originally published January 16, 2006

Between Glenda’s and Jane’s portrait, the creative process ran a similar pattern than for earlier preparations, including a sort of “cleansing” state, listening, notetaking, picture review, re-listening, etc. But as I prepared to begin the actual artwork for Jane’s portrait, I found myself going through a rather extensive “cleaning”… I found myself diving into one of the single most hated projects that involves cleaning in my house… my master bathroom. A room that is really meant for demolition, rather than cleaning. One that has suffered repairs just to keep it functional, while the rest of the house goes on with more attention.

In the “old days”, scrubbing my old grimy tiled shower was actually used as rare punishment for my children when they were being particularly obnoxious. On this day, it was my turn. It was the turning over of the old year to the new and I felt the need to complete the task. With iPod plugged into my ears and protected under an old t-shirt and work pants, I set about scrubbing, bleaching, rinsing, and scrubbing some more. A few pieces of the ceramic soap dish fell apart… the grime being the only thing holding them together … but all in all, the room came clean.

All the while, I listened to Jane’s story, over and over again. I had only been able to interview her for about 70 minutes and so listening to her story more than once was easy while I took on this abhorrent task of scrubbing the shower, the toilet, sink and floor. But as the tiles began to gleam white, and the chrome began to sparkle, I began to see that, in spite of the cracks in the soap dish, the little bathroom really was quite serviceable. Certainly, it lacked a bit of “curb” appeal. But it was clean. And I could live with myself again.

Maybe that is why I took on this particular cleaning project in preparation for Jane’s portrait. I had listened to it at least once already. And I knew that her story was full of grit and grime, the kind that could turn you cold. And her gritty talk as she described her descent into hell and back again was fitting, as I scrubbed the physical grim with a small scrub brush and watched it run towards the drain.

Her penance is to help others. Her sense of humanity had returned and she needed to be able to live with herself again. To scrub the grime from her life, with a small brush, as she finds the gleaming light that comes from within.

Her text, transcribed from our interview, provides a textural narrative provides a necessary visual soundtrack. Here is her portrait.


Jane’s finished portrait

Wednesday, January 16, 2006
Mara Jevera Fulmer