The Lunatic Fringe

Sometimes life is your art. Sometimes art is your life. But always we are, by our human nature artists. The structure we give our lives is as vital a life form as the structure we give the many ways we create.
The Lunatic Fringe is where we recognize and celebrate the wonderful art explored just in our humanity. We believe in all art. We believe it to all be "fringy" from the odd corners of our souls and our worlds.
We welcome guest blogs from all kinds of artists from fiber artists, quilters, formal arts, odd doodlers and sculpters, and those artists who sculpt in the way their lives are built. It's part of our human nature. Are you one of the Lunatic Fringe?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Romance from the Edge of the Fringe

Want A Man

I want a man who'll wash the dishes
I want a man who'll make the bed
I want a man who's not suspicious
I want a man who's halfway dead
I want a man who'll do the laundry
Vacuum the carpets, sweep the floor
I want a man who knows his boundaries
No one could ask for more.
Uncle Bonsai

For two years I've had  lizards on my wall. No. I don't live in Florida. Or any where else where that kind of ambiance is every day. I've had two Komodo Dragon lizards on my design wall for over two years. I drew them dancing and the butterflies to go around them and left them there on the design wall, either like desert or like an unripe melon, waiting for later.

I wish I could see images fully when I draw them. For some reason I can't. I need to sit with them. I can walk into someone else's drawing and  often tell them, this is off, this is out of proportion. For some reason, it's like I'm in a semi-dark room where I just can't quite see what's happening. So when I'm unsure, I'll sit a drawing where I can see it for a long time, to see what I might have missed.

In this case, that was wise. I could see the neck was wrong on one. The back needed to be wider on the other. I adjusted the drawings and then still waited.What for?

They're really scary. Not because they're Komodo dragons. I've met one actually, and I loved her. She was a modern day dinosaur. Now mind you, I'm glad she'd eaten first before I visited.

They represent all the fear I have over the dance between men and women. Romance scares me green.

It's not that it's not of interest. Although I'll admit that as I get older the guys get less appealing. And though I have a bevy of strong supportive women friends, I can't help but feel that I've missed something. I was an odd and distressed young woman who went through a whirl of inappropriate men, landed in therapy, and came out 15 years later with a better adjusted attitude and no one in sight. By then, art was my survival. It was past my life. I'd pulled all of my issues into different quilts, and dragged them one by one into my  therapist's office. And I had a habit of living every extra moment of my life at my machine.

It's astonishing but true that men don't come into your  studio by accident or design to meet you. I've also found that every time I've tried to engineer that, it doesn't work either. Sooner or later, I'm back in my studio. At  58, I'm resigned. Cats and dogs are truly lovely roommates. Besides, I'd need someone who could do light housecleaning, gardening, household repair and  not watch sports. I don't believe that paragon exists anywhere.

Over the years I've watched my married friends, sometimes in jelousy, sometimes with joy  for their joys, sometime in anguish at what they've had to face. I've heard their stories, cried with them, laughed with them, helped fight their battles, cheered at their victories, taken in their children as my own, given them back in a heart beat when it was time. I can't say it was easy. It was infinitely better than living in a hell of one. It grounded me to the world, which I do need some help on.

So it was with some shock as I watched a friend acknowledge that her gentle, kindly marriage, that I've truly envied, includes special moments where her husband radiates black rage and terrorizes her with it. Her oldest son tried practicing grandchild blackmail. You can imagine. He learned it somewhere. 

I find myself needing to take out my tattered images of love and romance and say, "Is this what you had in mind?"

And I looked up and saw my dancing, romancing Komodo Dragons drawn waiting on my wall. Terrified.

Now the things I draw sometimes happen. I do not know why. It isn't something that's always true. But I watch for it. So when I draw something that scares me, I have a choice. I can dig my head in the sand and refuse the image, refuse to be part of it or work with it. Mind you, it doesn't go away. But denial is not just a river in Egypt. 

Or I can work the image and see if somehow the magic happens. Sometimes, if you work through the fear and the pain, it flips over. Something falls into a different place, and the object of fear and pain becomes something lovely, if scary. Or funny. It shifts something in my head and it shifts something within the piece.It becomes a glorified wound, a resurrection.

I started this year, realizing that I had hid from these large lizards on my wall. I told myself lizards don't win awards. They don't get in shows. Why would you do a large quilt that will take months and months, that no one will want to see? 

You don't pin a drawing to a wall for 2 years and ignore it because it's not important. The denial is a very wide river, dark and cold.  I plunged in, picked out thread and fabric, and started to stitch.

Last night as I pulled them from the machine, I could tell the magic is on it's way. They're ripply rivers of orange and blue muscle with scales. They're gorgeous.Though the dance is risky, dangerous, a bit too close, it's lovely.

Will my friend find a way to restructure her world? I've watched her do it time after time. She has the courage of mountains and stone.

I've taken my lizards and danced with them. That's my part.

I wrote this about a year ago.
As a complete surprise, these babes have gone to Houston. I don't have a good track record there, but I do believe that it's an honor to be shown.  And it's my job to shock/scare/titillate/ and generally push people past some boundaries. I'd say my work is done.

You'll find the wonderful music of Uncle Bonzai at the Uncle Bonzai Home Page. They're irreverent, fun and wonderfully fringy.
You'll find Soulmates, my lizard quilt at in the humor section at Houston. Stop by and hum them a tune. I think they'll dance for you too.


  1. Beautiful piece,congrats on going to Houston with it. And best wishes to your friend.

  2. Oh El, I feel such a kindred spirit in you. Great piece and lovely colors. I must find something to be afraid of and try it! Sounds liberating!

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. I got to touch these beautiful creatures and I LOVE them - much more beautiful in person. Can't wait to see them in Houston!!

  4. I never thought I'd see Komodo Dragons as beautiful ... but these truly are! Loved your statement about it too, so relatable for me. Can't wait to see this in Houston.

  5. I'm so happy for you Ellen! Your dragons rock!
    Here's wishing you luck and success in Houston.
    Carol in Boise

  6. Stunning! This quilt is just stunning and should win best of show! (in my humble opinion) I love the dragons, one of my favorite animals......awesome work you have done.....good luck in Houston.....

  7. Ellen Anne, I always enjoy to read your writings and the connection of life with your art. Your thoughts and words flow as movement, the same as your inspired images. I am so happy the dancing lizards/dragons are going to Houston. Congratulations....and so many happy wishes for you, my artist friend!