'll never experience? Wings can be mended, can't they? You can always take flight again once you've rested and recuperated. Isn't it worth the risk? I'd say so. I'm still working at believing it, and I'm getting closer.
And I've got a really bad itch on my shoulder blade.