Face Making

Artist Gwenn Seemel’s bilingual blog about art, portraiture, free culture, and feminism.

Depression, superstition, and trying to be in control of your life

2017 . 04 . 12 - Comments / Commentaires (8)

Two times in a row means it’s a pattern. I was four months away from opening Subjective the first time they had to cut me open to excise the disease. Three years later, I was—again—just months away from a big show of new work when my body ended up on the endometriosis chopping block for the second time. Maybe that’s why it’s taken me over four years to start another new series.

I am not a superstitious person. I work at purging my life of unfounded beliefs and the magically-minded actions that those beliefs can inspire. There are just a handful of irrational things I’ll do to bring luck, and only one that I am very attached to.

It’s from a story I read as a child. Before leaving my home to go traveling by plane, I kiss all four walls of my living room. It feels ridiculous to write it out this way, for other people to read. We can pretend that doing so is a step in helping me dismantle this particular bit of hooey, but the truth is that I know I’ll be pressing my face against the walls again the next time I leave for an extended trip. It’s the only way I can be sure I’ll make it home again.



Gwenn Seemel studio

I’m not a superstitious person, but, right about now, I’m ready to kiss the four walls of my uterus. Illness is good at taking away a person’s center, forcing them to see that they don’t control their lives. It’s not a feeling I love—especially now as the pressure is on to get the work done—but it’s weirdly fitting.

My new series is about things we don’t control, about how we shape ourselves to fit into society’s expectations for us. Who might we be if we weren’t so social? Would I be X if it weren’t for your Y?


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CATEGORIES: - English - Empathetic Magic - Endometriosis - Feminism - Philosophy -


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(8) Comments / Commentaires: Depression, superstition, and trying to be in control of your life

-- Joy Murray -- 2017 . 04 . 12 --

Superstitions like this are rituals and without rituals, we feel there isn’t any order to life.  It’s a story we tell ourselves that brings comfort in a chaotic world.  I think our brains are hard-wired to tell ourselves these stories.  I like the image of you kissing the walls of your uterus.  In a culture that rarely even speaks of the uterus, it’s important to acknowledge and love it.  Especially since yours struggles so much.  I sometimes put my hand on parts of my body that no longer work well and sing Sam Cook’s I Love You song.  I hope you remain healthy through the work you’re doing for you upcoming show.

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-- Gwenn -- 2017 . 04 . 12 --

@Joy: I agree that we search for and need meaning in our lives, but the meaning of superstitions often ends up having a negative effect on me. If I can’t trace the meaning of the ritual to something based in fact, the ritual backfires on me, making me feel weaker or less empowered than before. Except with a handful of things that I hold on to—notably the wall-kissing. It’s like the few superstitious holdouts have become more powerful as I’ve worked at purging the rest. Our brains are funny things.

I like the idea of singing to parts of your body. I focus positive thoughts at parts of mine sometimes, but I like singing better because music has that special and very deep way of shifting mood. I’m going to try it. TODAY! smile

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-- RoByn Thompson -- 2017 . 04 . 12 --

It’s okay to believe in magic, dear Gwen. <3

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-- Gwenn -- 2017 . 04 . 12 --

@RoByn: For me, there’s a difference between magic and superstition. smile

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-- Roberta Warshaw -- 2017 . 04 . 13 --

I do the exact same thing when I go out to my house in Arizona. Our move was delayed due to family issues so whenever I do go out there, right before I leave, I walk around the house and touch all the walls. it is what I do to make sure I return.

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-- Gwenn -- 2017 . 04 . 13 --

@Roberta: Do you know where it comes from? I’m trying to remember the story I got it from. I feel like it’s an African tradition, for some reason. In any case, as superstitions go, it is beautifully poetic! Maybe that’s why I hold on to it. smile

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-- Donna Fields -- 2017 . 04 . 15 --

Hi Gwen, Thank you so much for all your honesty and for sharing your thoughts. I did my doctorate on folklore and am beginning to think that the fabric of the universe is woven together in the rhythm of folk tales.
I love the idea of you kissing the four walls of your house before you leave. I ask the angels to guard mine and the little souls within when I leave for a trip. Do you remember the story you took the ritual from? It doesn’t sound familiar at all and I’d like to read it.
Thank you in advance.

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-- Gwenn -- 2017 . 04 . 15 --

@Donna: I like that idea. The stories we tell have a lot more power over us and over the world than I think we realize on a daily basis.

As for my wall-kissing, I think it’s Kenyan in origin, because I’m pretty sure it was referred to in The Flame Trees of Thika. Maybe? I really don’t know. I should reread the book!

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