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Leonard Cohen always has the right words …

December 3, 2021

Sometimes my ‘prayers’ were answered by a faceless person but always a surprise in sullied world. My dolls represent the hope of prettiness, warmth, and colour in a dark, cold, and ugly place.  Michel Nedjar an outsider artist renowned for his Dolls of Darkness; when asked Who are you?’ he replied ‘I work in order to find out … I have the impression I am a thousand people’ and ‘subject to all influences … I close, recall people in my memory and then I start to work’. (Feilacher, J. 2008) I can relate to this as I begin work and imagine my coat hanger dolls in their story, the memory becomes intense and to the fore. I begin to recognise myself in it and I search for something more as if I have a need to enlarge the memory or to dramatize it. 

The trauma I experienced in those early days have caused some mental health disorders; I have no wish to express this in a graphic way and cause further pain.  I was comforted by the words of Alice Slater in the book Outsiders; ‘We are all outsiders … protagonists of our own private narratives, and we experience the world from a perspective shaped by our wants and needs, our politics, and our regrets, and the things we chose to forget’.  (Slater, A. 2020) She goes to say that outsiders need to be insiders and that no man is an island and leads me to understand why my parents were not able to remain outsiders and provide adequately for a growing family.  While there is strength in numbers and our human nature to form communities; it is our social responsibility to recognise and protect those left behind or not cared for.

So, while I cannot forget the pain and anguish, I feel towards my parents and those who harmed me; I prefer to remember the delight, in hope, prayers and occasional answers. 

Lesley Millar talks of memory as ‘recreative act, and goes on to say that memory is not only re-constructive it is also destructive, it eliminates, wipes out …’  The theory is complex, but it is reassuring that memory rather than hold on to the facts like those learned by rote like the times tables or a poem it ‘mangles and transform the material’. (Millar, L.  2013)  This allows me to believe that while my work can appear comfortable and ‘inside’ it is ‘outside’ and represents a lotus out of the mud or as Leonard Cohen says … allow the crack that lets the light in.

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