Tag Archives: traumaticbraininjury

Groucho’s LAST WORD

It feels good to be back in the studio, finally making some things.

I’ve struggled to make Leadville home, and have been battling larger forces that have made it almost impossible to create art for many years. A severe traumatic brain injury in 2010 put an end to my career as a visual artist, curator, printmaker and teacher in Seattle. Dealing with the extreme depression, suicidal ideation and anxiety that ensued, it was all I could do to keep myself alive.

I finished up collaborative projects with No Touching Ground and other New Mystics members, and continued to work with Saint Genet on theatre projects after the TBI, but found it almost impossible to generate any personal work. What had once been an inexhaustible fountain of ideas and images became a personal hell.

I always kept doing graffiti tho. The immediate nature of writing on things as communication with the natural world and memory of passage through space was the only creative outlet I found satisfying. It was like trying to reconstruct my identity, similar to reconstructing the language I lost in the accident (aphasia is a common symptom of TBI, and mine was severe). Those disparate marks in space were the only thing holding me together at times.

I also started hiking long distance trails during this time – a suggestion from Harpo regarding a long walk of the Appalachian Trail in 2013 was both the birth of the Wrong Way Gang, and the inception of a personal obsession. The limited scope of interaction and stimuli was helpful in managing my anxiety and depression, and the physical exhaustion helped with sleep and suicidal ideation. I recently read that Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy was developed as a reaction to Francine Shapiro’s walking in the park… apparently I’d started to develop my own ways of processing trauma, parallel to contemporary psychotherapy models. Of course, no treatment was available to me at the time, as I lacked basic healthcare from 2001 to 2017.

A recent conversation with a friend who had witnessed someone close to her cope with a TBI mentioned that she “had to make her world much smaller. Which was very different from her previous behavior, where she was extremely social and outgoing.” This statement resonates with me on many levels. During my Appalachian Trail thru hike, I started sending postcards as a way of communicating. The succinct nature of the writing appealed to me, and I desperately wanted to reach out to people without getting too close. These postcards became the foundation for a practice I carry on today – WORD PLAY.

The original WORD PLAY is a reference to the knuckle tattoo game – pick two 4 letter words. My knuckle read CAST IRON – an homage to my past running free vegan secret cafes and a practice of cooking as community, but also an acknowledgement that while a cast iron skillet can be kept carefully for generations, it will shatter if dropped on a concrete floor. I became obsessed with this game, and remain obsessed today, hundreds of postcards later.

My new body of work is an expansion of the WORD PLAY practice – using a printmaking process to create editions of singular works of art. As a printmaker I’ve always been obsessed with the individual, tactile nature of handmade goods. I’ve always been aware that the more personal and individual an object is, the greater the value… this made me a terrible commercial Tshirt printer, but a pretty good art printer; as a part of this fine art printing I became deeply interested in reduction printing. The prints in LAST WORD are either 4 to 6 color reduction screen prints, or multi-colored (and hand touched) reduction block prints. The beauty of reduction printing, especially paired with an experimental/overprinting process, is the print becomes an individual work of art which is un-reproducible.

I look forward to sharing these new prints, all made in Leadville, at Ahab & Absalom starting January 2021. More information, including a giveaway and virtual tour of the show coming soon!