Sunday, May 5, 2019

Through My Lens

"Through My Lens - Self Portrait"
© 2019 Tammy Kaufman
9" x 12" soft pastel on Sennelier La Carte Pastel Card

Despite the scary potential of facing the continued stigma that far too many still have toward those with mental illness, especially having a somewhat public persona as an artist, I’ve come to realize that openly acknowledging my own battle with it is a solid step toward healing. Painting is also an invaluable part of that healing process for me, along with having found highly qualified and trusted mental health professionals locally. This has given me a bit of courage to publicly recognize my complex mental health challenges and if you are struggling yourself, may my 'coming out' as mentally ill let you know that you are not alone. As I’ve progressed along this meandering artistic path as it crisscrosses with my mental health challenges, I’m finding that my own response to my artworks is changing. My paintings and sketches are generally feeling less like marketable commodities and more like a means of simply expressing the emotions evoked by the various scenes I’ve seen in person that made me want to paint them in the first place.

That being said, after several months of extensive therapies and treatments (which are currently still ongoing), I felt I was ready to open myself up enough to enter an important juried pastel show. This, it turns out, was premature and I was in fact not ready. I wrote these words immediately upon finding out I was denied the validation of an award at this show: "The painting at the top of this post was submitted, and accepted, into the North Carolina Statewide juried pastel exhibition. I know I should be happy this work, which is so personally meaningful to me, even got accepted into such a show, but I'm not going to deny that I was heartbroken to learn that I was, yet again, passed over for an award and the validation I have so desperately craved that would tell me I am in fact an artist.  Despite being part of the show, it still hurts to fail once again to earn an award after trying so very hard so many times. I'm going to let myself be sad for as long as I need and reevaluate whether juried shows are just too much for the fragility that is me right now, and simply paint for myself alone."

This is what complex mental illness does. It strips you of any ability to look objectively at a situation. It convinces you that you have no worth, no value, nothing meaningful to offer. It tells you, over and over and over again, that you are nothing but a tiny insignificant detail that can be merely flicked away and no one would care. It suffocates every good thing and drowns it all in a sea of doubt, insecurity and hurt. It whispers into your ear “you should have never been born; you can’t do anything right; you’re just a burden and a waste” repeatedly until even the tiniest of disappointments seems to prove the whispers true, overriding any successes that may come along. It torments you with feelings of inadequacy, the belief that you are not enough, you will never BE enough, until you are so exhausted from the Sisyphean task of trying to find some meaning and value in your existence that the pain manifests not only in your mind but expands into a deep burning ache in your throat, chest, head, gut and muscles. It makes you crave sleep, only to deny it to you; crave foods, but nauseate you when you try to eat; desire to get outside and exercise but deny you the strength and energy to do so. Living with complex mental illness quite literally feels like being imprisoned in your own mind.

My artwork is part of my therapy and hopefully will facilitate the healing process, and I recognize that very fact makes many of my paintings perhaps more deeply personal to me than they should be. Because of that, I also realize entering juried shows requires exposing my raw vulnerability to a juror sitting in judgment of those paintings. A juror who obviously is looking, not at me, but my work in an almost clinical and analytical sense. But as I cannot yet disconnect what I create from what I am, it likely is in my best interest for any hope of beginning to heal to keep my works, at least most of them, to myself alone for now. That does create a quandary for me though. Part of me strongly believes art is meant to be shared, and I admit there is a certain joy in those few times that something I have painted actually speaks to another. On those rare occasions, it almost makes me feel less alone and isolated when I can share a part of me to which another human being responds positively. So, I need to find a way to exist with a foot in both realities – to share the work of my heart while still protecting that same fragile heart…

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Over a Million Steps!

Over the past couple of months, I participated in a walking challenge, and am happy to report I walked over one million steps during the eight week event! My final step total was 1,150,902 steps, which also resulted in my being our team's "high stepper".


I also found that I felt stronger and healthier as a result of increasing my daily steps (I averaged over 20,000 steps per day throughout the challenge), and even found my bicycling stamina and strength improved as well. My steps have decreased a bit over the past week due to a terrible cold, but I plan to stay with the daily walking and increase it back up to the 10-20K average per day level as soon as this cold clears. Yay me! 😊

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Happy Birthday Frylie!

Happy 8th Birthday to our sweet little man - we've loved you from the moment we first met you, and you fill our lives with unbridled joy. πŸΎπŸ’š


Saturday, January 21, 2017

A Beautiful Thing

In these alarming and deeply worrisome times, it was so uplifting and inspiring to be able to participate in such an incredible event as the Women's March on Raleigh, joining a diverse group of, at last count, around 17,000 beautiful souls marching for equality here at home and countless others across the world.






Saturday, September 3, 2016

Meet The Artist - Cross Post

Cross Post from my Art Blog:


Save The Dates!

Monday, September 12 and Sunday, September 18, 2016

I'm delighted to be a featured artist with the Wake County Library System for the month of September as we explore the beauty of the North Carolina landscape. It would be an honor to have you join me for presentations at two of our local libraries, including live painting demonstrations and the opportunity to ask questions about interpreting the local landscape with pastels.

© 2016 Tammy Kaufman - Ethereal Dance - soft pastels on Sennelier La Carte Pastel Card 19.5" x 25.5"
  • On Monday, September 12, from 11 a.m. until noon, I'll be at the East Regional Library at 946 Steeple Square Court in Knightdale.
  • On Sunday, September 18, from 2 - 3 p.m., I'll be at the new Northeast Regional Library at 14401 Green Elm Lane in Raleigh (Wakefield).

As part of this program, I'm honored to have my pastel landscape paintings on exhibit in both these lovely libraries throughout the month of September.

© 2016 Tammy Kaufman - Fugue - soft pastels on Sennelier La Carte Pastel Card 9" x 12"
© 2016 Tammy Kaufman - More Than Words Can Tell - soft pastels on Ampersand PastelBord 12" x 16"
Twelve works are in the lobby display cabinet at the Northeast Regional Library in Raleigh (Wakefield), and 12 works are hanging along the main back wall at the East Regional Library in Knightdale. Inspired by the uniquely beautiful North Carolina landscape, these paintings range from 4x6 to 18x24 inches in size, are all framed under glass and wired for easy hanging, and will be offered at special "Meet the Artist" adoption fees between 35 and 425 dollars, with the profits going to animal charities. I look forward to your visit!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Taking Charge of Wellness

So I've had my blood sugars rechecked and am happy to report I'm now out of the diabetic range! However, my weight is still well over where it needs to be, and even though I did complete the Couch to 5K running program (which was amazing, by the way), I felt like I needed to do something to continue keeping me accountable to working hard on regaining my fitness.
With that in mind, Steve and I took the plunge and joined the Rex Wellness Center. At first I was hesitant because my limited experience with gyms was not exactly pleasant from the perspective of an overweight middle aged woman surrounded by a lot of uber-fit 20-somethings. However, the Wellness Center seems to be less like a gym and more of, well, a wellness center. So far in my first week of membership, I've taken two group classes - Aqua Barre and H20 Cardio Barre, both of which were an absolute blast - have had a fitness assessment to help me figure out where I am fitness level wise, and have tried out the free weights, a couple of the exercise machines, saltwater lap pool, warm therapy pool, whirlpool, sauna, steam room, and the indoor track. I'm planning on taking more pool classes, yoga and meditation classes, as well as some of the stretching and strength/fitness classes, and will look into some personal training as well at some point. According to today's fitness assessment, I do need to work on losing weight and gaining flexibility as I already knew, but my strength is not too bad and surprisingly enough, my aerobic capacity is better than I thought. I think the Couch to 5K Program that I completed back in May really helped with that, and I've actually continued running a couple of times a week since then!
I have had a flare of some old plantar fasciitis issues, but picked up some PF sleeves which seem to be helping, along with PF exercises. Having our beautiful greenway so close to home is a dream come true - it's perfect for running and bicycling, not to mention providing incredible inspiration for paintings! And when the weather is just too bad to workout outside, there is always the gym with indoor track so I can stay on track better with my exercise now - no excuses! Yeah, I think this Wellness Center membership is going to be a good investment for my health and wellness. :-)