The Duality of My Artistic Self

Depicting my own image has been a starting point my work from the beginning. As a child my drawings were always of female faces, although I never consciously realized these were reflections of me. Even then, in my earliest work, the duality of my nature is blatantly apparent.

.  The faces I drew were always divided, half usually in darkness, or different in other ways. I did not know I was Bipolar then, I just had a burning need to express myself artistically. I was not properly diagnosed until I got clean and sober at the age of 35 after a drugging career that lasted over twenty three years.

. I had always known I was different, I described the feeling of being “painted green”in a room full of “normal” folk. It was like having something tattooed on my forehead, a conspicuousness. When I dug into my diagnosis, learning all I could in the hopes of finally coming to grips with my self destructive life’s course, I could see all the familiar signs in the literature. It made SO much sense! Now, armed with my new sobriety and determined to stay the course on my psychiatric medication regimen, I set out to turn my life around-to leave the wasteland of my past far behind.

.  There was a slight glitch in my plan, however. The new meds that I was taking had a very unwelcome effect. They dulled my creative impulses, they slowed my manic phases down to a crawl. Rather than my giddy highs and freewheeling episodes of excess that I had lived for, and that had been killing me, I was now just a level hum. No taught guitar string playing harmonics, I was now m e l l o w…Too mellow. Where were the bright colors, the whirling merry go rounds and my peals of crazy laughter? All of the sudden I was boring and frumpy, and immune to excitement. I actually slept…alot.

.  This is the part of a healthy mental health regimen that causes so many Bipolar individuals to “go off” their meds…but I had lost that option when I decided to stay alive. I had to make this work, I had to stick this out, because the alternative was suicide. Whether thru a drug overdose or tragedy from high risk behavior, I knew that sticking this out meant my very survival. Would I have to be a zombie? Was my wildly creative side lost to me forever? What to do?

.  Fortunately, I had a therapist (counselor ) who listened, and I had the determination to tell her my discomfort. It took the better part of two years, and many different drug combinations , much discomfort and many tears to find a plan that worked, but we did not give up. Finally, I felt comfortable in my own skin, most of the time.

I still have highs and lows, and I am still a rapid cycling Bipolar person with PTSD. I still suffer from chronic insomnia and flashbacks, severe depressive episodes and ideation at times. But I never, ever want to destroy this beautiful gift of life, or to disrespect my Creator. It’s a long road, but the view is great!

Now that all that is said and done, the point I was getting at was that at a point a few years ago, talking to my therapist about my art, and showing him my work I had an epiphany ! BI-polar, TWO-sided! All the faces I drew and painted had told the tale from childhood! As we continued to go through my portfolio, it came rushing home to me. I paint myself as I am, and thru my art I am able to understand and put together all my different facets! I am constantly learning, healing and growing as an artist, and I am

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Self Portrait 4AM(detail)
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Flashback 937(detail)
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“Peckish”(detail)
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“Mania Illuminata” sold
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“Mania illuminata” sold
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“Growth”(detail)
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“100 Must-Have Looks”(detail)
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“A Big Beak”(detail)
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“yearning”(detail)
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“Visionaria”sold

so grateful that I did not give up on myself!

.  If anyone out there is fearful of a mental illness diagnosis, please give yourself a chance to get well. Don’t be afraid to seek help, because I’m here today as an example of the kind of life that is possible if one keeps pushing on! You can feel better!

Above are just a few recent examples of the many sides of my bipolar self I paint…

Growth is Morphing

My recent Work in Progress is really becoming something special! I have been experiencing much personal emotional growth, and really am expanding my horizons! The featured Image and this top one are my current work in progress, and the following three images are of my last year’s entry into the Insights II Bipolar Art Exhibition. I was proud to win a spot alongside the other  ” founding” artist members of The Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundations’ permanent collection, and my piece, “Crossing the Delaware, Well Aware” garnered more than it’s fair share of attention!

This year I again have the honor to have one of my works displayed in “Insights III” at the Zolla/ Liebermann Gallery in Chicago, on October 24th, 2019. I am working like crazy to get there this year as well, I just refuse to miss this show!

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I am so pleased with this little beauty in progress, some wondered if I were a “one hit wonder” and this piece gives the resounding “NO! I have so much MORE yet to give!”

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This is My Signature Style and there is No mistaking it! “Growth” a work in progress, by Susan T. Martin

 

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Crossing the Delaware, Well Aware, acrylic on canvas, Susan T. Martin, 8/11/17
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Detail, George from Crossing the Delaware WellAware, acrylic on Canvas, Susan T. Martin, 2017
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Detail, Crossing…Well Aware…Susan T. Martin, 8/2017

A Saint Petersburg Artist Resident

It has been an enormously trying year and one half, year and 8 months , actually. I have grown SO much since I have lived here in St. Petersburg, I have learned to believe in myself, and in my ability to survive.

As An ARTIST.  In my own right, I have put in the footwork, stretched my boundaries, made the connections, painted the dreams, and PUT MYSELF OUT THERE! 

Wow!!!  I mean , WOW!

 

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After  All the Fear, Loneliness, Grief, Doubt, All chaining me down and holding me back… I did the impossible. I used my art and with God’s unfailing love, have set myself free! Yes, He saved me from the pit, and put my feet upon a crag, and then I, Susie, Sue, Susan Todd!cropped-c4c4baeb-e0d8-4b76-89a0-c5fbe582a12c.jpg

 

picked up the tools I gathered over the past 40 + years, and put them to Use! Hacking off the dead pieces, digging down to fresh clean soil to build this life on. This BEAUTIFUL LIFE, This Sensitive Life, This life of Love.

A life of true purpose and meaning… I am SO grateful, and full…I may just burst into a ball of colorful confetti!

I know it was not all me, but you know what?

I COULDN’T HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT ME!74AE89DF-B621-4273-B7EB-7D51034CBCF2

So here is my tooting of my own horn, soaking up the satisfaction of a job well done and a future of hope and joy!

I am very proud to share that The Morean Arts Center in Downtown Saint Petersburg, Florida, has granted me the honor of a little pop up show in their beautiful facility! A show that features my art, my way, my innermost feelings, fears and flashbacks all on canvas, and OUT of me. So that I can help someone else see that you CAN have a life after violent sexual assault. After  molestation, after rape, after domestic violence, after ALL the trauma … you can still find your own voice under all the rubble, and you can stand up, on your own again!

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I want you to know that you can recover, but you must work at it and be steadfast in your desire to rise from the ashes of whatever you have experienced. I was surrounded by a family who never wanted to discuss what happened to me, and who treated me like I was touched by some uncleanliness. As if the person I was inside was somehow changed. Soiled. Ruined.

I stand up today, that same child, that same teenager, that same woman and I shout from the treetops that I am clean, and loved, and strong, and Beautiful! I am NOT what happened to me. I am a whole, healed  woman. And I am an ARTIST.cropped-artwork-and-pictures-056.jpgcropped-win_20161110_20_51_35_pro-5.jpg80B2AA6A-B993-41D9-AC94-BE325A4F596C

“Open Sea” and Exquisite Aloneness

This was a big endeavor for me, and I believe I have painted at least three different paintings in the course of 2 years on this one canvas…That can be one of the downfalls of being ocd and bipolar, when I can’t let a thing be good enough or ever done.

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Open Sea, acrylic on canves,by Susan T. Martin 2018
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Detail of “Open Sea” with digital edit
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Open Sea , By Susan T. Martin, acrylic on canvas. I tried to offer some perspective on the size of the work… I will post actual size soon.

So, here is the latest thought, the most beautiful and sad faced bird, and one that has had bestowed upon it men’s dreams and mankind’s heartbreaks, the Albatross…, I feel like this animal knows me, that she mirrors the exquisite alone-ness and yet oneness with all that I feel so often.

i REMEMBER SO VIVIDLY THE EXHILARATION OF BEING OUT ON THE OPEN WATER, THE SALT SPRAY KISSING MY FACE, AND NOTHING BUT THE GREAT EXPANSE OF SEA AND SKY SURROUNDING ME.

This tiny GIANT Life of Mine!!!

I am Creating! In a wonderful whirlwind! Paint flying off brushes onto cement, metal, canvas and walls! Hot glue, super glue, elmers glue, whew!

My work feels urgent, and it has for a while…secretly I have been feeling that my time here is limited, so I must hurry-make my mark while I can! Is it health concerns? Physical ones? Is my breath being sucked out of my lungs from the past abuse I put them thru? Each day feels less like breathing and more like drowning. Each step feels less like walking on the ground, more like sinking in the mire and sediment…

I am urgent in my service to God, they need to know, they need to know! How good life can be, without the stone, the stick, the stem!! Do not drown that brain in pickling juice my young artist friend: FEEL IT, BREATH IT IN, PAINT IT, NAIL IT DOWN!!! NOWNOWNOW!!!!!!

The life I took from myself has to be accounted for! I will account for it in dreams, in images, in COLOR! I have to let someone KNOW WHO I AM  before it evaporates, this little giant life of mine.

Did I tell you about being snake bitten twice? Did I tell you about riding the rails with the train tramps? Did I tell you about living in the Sonoran Desert? Did you read my poems, my blog? My instagram feed?

Do you know who I am?

Look at me, I have lived.

 

 

 

 

 

Art on the Island 3-D Art Show

win_20170212_14_16_52_proI was so thrilled to have 2 of my sculpture/assemblage pieces on display! As a new member of the Vero Beach Art Club, I was able to have my work in this exclusive show, and am so happy it was well received! I was not permitted to photograph any art except my own, which was disappointing but understandable to me, so I can’t share the other Phenomenal Artwork displayed. I saw AMAZING THINGS!, and am more motivated than ever to continue striving for my own best work…Onward and Upward!!  win_20170212_14_17_10_proOnly the foreground artwork, entitled “Lunar Rover” and assembled from a discarded floor lamp, broken concrete block, an antique German hunting horn, and many, many thing-a-ma-jigs, and whos-it-ma-bobs. The piece was well recieved and is still available for purchase! c.SusanToddMartin2017

I also showed “Munson, a Treasured Friend”, which you have seen posted here multiple times. (I’ll post it one more time as it is still available for purchase. (A little background on “Munson”: I sculpted this Cat Head originally from a block of molded fine concrete, using traditional chisels. This was then coated with sealant and then painted with acrylics to match the markings of my mom’s beloved cat of 20 years. He was then decked out with treasured heirlooom vintage and costume jewelry, including semi-precious gems, gold and sterling. Each piece meant something to me, hand me downs from dear, departed loved ones and friends. I made this sculpture for a local art show, which required entries to be “treasure themed” , celebrating the “Treasure Coast” here in Florida. This area is so named for all the shipwrecks discovered off the coast of Vero Beach, Fort Pierce, Port Saint Lucie and Stuart, these vessels laden with gold and treasures gleaned from North America and destined for Spain and Europe.

My creative process for this piece included images from old pirate and Sinbad movies, where chests full and overflowing with glistening jewels were depicted. These movies filled my childhood dreams, as did an unshakable love of my mother, who was my greatest treasure, and who I had recently lost to Cancer.

In turn, Munson was her treasure, ever a comfort in her troubled life, who lay by her side, faithfully, as she fought , and finally succumbed to cancer.

I hope you enjoy Munson, knowing, as you now do, how much love he carries beneath all his gleaming sparkles!

 

Sorry about the sound, I’m not sure why it buzzes. It does not do that when I view the video in my pc’s media app… But enjoy this anyway! (please, and Thank You!)