Essays by the Co-Authors
Karen Morris, poet, psychoanalyst and collaborator with artist John Tomlinson on "Rage: The Misery of Men :: Hope: The Dawning of Men"
I am no mealy mouthed woman; I am no stranger to rage or danger, yet I recall the shudder that went right through me when I first saw John Tomlinson's series of drawings called, RAGE: The Misery of Men.
What I saw in that first encounter with the faces of men in John's drawings, was not so much rage as hatred and fear. To me these were frightening, but pathetic creatures. Because the drawings were done by a man, I felt the first inkling of hope. I realized through the immediacy and vibrant aliveness of these drawings, the artist's need to claim the page for the rites of self disclosure; to declare that men are as frightened of themselves as women are of them. I felt I had met each one of these characters at some point in my life. A flurry of memories of negative encounters overtook me. I saw the opportunity to wrangle with my own stifled rage, to help myself with the suffering it can cause me; but before any of that could happen, I first saw the opportunity for revenge in the crafting of a poem for each character.
I have always had a secret hope, that when a new baby is born, the first thing it will see when it opens its eyes will be the welcoming, radiant, face-of-wonder of its mother and father. I also hope that when it comes time to die, the last thing every person will look upon will be the compassionate face of a beloved family member or trusted friend. But this is not the case for most lives. The human face, the faces of others as well as our own, are focal points throughout our lives, screens for projections that maintain, transform and convey; safety or danger, interest or disinterest, brightness or dullness, hot or cold, love or hate. Our lives are written on our faces. When the ability to process negative emotions, or the equivalent of our biological affects such as, frustration, disgust and anger, breaks down due to an over-load, we feel overwhelmed, our emotional systems can't keep up with the processing. We might feel the need to "blow off steam," usually on the first person we see within range.
In my work as a psychoanalyst I am always concerned with the life narrative of how the positive biological affects, such as joy and interest, have been imposed upon, flattened out and shut down. The focus of my work becomes helping the person rebuild connections to access more positive affect, more joy, more life.
Some people think competition is needed to make good work. But what I experienced with John Tomlinson in the dialogue, which developed between his drawings and my poems, was playful and utterly encouraging. Each drawing encouraged a new poem and each new poem encouraged new drawings. Best of all, both forms helped us to uncover out of our own histories, our own unprocessed rage, and helped us to transform those negative emotions and memories into a fuller spectrum of emotion. This project has helped me unbind myself from my vigilant attention to the raging misery of men I see around me everywhere, and revel in my freedom and separateness, unafraid. Unbinding fear and finding joy. And what a good thing that is to share with others in the creation of a safer, more joyous world.