Blog / 2012 / Art Therapy

July 21, 2012

Just over a week ago, I had a laproscopic surgery to treat my endometriosis. Ten days before the operation, I started working on a self-portrait after taking this photograph.

self-portrait photo

I started the painting despite the fact that the recovery time for my unplanned surgery was going to be eating into the crunch time for my upcoming series among other things.

painting a portrait with acrylics

I started it because before and after images fascinate me and because I was really looking forward to being able to paint an “after” to go with this “before” portrait.

painting a portrait with acrylics

I started it because I needed somewhere to focus the big emotions I was having—big emotions about having my second surgery in three years but also big emotions about facing the very real possibility of losing an ovary.

painting a portrait with acrylics

On the one hand, I was thrilled at the thought of having this particular organ out. After all, the only reason why I was having this operation was because this ovary was, once again, the site of a massive cyst.

painting a portrait with acrylics

I knew that my doctor had been pleased to save the ovary during my first surgery, and at the time I was pleased too, but, as far as I was concerned, the grace period was over. I didn’t want this ovary to have the chance to grow a third endometrioma.

painting a portrait with acrylics

On the other hand, I was strangely scared of losing a body part. I mean, I know I have two and all, but the thought of living the rest of my life without a spare seemed risky.

painting a portrait with acrylics

With all this in my head, I’m surprised that I also managed to have room for a fear of general anesthetic and of the potential complications of the procedure, but I did. At the same time, I also found space for a new, more visceral awareness of just how fragile life is.

painting a portrait with acrylics

“Fragile” in the breakable sense of the word. And also “fragile” in the delicate, ephemeral, and intrinsically beautiful sense of the word.

painted portrait of Gwenn Seemel
Gwenn Seemel
Fragile (Before)
2012
acrylic on panel
4 x 4 inches

As I look at it now, it’s clear that this self-portrait is more art therapy than art. After all, the process of making this painting is more interesting to me than the result. Working on it was a meditation of sorts, a way of calming myself. What’s more, the finished piece doesn’t really communicate about anything I’ve described in this blog post: from the looks of it, it’s just another self-portrait.

painted portrait of Gwenn Seemel
detail of Fragile (Before)

Sometimes I can work through the hard things in my life in a way that’s useful to others, and sometimes I just end up painting my vagina. There’s nothing wrong with doing the latter, with art therapy. In fact, I think that going through the art therapy part of the process is a necessary step in the creation of art, but that doesn’t mean that the therapy itself is art.

In any case, today I’m starting to paint for the the first time since the operation—painting requires a lot of energy, more than I’ve had in the last week or so. It feels good to be making again.

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