Introduction to Art Journal Selections

C. The hand that wounds

In 1998, I was an active participant in Mail Art and my 1998 show included a Mail Art project called "Turn Off Your Television". For this project, I made a simple drawing of the outline of a television and cut it up into postcard-sized pieces. I sent pieces out to people in my Mail Art network and asked them to complete the cards how they wanted and send them back to me. I assembled three television images from the cards I got back, filling in any empty spots myself. Mark sent me his card as a computer graphic. I must have either printed out extra copies of his card or printed out some test pieces in the wrong size because I had an extra printout of his card in my collage paper stash. I used a couple of circles cut out from this printout on the right side of this pairing. The base of this page is another computer graphics project by Mark, with some collaging by me overlaid.

I don't remember if I asked Mark if he was referring to anything in particular by putting the words "This is the hand that wounds..." into his collage. During our friendship Mark confided in me accounts of some traumatic episodes from his past. I think it is possible he was referring to some of that trauma in this collage but I don't know for sure.

There is a reason why I overlaid these particular fragments over a computer graphic Mark made that could be interpreted as homoerotic. When Mark was studying art, he became interested in the human figure and became quite proficient at figurative art. Some of the themes he started exploring were fantasy, some were erotic, and some were combinations of the two. At this time in his life, Mark had "come out" as gay to me after we had been been friends for six years, even though I had known his orientation from the beginning of our friendship in 1990. He hadn't been sure if I knew or not and was relieved to get "the reveal" over with. It probably seems strange to be close friends with someone for six years and not discuss this, but it was a different time then. We were close enough friends to work on art together, go on road trips together, help each other with projects, have overnight stays at my house... pretty tight. I rarely discussed sexuality with platonic friends of any orientation as I considered it a private matter. It's my tendency to let the other person bring it up when or if they want to. I had several gay friends, some were out to everyone and some just to a select few. I let them take the lead and decide who they wanted to tell without getting involved except for our own interpersonal conversations.

Mark's work with the human figure and fantasy elements led him to becoming a science fiction and fantasy author mixed with gay romance, and I wrote a review of his first book here. Scroll down to read my review of Mark's novel "The God Hunters". By this time we had been friends for 20 years and he was completely "out" to everyone so I could deal with the theme of the book head on. To be honest I was nervous about this because LBGTQ+ issues can bring about strong emotional reactions in some people, sometimes quite negative. Even now in 2020, although the culture has changed a lot, I know everyone is not "out" and it still takes courage to be out. There are some people who may never be out.

Since I cared deeply about Mark, I didn't want him to be hurt in any way by any possible negative consequences of being "out". But since he had decided to go this route, as a friend I wanted to support him the best way that I could. I've been through a lot of bad things in my own life in the 10 years since I wrote that review, and I've had to learn the lesson many more times over that no matter who you are, any vulnerability you show has the possibility of putting you in danger from predatory people. It's the reason why animals try to hide any infirmities from predators as long as they are able. And although it's my understanding that being LBGTQ+ is not considered a disorder any more in today's medical community, it's still a vulnerability in some situations. So is being poor, or older, or ill, or traumatized, or underemployed, or a racial, ethnic or religious minority, or any number of facts of human existence. Any perceived lack of power or status can get you attacked from a direction you didn't anticipate. I have learned that sometimes the way to heal and become powerful again is to lay your vulnerabilities out there for all to see and show that you have triumphed over them. It's up to each person to decide what strategy works best for them.

The print Mark made that I based this journal page on is one I don't remember seeing before I went through Mark's art stuff after his passing. There are a lot of possible interpretations to it, including just being an exercise in drawing or computer graphics. My own interpretation, due to the nudity and womb-like mutual comforting posture of the two figures, is vulnerability and that is why I combined it with the "hand that wounds" quote as a reflection of some of my feelings about Mark and his life. Mark was a kind and gentle person and that alone was enough to make him very vulnerable.

Things to be grateful for: