This series is an illustration of my experience in rebuilding a conscious mind after my severe brain injury. That horrible moment of stroke, one morning as breakfast concluded, a shooting pain slammed into my forehead. I called out to my husband that I was having a stroke before I collapsed. A large area of the right hemisphere of my brain had become immersed in blood, and blood on the loose is what kills brain cells. Vaguely, I could hear my husband phoning 911, and then nothing until I awoke in the recovery room after surgery. The next day.
In fact, I experienced my brain attack as a natural disaster, a great flood that had swept away the previous order in my mind, or possibly an earthquake that had left huge holes that other items had fallen into. And when I tried to form a thought, the words would linger in awkward piles, incoherent in their first perception, and at the same time occasionally stunning in their disjointed juxtapositions.
The beads of my memory and consciousness were broken from their original formation and scattered. I did not know if I would be able to think clearly again, if I would be able to draw again, or whether I would be able to see clearly and, if I could, if I would also have the ability to concentrate to make art, or to do anything—work my legs, move my arms, see. Would I ever have the persistence to complete a single drawing again, let alone a more complex painting?
So, how did I come up with Restringing? For one thing, I had become practiced in sgraffito due to my Dissecting Tools panels. For another, in Herman Hesse’s “Magister Ludi,” the glass bead game represented how intellectual issues could be linked together. But my approach to gathering the beads was much more intuitive. In planning this work, I just let my pencil doodle one bead and then that bead seemed to cast a link to a second bead, and that one to a third, until the last bead had reached back to catch the open string of the very first bead.
So, I created a new simple order by a series of individual links. Then, I played with the secondary tensions among the beads, which locked them into positions relative to one another, just as ionic bonds structure the three-dimensional shape in molecules. So, this was the opposite approach to the representation of the Dissecting Tools, which were asked to stand still for their portraits, because the Restringing work was a fluid and evolving process.
I didn’t know when I started each Restringing drawing exactly where it would end up. Some strands acted like biological creatures or plants. Others seemed to mimic natural phenomena like the formation of ice crystals. Some beads were heavy and some were floating. Some were spiny and others were very delicate. I refined each strand many times until it was ready to become a final, sgraffito drawing on panel.