At 39 a friend introduced me to Munch’s work. I had been an artist for 20 plus years. That day I woke up. My drawings and painting of my inner world were not just psychological doodling – but actually legitimate subject matter.
I began with pictures and sculptures about the experiences of childhood and how the trauma and pain got played out in later life. Losses of love and and the joys and pain of being a physician and a parent in adult life.
In recent decades horses and maternal figures have intruded into my work.
I am not clear what this is about-my own yearning for my actual mother and my love for my daughter and for the majestic animals who symbolize compassionate power and freedom. And the cosmic need our predatory culture has for mare power, compassion and feminine wisdom before we totally deplete the earth and annihilate ourselves as well as our animal companions on the planet.
A colleague noticed some small elements in a painting which didn’t seem to fit.
“Who’s that?” they inquired.
Without hesitation, I replied “It’s Bones.”
On reflection this is Bones:
—Daddy who promised me a pony and never showed up for our visit.
—The agony of witnessing pain in animals and humans and being unable to help.
—A boy who said my vagina smelled bad.
—My best friend’s Harvard brother who raped me.
—Nazis who turned my ancestors into skeletons and lampshades and their successors who continue to practice genocide and brutality.
—Mrs. Lyons who threatened me at 5 with castor oil.
—Boys who tormented me with bad names
—A beloved man who spurned me for someone more sexy
—My trusted mama who left me at 4 at a boarding school
—The senators and representatives who vote themselves good health insurance while people have to choose between food and medicine.
—Big companies and governments who thrive on killing by war and cheap labor
—The selfishness of all of us who won’t share our comfortable lives with refugees from genocide and disasters
Bones lives in me and in the culture. I don’t like knowing he exists in me too. I ask myself what does he have to teach me.
He teaches me to shout “Back up bones!”
He says, “Find your backbone. Fight like a powerful mare! Don’t let fear stop you. Stand up for yourself and your values. Hold your ground. Be sturdy and lively. Love and play harder”