Friday, January 22, 2016

2015 Went Out With a Bang..On the Head

Samantha Simpson, Pumpkinhead and the Egg (detail), Watercolor, 2015 

My website shows hardly any work for 2015 and unfortunately there is a very good reason for that.  I spent the summer making a book, and there are a few paintings I haven't put up there yet, but the big problem was that I sustained a major brain injury. I concussed myself, badly, doing nothing very impressive. I was sweeping up some crap off the floor and when I stood up I hit my head hard on a counter. And that started a serious four month process of healing from my fourth concussion.

My first concussion was when I was in thrird grade. Fell off a wall, woke up in an ambulance. Second was in college. Bike accident: passed out, woke up, wore a neck brace for a while, done. My third was five years ago: banged my head on some scaffolding, felt sick for about a week. This one was far, far worse. I damaged my brain. I severely knocked off my vision and sense of balance. There is a pretty good article online here that talks about someone else who had a major concussion with vestibular issues: my experience was like his in many ways, but it was also better and worse. I healed much faster than him because I did vestibular therapy, which works really well. My experience was worse than his because I also had severe vision problems. I couldn't read, much less drive. Looking at anything too difficult (text, a phone, a pattern, knitting) blew out my vision almost immediately. It would double and stick that way. The combination of the vision and the vestibular issues made it difficult for me to do very specific visual tasks. My eyes didn't track well together, so I couldn't handle stripes, patterns, looking back and forth or near and far quickly, or looking at too much fine detail. I'd get a migrane, then dizziness, then my vision would blur out, then the world would start tilting and I'd have to high tail it to a dark room. Vestibular issues mean that you offload your balance problems to your visual cortex, so that you can't handle too much visual stimulus without falling over, so I was very very dizzy a lot, and I hung out in dark closets like some crazy art professor Quasimodo when I was teaching in order to reset my brain between classes. I did manage to do a few sad paintings of bruised pumpkin heads, but that's about it. It was a pretty miserable fall. (You might notice that the image above is blurry. Yeah.)

But on Tuesday I got kicked out of vision therapy. I can read, I can work on screens, I'm cleared to drive and I can do my art (Stripey! With lots of detail! And patterns!) so I'm hard at work, and so happy about it. I'm back at work on a painting I started this summer, and it's great to be at it again. 

Saturday, January 02, 2016


This year I was in Philadelphia for New Years, which meant I had the great pleasure of photographing the mummers! It is one of my favorite ways to start the new year. Enjoy.

I will post new work soon, I hope. I had an injury that messed up my vision for a while, but I'm almost done recovering and can't wait to get back in the studio.