It early July as I write this and orchids have been blooming in the studio for months now. I am breathing easier, finally. Within the confines of this space the orchids’ clarion scent seems to act as harbinger of kind, beautiful things. The world outside is something else altogether.
Within the sphere of the studio, in many ways so far 2019 has been an incubation year or a gift-year. In some ways, it has been a hiding year, as a fawn hides shortly before it runs swift. I have given myself freedom to explore every heart’s wish in anticipation of the studio’s evolving form. It is approaching a first year out from something like rehabilitation, with something like my old strength - though the strength is changed, and it takes different shapes now, and sometimes I still fatigue quickly. A beautiful complexity lasts.
I have promised my friends that I’ll accept some offers to do things in public and so:
I spoke regarding medical surveillance in Flash Forward’s InkRx episode.
I also voice-acted in the Bodies season of Flash Forward. You can hear me as Gaby, described as an androgynous crip with a dry sense of humor.
I have been, painfully and reluctantly, tweeting a little more often. I began a studio journal Instagram, meant for outtakes and thoughts and things I like but which don’t belong on the website… and my activity there has been slow, though I imagine it may pick up later this year and next, when things begin to really get interesting. Or… it might not.
In less of a public view, I have also been working in porcelain which seems it may integrate (once again, as it seems all passions do eventually) with the studio practice. Just now this is nascent enough to develop without any burden of expectation… but most of all, I find myself thinking about painting.
CONTENT WARNING: Chemically-induced depression and thoughts of self-harm.
If you or someone you know ever experience thoughts of self harm, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 (Available 24 hours everyday)
Trans Lifeline at US: 877-565-8860 / Canada: 877-330-6366
The beginning of 2019 was a challenge.
For the last couple of years I’ve received spinal steroid treatments to address some deficits left over from a car accident. This time, side effects were worse than they had ever been as the steroid dosage tipped me into a chemically-induced depressive episode. All the grieving I had ever experienced grew tidal inside me, new again. My doctors knew this was a risk for someone with my particular polymorphism, and we had a plan in place which largely hinged on my ability to do a thing I’d done for a very long time anyway.
During that dark interim I fell back on the same discipline I implement in my studio practice: making schedules, following them. I planned paintings to be painted nearer the end of the year. I wrote to friends in far-off places, and dreamed of travel I knew I wasn’t stable enough to attempt.
I counted the days I did not weep, and when I broke a streak I began counting again from zero. I somehow tendered a response to the committee for the Wynn Newhouse Award during this time (forgetting, during that awful fugue, that I’d written a perfect statement about my work the previous April) and slowly began to scrape together notes for an ongoing essay collection.
I grasped onto an idea like a life raft, reductive in scope yet deeply compelling: I frequently found myself thinking of James Baldwin and his three documented suicide attempts, and bound myself to the knowledge that if James Baldwin - an out gay man of color, living through it during his time, did not succumb - then clearly I had to keep working at this.
Little by little I worked at it. I tried to eat exceedingly well - there have been some promising studies in treating depression as an inflammatory response. I took a double handful of brain-oriented supplements every day. I did small paintings and studies for future work. I did photo shoots with friends, and dutifully rescheduled or canceled when my doctors (or overall well-being) objected. I made lists of the things my doctors wanted me to do and as I relied on that structure - which, it is worthwhile to note, I necessarily regarded as something elemental - I gradually did them. I saw art, and began early plans for video installation. I composed music. I wept for everyone I had ever lost, nearly the entire time.
I suppose I should acknowledge the most noticeable change of late: I stopped going by my initials, E.R., which reminded me far too viscerally of the hospital. It’s Eler (like “cellar”) now, which is a sweet-spot bit of elocution sitting between nicknames given by dear friends and the name of my beloved late grandmother, which I’ve carried for years.
In deliberate hope and orchids,