Archive for August, 2010

death of a hybridJust a storyline and yes, it’s another self-portrait (I’m the hybrid).  This is more or less a scene in a story, a medical examiner sent to pick up human remains, but finds instead a hybrid, part human, part… something else, they believe.  Ears like a sheep or goat, perceptual abilities that are unimaginable by ordinary human standards, extraordinary intelligence, yet quite vulnerable as extreme sensitive creatures, as well.  What they don’t yet recognize is that these are not hybrids at all, but another human species, highly evolved, but their extremely evolved mental capacities come at the cost of being unable to separate themselves from being severely bombarded by every aspect of their environment beyond human comprehension.  Of course, I’ve given visual form to the sensory sensitivities of hearing by incorporating the large ears, though this was just a 5 minute sketch with 2 cheap colored pencils from a dollar store pack (purple & blue). 

As is so typical of many humans when encountering a new life form or culture or race, the early hybrids faced persecution, even torture, were viewed with fear and treated as monsters because they couldn’t help but be themselves.  Out of fear, the early ones were hunted, eradicated, or locked up in institutions where they were warehoused with the rest of the society’s perceived “freaks.”  And predictably, this store turns on our eventual dependency upon these very creatures for human survival, because they have special gifts, abilities of perception that they can draw upon to find and expose the truth, the reality of situations, to be able to detect every nuance of what adds up to how a system is operating, whether the system is a multinational corporation doing business with other corporations, or the system is a single individual, and their behavior—speech, actions, believes, attitudes, condition, must be correctly understood individually, or when combined with other humans (systems).  To wrap your head around what life is like for these creatures, imagine what it would be actually like to be born able to actually talk to the dead.  Or to all kinds of animals via mental telepathy.  Or to see the future.  And you can’t turn it off, though you might take toxic, noxious substances to try to numb yourself to it sometimes, but that only makes you sick, and it’s worse for you after you get clean again. 

Hybrids, especially “seers” are exquisitely sensitive, and are super perceptive far above the range of human perception in multiple ways.  And while it is possible to find non-hybrid humans who have one sensory perceptiveness close to a hybrid level, you don’t ever find non-hybrids with multiple sensory awareness, much less a global sensitive.  Humans often will reject what they do not understand, and prefer to rely on what they already know and use that to label or categorize hybrids.  When people first became aware of hybrids, not as an isolated freak accident, but when trends in their numbers began to be evident, when the powers of that time got wind of this, what happened next looked like they took a chapter out of Frankenstein, rounding them up like animals and slaughtering them, as they were deemed non-human and needed to be culled before it spread like some infectious plague.

There were survivors, and they pulled away to themselves to avoid capture.  Eventually, though, their gifts were noticed and someone realized that they could be exploited as “seers” or “truthsayers”, and they could investigate any kind of system in the world, build a 3D working model in their heads, tell you what is wrong with the system and how to fix it.  They could “read” systems, provided they had access to information.  Seers were indispensible to world leaders, and they had a constant presence on the court.  But they were not free to come and go as they wished, because of the risk that someone would steal them or harm them thereby disadvantaging the government who relied on them.  So they lived in the most lavish palaces in the world, confined to cage—a gilded cage most of the time, but a cage nonetheless.

And now they have started dying off, and no one seems to know why that is happening.  Even the ancient ones like this one, with no apparent connection to the others, has died.  And that is where this story begins, with a mystery—the death of a seer, specifically MY death.  Not that I am suicidal or anything, but it seemed apt.

The background is done in acrylic, with the scene’s dialogue written in white gel pen in my cheap, $.25 lab notebook from Walmart.  You can do more in these things that I imagined!  Having the pages sewn in, versus perforated is a sturdier option if you abuse these notebooks as much as I do.  This one, started just over 2 months ago, has almost all of the 100 pages filled with journaling now.  My next journal will be an actual sketchbook, and I’ll do the writing as I’ve been doing, but it will be interesting to see how it holds up compared to this option.  My hope is that at least I won’t have the bleeding that sometimes happens when I work with markers in these thin pages, though I’ve managed to work with them and incorporated them into that pages entries.

It might seem morbid to write about one’s death, but death is a part of life, after all, and writing stories that reflect my views and insights about the world and myself, as self-portraits, isn’t at all troubling to me.  It doesn’t make me think of hastening my death, or worrying about death or any such; it is simply part of my story, but told via a fictional character. 


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I posted in a recent discussion about coping with a tendency toward perfectionism in efforts to create good art, sharing my own experience and constraints around even attempting it.  I’ve tended toward perfectionism in many areas of my work, and certain things in my life, rather obsessively at times, and I actually tried that when I first began to draw, a year ago this month!  Earlier blogposts on this dilemma explain in detail how well that didn’t work for me with art early in my efforts, but as it turns out, there is more to it than that.  I happen to have unusual disabilities that actually block me from being able to have motor control integrate with mental images in a conscious intentional sense, and I can ONLY draw well if my conscious mind disengages in any kind of intentional control sense. Same with my handwriting, like if I have to fit it into a specific space, I can become so overwhelmed that I can’t write. It’s a weird thing, I know, but the blog post explains it well for me around drawing.  It affects me in other ways, like with handwriting.  I was recently asked to fill out a form answering some questions, with limited space to insert my handwritten answers.  The questions were not so difficult, but I couldn’t work out how to fit the words into the space, and it was so overwhelming and distressing, and that I finally had to go to the doctor’s office and get the secretary to sit with me and hand-write the answers as I verbally told her, and she mentally edited a bit to make it fit into the form, and it was done.  I, on the other hand, had lost 2 nights of sleep trying to accomplish this seemingly simple task! 

While the impairment is physically specific to myself, creatively, I think it has value in an overarching sense in my life, to trust myself, go with my gut, express without constraint, don’t decide the outcome in advance, if I don’t have to, just start making marks and don’t worry about the product. Without exception, this is where every one of my strongest pieces comes from, and the aesthetics and all the other good *stuff* took care of itself. It was goodness, it felt good, and because its value did not depend upon whether other people liked it or not, the funny thing is that those are usually the ones that people connect to the most.

I hosted a kids’ painting party at a campground a couple of months ago, with about 15 kids (whom I had never met before), of various ages. They asked me what they should do, and were ecstatic but initially unsure of what to do when I said, "We paint with NO rules! No plans, just reach for colors that you are feeling drawn to, grab a brush, and just move it however it feels good! What made you feel today? A round tube? water in the lake? a special place in the forest? What does that feel like? Warm, cool? Round, long, short, swaying from side to side, do you hear swishing or plopping? What is your personal feeling that feels strong right now? Or earlier today? Whatever that feeling is, connect with it, grab a brush, pour some paint, and just move! What they did was spectacular! In fact, 3 sets of parents came down to my campsite, when their kids rushed back all excited, trying to explain this lady’s approach to art, so they had to come and see for themselves. If I’d had another day, I would have had the parents doing the same exercise the next day! It was such fun, and so freeing! I loved it so much that I kept the paper towel rags the kids used to clean up, and have incorporated them into random pieces that are quite beautiful, including the journal cover mentioned earlier. Every time I look at it, I remember that night, the freedom, the look on the children’s faces when they painted with total freedom.

I often grab a blank index card and pen and just start making marks, and see where my hand goes. Or maybe I’ll randomly brush some ink on paper, fold it and start from some inkblot beginning, and imagine what I see in the random inkblots, and start scribbling in to complete imagined partial images. Did you ever stare at clouds when you were a child and imagine that they were shaped like animals or other things? Same kind of thing, except that you take the cloud images, and you start adding details to what your mind’s eye is seeing–go with the flow. If you don’t like it, you can always swipe it with something to make something else out of it, or turn it upside down and look at it again–maybe a whole new view. Even my husband sometimes does that with my pictures and sees things he didn’t see before!

Sometimes I take my own zentangle drawings (see below), chop them up, flip them around, upside down, cut them up like a jigsaw puzzle, push them back together in different ways to see what images begin to present themselves.   I start drawing in, and painting over other lines to make them look like something completely different, based on the new image forming in my mind. Here’s a sampling of some tangles done, some in progress, and some reference photos to consider. process and flow The first a zentangle that became a foot began as me making marks to deal with pain, then became a couple of other creatures, and currently, that foot is becoming a rather wicked cheshire cat figure. Another tangle, chopped up, became the beginning of a new drawing that is looking like another favorite creature of mine, the poor dodo bird! Another one in progress right now looks rather…..well, I don’t know yet, a weird, elephant with a bird brain something or other??? I’ve thrown in a few of my photos that are fun reference photos to stir the imagination (well, mine, at least). One of a section of the Eno River with piles of rocks remind me of some giant rock children, lounging in the sun, legs in the water, another some reptilian beast slithering up a huge tree trunk, and then there is the "Forest Queen", the tree that inspired the journal page that is a story, or at least part of a fantasy story that I scribbled into my journal. It’s sort of an "idea page" for me. There’s also a zoom of a carving from a site that I visited abroad, that has a number of interesting patterns carved into it. There are many patterns that you could create, just pulling them out of that carving, and turning them into their own doodle patterns, that could launch some lovely pictures.


But those are just my brain workings according to what excites me to draw. The important thing is process, and letting go and letting flow. Sometimes you will get to a point, like my bird-brain elephant, where you stop feeling energy around it, and you do something else. Maybe you will feel inspired around it again later, and it will become based on your new energy with it. Don’t worry about how it will turn out; just focus on what pulls on you, and it will be fine.




california condor 020610.1


Now if you want to get input on working to specifications, I am definitely incapable of contributing on product-focused work. Either way, though, find a way to connect to your own passion and the rest will take care of itself. I can tell you that, for me, doing realistic drawings like this one   come from exactly the same process of connecting with what I feel and sense, and not from some great talent and technical brilliance and experience. I have never taken an art class in my life, and really don’t "know" what I’m doing. In fact, I have no idea "what" I’m doing, just staying open and focusing on process.  You can do that with a pen or marker or crayon, too. Keep it simple in what you MUST do, and you’ll be amazed at what your imagination will do when you let your mind drift free to explore and express

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shine your light for throwaway children grown old 

Many children, including myself, were throwaway children, abandoned, left behind in dark places or institutions where we should never have been, forgotten, unprotected, crimes against them concealed. You find ways to survive, build a life of your own, but as we age, we discover that some wounds can’t be left behind. If the truth remains hidden in the dark, rather than compassion and support, most throwaway children will receive only apathy and contempt. This was my journal entry yesterday; as this realization came to me, I tried but couldn’t find words at all to speak such a deep truth.  All that my hands could speak was an image, and the grip of this image was quite overpowering.  It was drawn, unplanned as always, in charcoal, oil pastels, acrylic, pen–pretty much everything, predominantly in shades of gray. Darkness and light are powerful energy, and this is how my mind felt it.

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journal page 080610 So much has been happening, and I’ve been happening to so much, as well!   Change and transition and uncertainty and obstacles/threats, and both anger and fear, triggered by the present, but often with fuel from the past, leaves me somedays feeling positively beaten about the head and neck!  But it passes.  That’s the cool thing, and also the not cool thing.  It’s cool, because I know that even in the throes of pain, confusion, anxiety, depression at times, not knowing what exactly to do/how to cope, I also know that I am experiencing this pain right NOW, and the time of suffering will pass, the fog will clear, the mood will lift, and I will emerge from those moments with something more than I had before—more insight, more relief, more control over the experience (not so much restrictive, as experiencing it intentionally, mindfully, as the process unfolds).  I am keenly aware, as I never have been before, of how I have been shaped by experiences that I didn’t even remember, that telling the story of what I learn along the way, including detailed scrutiny of processes at work, both passive and active/proactively, is itself a multitude of lessons.  It gives me insight into how my own thought processes work—very differently from most of the world, I might add, and why it’s always been so difficult for me to fully connect with others effectively. 

The image is of me, approximately in my 20’s, but connected to me is this elephant.  The elephant represents the fact, unbekownst to myself or my family, that I was, since birth, the “elephant-in-the-room” born autistic (Aspergers), with all the cognitive, functional, and medical potential that Aspies are shaped by, even before they are born.  And this little Aspie “elephant” spent the better part of the first two years of her life, being forcefed toxic pollutants while living next door to a coal burning power plant, years before the Clean Air Act even existed, and decades before they managed to effectively enforce restrictions on coal-fueled electricity.  The damage was already done to this autistic girl who already had a compromised immune system to begin with.

I was constantly sick, and had even been hospitalized once in 1963 with severe dehydration.  I got every virus that came my way, and, as my father later reported to a pediatric neurologist in 1971, “allergic to everything.” 

The third major developmental “insult” occurred when I fell from the upper floor fire landing of a local gymnasium, head first onto solid concrete. It was a very bad head injury, 3” skull fracture, intracranial hypertension and secondary brain injury, also referred to as “diffuse axonal injury.”  The secondary injury, caused by swelling and increased pressures on the brain, caused a lot of the connections between nerves to “shear” or tear apart, while at the same time the brain has trying to heal itself and keep me alive.  This went on for so long, that how it healed, and the rewiring to do it, took the hard wiring in my brain another huge step further away from “normal”.  From the outside, one could observe that the swelling and bruising finally went down, I did not die, and about 9 months after I came home, I was able to sit up in bed without head pressure problems. 

But there was not only no understanding whatsoever of Aspergers Syndrome back then, but also doctors had no idea what such an injury might do to a brain that survived such a fall.  No therapies or medications were administered, no tests for functional damage was done, and I, being only 5 years old at the time, had no idea that I had even less in common with neurotypical humans in how I would interact with my world going forward.  I had a strong sense that I was different from other children as early as 3 years old, but I had no idea why, nor any ability to understand the minds of others. 

Bridging the communication gap has been a lifelong struggle for me, both to understand and to be understood.   I want to be able to relate to other people, to connect with them in ways that are valuable and mutually beneficial.   It’s been agonizingly difficult, cumbersome, time consuming, and exhausting for all parties when I am trying to explain, to clarify my thoughts, feelings, overall perspective on a thing, yet know that I have failed, based on the reaction of those on the receiving end.  I fail for a number of reasons. I have gotten quite expert at being able to profile others, to analyze their behaviors, provided that I am not interacting with them at the time, or at least interacting where I have to be concerned about their perception of me.  This became a huge strength for me in my former job, and as it turns out, is a manifestation of one of many savant abilties.  The way that I journal now helps me really give glimpses into my own mind.  While I do my journaling totally for myself (as I do all of my art these days), I’m open to sharing parts that may be  of interest or benefit to others, or where it illuminates where my head and heart were, on some past event that may have gone totally awry. 

It’s interesting to me how varied my self-portraits are—the images are relative to time, heavily symbolic, even iconic at times.  This was done in my cheap standard lined lab-type notebook, in whic the pages are stitched into a cheap cardboard cover, typically imprinted with some sort of marbled effect, in various covers.  My thoughts that day are about my present situation, but the connections to past events…looking back and experiencing the connections more than the details, how I am represented depends upon what I am experiencing as the most important aspects of the connections in that moment.  Here, I am in my early 20’s.  The elephant part of me, has existed and endured the onslaught of many “insults” that have altered my brain to render me something almost other-humanly in how I think and process input from the world.  With the exception of autism, which I was born with, most of it was caused by the decisions by others act or fail to act—some were family, others including teachers, judges, police, school official, and it developed its own momentum after a while, with the blind following the blind, being slapped with labels/definitions that came to be accepted because the path was well worn, and, neuro-typical humans of all ages, and socioeconomic backgrounds, being naturally susceptible to their own attributional and cognitive biases, unique creatures like myself more often will not be able to sustain acceptance when I come up against those biases.  They used to think people like me were schizophrenic, and often spent their whole lives in institutions.  I was kept in one as a child for 2.5 years, records show that I was orderly, compliant, a good student, and remained there only because there was no stable place for me to live who would accept me.  No one.

The filters are a kind of lazy rule-based system that assumes that I should think and act in a certain way because I look like I belong to a certain group, and when I violate the social rules—spoken and unspoken, the belief is that I knew, or should have known about the rule, and that the violated social rule is something that I can and should conform to, without question.   What

I don’t feel invested in the “blame and shame” game, at least when it comes to my own family’s roles in that damage.  I am less forgiving of societal institutions that participated or turned a blind eye, when they could have taken some simple steps to help.  I understand the things that motivated their choices, their biases at the time as society existed.  That does not mean that I am prepared to forgive.  I still feel that I am owed a debt, at a minimum for the many intentional harms (ie., rapes), looking the other way when abuse was staring them in the face and I was complaining of being molested and raped (which they chose not to even report), noticing, documenting irregularities provided them in reports that they never questioned, never investigated, and never told me about, and leaving it for this brain-damaged woman who happened to have certain gifts, to discover from their own records, piece together the connections, and discover the truth, and even then, only after becoming totally disabled by the ravages of all the mistakes and abuses that had accumulated.  No one is willing to take responsibility.  That is wrong.  I am accustomed to that, but that doesn’t mean that it is right to just accept that nothing should be done to right the wrongs that can be righted, and at least recognize these human-made perfect storms. 

Is it any wonder that I feel safer far away from civilization?  Disasters happen in nature, as well, but nature operates by rules, at least, and they may have undesirable outcomes, but at least they make sense.  That is something I can live with.  I can accept death by tsunami, however tragic.  I’m not yet prepared to accept “that’s just the way things are” when the way things are is entirely constructed by humans motivated by personal agendae, that may or may not have anything to do with justice or even equity.  That is my issue.  And if it can happen to me then, and still happens to me now (except that I fight back), it can happen to others, so it’s not just in the past.  I feel a deep sense of personal responsibility to do something before I die to prevent similar harm from befalling others.  I need to become an advocate.

But first, I need to become an effective advocate for myself, and that means going through this right now.  My art enables me to communicate with others, and to get them to be more open through the way I approach presenting the principles, getting acceptance of possible situations like mine, and only then, telling them my story.  It is becoming easier to have dialogues that are more receptive to understanding my perspective, suspending disbelief long enough to consider the reality, and build bridges of understanding. 

I think in pictures, not words.  I learned many languages, trying to discover the key to communicate with others, but it was woefully inadequate.  Now that I can draw, can do art (since almost one year ago for the first time), I am finding ways to bridge the gaps and find opportunities to improve things.  I hope I can live long enough to do something with it that will help others.  Then it will have been worthwhile.

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Tasha Miller Griffith

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