Analogous with the idea of “going with the flow”, I allow water to make its way across the paper creating organic forms as it plays with the medium. As I paint, I am focused on being in the moment, responding both visually and viscerally to the composition unfolding before me. Since my stroke in 2015, unpredictable, amorphous, permanent ink blots have become metaphors of my new life. I explore the many iterations of this object by painting with various media, colors and forms, seeking transformation, acceptance, and perhaps even salvation.
I still haven’t built up the courage to look at my brain scans. During medical school I remember watching the treatment team review the brain MRIs of patients, seeing the massive areas of obliteration, and feeling empathy for what I assumed would become a lifelong affliction. From this I know that as I recover, neurons will never grow in their previous spaces, rather they will build new connections in the healthy tissue.
My painting has become an obsessive exploration of what to do with this large dark open space. Throughout my recovery, I found solace in painting with watercolors in spite of my blurry double vision and inability to see anything to my left. Painting was the one treasure that was still my own in spite of my deficits. It became my refuge and an integral part of my healing process.
Initially recovery consumed me. Even the simplest of tasks demanded all my concentrated attention. In contrast, painting became much more spontaneous for me. My limitations became a gift as they allowed me to experience things with child-like appreciation, rediscovering life and the beauty in what was before me—what used to be the mundane, the ordinary.
Painting has become a way for me to grapple with uncertainty, not knowing if and when I could have another stroke. Like a splatter of black ink on a white sheet of paper, mediums such as watercolor, gouache and ink reflect my new reality—this spontaneity, unpredictability, and ephemeral sense of control we all feel in our lives.
These paintings reflect my new understanding: Life is messy, mysterious and mutable, yet there is also beauty and perhaps even a glimpse of the sublime.