Monday, February 11, 2008

Witch's Milk

On my computer screen both of these self-portraits from my last post look very dark, so I've lightened them up a bit. Witch's Milk is an old term used by doctors to describe when an infant gets milk in her breasts. The nursing mother's hormones cause this to happen. Lisbeth had this as a baby, and I thought about how Lisbeth's having Witch's Milk could be construed as a sort of foreshadowing of her illness, or even a curse. I titled the first self-portrait pictured here Witch's Milk because I wanted to address how when bad things happen we try to explain it somehow, through science, superstition, or blame. I believe that we do this to convince ourselves that we are in control. It is too frightening to think that bad things simply happen at random. When Lisbeth became ill, the attending doctor said the odds of it happening were the same as getting struck by lightening.
I drew All the King's Horses/Invasive Monitoring after learning in 1992 that surgery could not help Lisbeth. This was after three years of preliminary testing including two extended stays at Boston Children's Hospital. As the years went by and the complexity of Lisbeth's condition became more apparent and the doctors were unable to stop her seizures, one doctor admitted that the field of epilepsy was more of an art than a science. I felt at times that we were crawling in a dark tunnel together with a dim flashlight to guide us. Making this self-portrait was cathartic: it helped me to move through my grief into a place of acceptance about Lisbeth's condition.
The script on the drawing is from a dream. It reads:
I dreamt that Lisbeth was just a head, a head shaped like an egg, that I could hold in my hand.
I asked the doctors if they could re-attach Lisbeth's head to her body?
They assured me that, yes, they could.
But they looked at each other worriedly, doubtfully.
I saw them do that.

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