"Head Trip: Ace of Paring Knives in the Kitchen Tarot."

by Susan Shie Contact me

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Head Trip. full view. ©Susan Shie 2012.

"Head Trip: Ace of Pyrex Cups in the Kitchen Tarot."

©Susan Shie 2012. 47"h x 35"w. inventory #439. Peace Cozy #51.

Began 9-25-12. Finished 11-18-12.

Materials: White kona cotton, airbrush paint, fabric paint. Aurifil cotton machine thread, Artfabrik perle cotton embroidery thread, one Green Temple Buddha Boy bead. Nature-fil bamboo and organic cotton batting. Backing fabrics include Lunn Fabrics batiks.

Techniques: Whole cloth painting. Freehand black line drawing and color areas painting made with Aztek double action airbrush and Createx airbrush paint. Small, black writing made with Silkpaint.com’s basic Airpen and Jacquard Textile Colors fabric paint. Writing in color done with markers. Crazy grid machine quilting and one row of hand stitching (just on the border edge.)

Statement: This time I wanted to make a piece that I could enter into a show about how aging affects me personally, so I deliberately drew tarot cards from my Sakki-Sakki deck, until a Sword card I hadn't already made into a piece came up. I got the Ace of Swords, which I felt would fit my idea about addressing Alzheimer's Disease, which runs very strongly in my family, and also about two famous women in the news, who were both shot in the head in attempted assassinations: Gabrielle Giffords and Malala Yousufzai. The card about strongly focused intentions for brain function fits both my concerns about AD and these women's work to recover from head injury. Both situations deal with brain damage, which many get in one way or another with aging, though few get gunshot wounds to the head.

I watched my maternal grandfather's Alzheimer's process, and then, more closely, my mother's slow, steady, agonizing decline, in spite of her efforts to hold onto her brain's capabilities, and it seems to me that Gabby and Malala are going the other direction, like little children learning to use their mental skills.

The card itself, the Ace of Swords (Paring Knives, in my deck), represents the impetus for knowledge and honing of mental skills, decisive ability and cutting through confusion, taking a radical decision or standpoint and the ability to see through deception, and expose it.

I had to figure out how to put my mother and me in the same composition as Gabby and Malala, which seemed tricky, since we are only related in being women and in having head injury to deal with (for surely Alzheimer's is a brain injury, caused by this relentless disease.) I started by putting Gabby and Malala on equal footing, holding hands, with their bodies in a kind of Egyptian frieze style of flatness, with big square bandages on their heads, where they were each shot. Then I put my mother's face right behind their held hands, and me below her. I'm there, because I think a LOT about AD, about how it could "get" me, or anyone in my family, or for that matter, my husband Jimmy and his siblings, because AD runs in their family, too. If it's in your family, you probably worry about getting it, and wonder if you ARE, every time you forget something you should remember!

I put a big paring knife across the bottom of the piece, with barefooted Gabby and Malala sort of standing on that "sword," which has the words "brain damage vs. knowledge" written on it. In both their cases and in Alzheimer's situations, the person is engaged in a personal struggle, trying to either fend off the damage (AD) or fight one's way back to knowledge (gunshot wound to the head).

I actually finished sketching and started to paint this piece on October 19, 2012. Part of the restrictions on my thinking about how to design it had been due to a size restriction for the show about aging. 48" x 36" was the biggest it could be. Although I really don't like working that small, the good news was that painting it went fast. Only I did decide I got it too dark, and rinsed out some of the airbrush color, and ended up having to go back and airbrush it again, because it got too faded in the bucket of water! Once the painting was all done and heat set, I started to write on it with my airpen and fabric paint on October 21, but then we took several days to drive down to visit my cousins Candice and David in Virginia. When we got back, I got back into my research and commentary writing on the piece.

Here are some of the things I wrote about:

I wrote about the lives of Gabby Giffords and Malala Yousufzai.

Gabby was 40 years old, nwhen she was shot on the head on January 8, 2011, when she was giving a "Congress on Your Corner" event in Casas Adobes, a suburb of Tucson, AZ, where she had been a moderate Democrat congresswoman since 2007. She was shot point blank in the head, and six others were killed, and 12 others wounded, besides Giffords herself. The murderer and would-be assassin, Jared Loughner, was sentenced to life in prison in October, 2012. Gabby has worked hard to recover from her near death injuries, but had to resign from her congressional seat on January 25, 2012.

Gabby had to fight hard to regain even the simplest speech abilities, but she was able to lead the Pledge of Allegience at the Democratic Convention in September, 2012, and continues to fight for recovery of her facilties, hoping to return to public service at some point. She lost at least half of her eyesight, and is having difficulties with walking and other movements. She and her husband, astronaut Mary Kelly, wrote a book in 2011 called "Gabby: A Story of Love and Hope," which goes into great detail about their lives and her brain injury and the work of recovery.

Malala was 15 years old, when she was shot in the head on October 9, 2012, in a similar attempted assassination, by a Taliban fighter, who stopped the schoolbus she and her friends were riding home in, in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. Malala had been incredibly outspoken about the struggle to keep schools open for girls in her homeland, because the Taliban was closing and bombing these schools, and forbid girls from being educated. Malala's father Ziauddin ran the school she atteneded in Mingora, and his radical defiance of the Taliban's determination to bring conservative sharia law to the Swat Valley resonated in Malala. Under the secret name of Gul Makai (Corn Flower), she wrote a blog for the BBC, when she was only 11 and 12, letting the world know what she and her schoolmates and the whole area were up against with the Taliban's war on human rights. And the Taliban vowed to silence her. After her shooting, in which two of her schoolmates were also severely wounded, Malala was taken to hospital and later flown to Birmingham, England, for rehabilitation. And the Taliban said if she lives, they will find and kill her and her father later.

Although she was in a coma and near death after being shot, Malala's gunshot wasn't as severe as Gabby's, and Malala is now expected to make a very good recovery. She vows to continue to be a spokesperson for girls' education and human rights. Many dignitaries around the world are calling for her nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Other things I wrote: Gabby's killer used a Glock 19 semiautomatic handgun that can shoot 33 bullets without reloading, which allowed him to gun down so many people in a very short time. How can it be that guns like this are legal to sell and buy????

Nine year old Christina Green was one of the people murdered at Giffords' speaking event. Christina was born on September 11, 2001, and was included in a book called "Faces of Hope: Babies Born on 9/11."

On January 24, 2012, Giffords handed in her last bill in the House, one on border drug trafficking, and then she resigned her seat. Later that night, she attended President Obama's State of the Union Address. On September 4, 2012, she started Gabby PAC, to encourage bipartisanship among Democrats.

Starting on November 1, I wrote a lot about my mother's Alzheimer's Disease struggle. Marie Snyder Shie was probably 62 when she decided she was having so much trouble keeping track of things at her job as an RN at a nursing home, that she quit her job, but said it was because her freet hurt. I knew how much she loved that job, and I started to observe her behavior more closely after that. That was 1979, and she successfully dealt in secret with the secret of her illness for quite a few years of retirement. In 1993 I used her as my excuse for quitting my teaching job at Kent State and moving home to Wooster, but I knew she didn't really need my help yet. She would have, if Daddy wasn't there to help her at their home.

But he never learned to cook or caregive and got frustrated easily, even though he desperately wanted to somehow get Mom well. For years they drove to Akron every week or two, for her to have an experimental treatment called Kelation, in which large doses of vitamins, minerals, and EDA were given to her introvenously, with many patients sitting around a big room full of people in big easy chairs with IV drips. They even tried accupuncture, at her doctor's insistence, but the needles really scared Mom, who couldn't remember why she was being stuck with those long things that stayed in. I had them give up on that one. Somewhere along in there Jimmy took over driving Mom and Dad up to the doctor, and we'd all go togeether. Eventually they moved in with us, though it should have been years before. We just couldn't convince them to make the move earlier. Then Mom only lasted at our house for a year, before she had to be admitted to the nursing home.

She didn't even know she was living there, because it was the same place she'd had her last nurse's job at, and she just thought she was working there again. She lived there eight years, slowly going downhill through the backwards development of how a child develops more skills. Alzheimer's patients systematically lose their skills backwards. Daddy went to live there, too, eventually, after dutifully going to see her every day for years. He died first, of a heart attack, in January, 2000, and Mom died a year and a half later, in October, 2001. It had been a long, slow path, in which those of us who were able to go be with her always got wonderful things out of just BEING with my sweet mother. She often didn't know who someone was, and she slowly lost her speech abilities, and then she eventaully had to be in a wheelchiar, after pneumonia made her too unsteady for the marathon walks she loved to take around the inside of the Home.

Even on the day she died, I felt I was able to talk with her spirit yet, her soul. I always figured that if people can talk with pets and their plants, then it worked, too, to talk with Mom, when she couldn't talk back or understand much. And every once in a while, the veil would lift unexpectedly, and SHE would appear, clear and smiling, with those big blue eyes of hers really seeing me, knowing me. It was always a glimmer, but I wanted to be there to catch it.

I was very lucky to be with each of my parents when they passed away. It's a true gift they gave me and I hope that everyone who wants that special thing will also get to have it.

I worry about getting Alzheimer's, and I doubt that the new drugs they have now will really save our generation from its ravages, though those drugs seem to now slow the disease down. They didn't have anything like that in Mom's time. I hope they'll have it for our kids' generation, or even a real cure. But for me, I am fully dedicated to the thought that we have to do what we want to get done NOW, because any time, things can go bad. I'm now 62, the age Mom was when she retired because her feet hurt, or her memory was failing. I consider each day is a real gift to me now, and if I live to be old and escape AD, that's great. But who knows????

I wrote about Hurricane Sandy, which raged on the East Coast, especially on NY and NJ, but also it was part of a superstorm that hung over NE Ohio for 6 days! We thankfully didn't have the storm surge that caused so much destruction on NY and NJ, but we lost trees and had way too much wind and rain. Climate Change is causing way too many bizarre natural disasters.

I went to teach at Art Quilt Tahoe at Zephyr Point Conference Center on Nov 3, and came home on Nov 10. So I didn't get to write about the Presidential Election of 2012 on this piece until I was done quilting it, that next week. I wrote a lot about how President Obama won his reelection by a tidy margin of 332 to 206 electoral votes over Mitt Romney on Nov 6. But we'd had to watch the election results on computers, as there were no TVs at the symposium site!

Oh, and after all the quilting and writing were done, I added the blue paint on this piece with a paint brush. I felt the painting was too much, being all warm colors before that. And maybe I added the blue for the Democrats' victories, too!

Here's my Facebook photo album of my sketches and then painting this piece.

And here's my Facebook album of the actual finished piece, Head Trip.

I hope you like this piece. Thanks a lot, Susan 11-24-12

Head Trip. detail view. ©Susan Shie 2012.


Head Trip. detail view. ©Susan Shie 2012.


Head Trip. detail view. ©Susan Shie 2012.


Head Trip. detail view. ©Susan Shie 2012.


Head Trip. detail view. ©Susan Shie 2012.


Head Trip. detail view. ©Susan Shie 2012.


Head Trip. detail view. ©Susan Shie 2012.


Head Trip. detail view. ©Susan Shie 2012.


Head Trip. detail view. ©Susan Shie 2012.


Head Trip. detail view. ©Susan Shie 2012.


Head Trip. detail view. ©Susan Shie 2012.


Turtle Moon Studios: Outsider Art Quilts and Paintings
Susan Shie

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