The Collection & The Muse

As October approaches, art show prep season comes to a close.

Above, The Buchenwald Project, scratched, sealed, framed, and ready for delivery. 105 hours of scratch time, 5 hours of construction and finishing, 308,000 individual lines, and a few years off the end of my life. But. It. Is. Done.

Above, all the works complete and wrapped to protect them from the elements (read: my cats). I'm looking forward to dropping these bad boys off at The Gulf Coast Museum soon so I can stop waking to the sound of kitty claws gliding and skiing across the paper all night long.

My promotional materials printed for the show.


October 26th is just around the corner, and - holy crap! - I am actually ready. And with time to spare! When I first started working on the pieces for this show, I worried I would not be finished in time. You see, I am a slave to my Muse, and she can be a wretched bitch sometimes. I am so lucky that she chose to show up with vigor the day I received this grant, and that she stayed with me these entire last couple months. Now that all the works for the show are complete, I suppose she's due for a vacation.

I read an article once that interviewed a handful of authors on what they view as the all-important “Muse”. Does she exist? Is the Muse purely the result of nose-to-the-grindstone work? Each author had their own opinions on this topic. Some took long walks to find their muse, some played instruments, some found her through meditation and patience. The article inspired me to ponder my own muse and my answer may be a bit surprising. Yes, I have a Muse. She comes to me at times, leading to the most inspiring pieces of art. I am up all night with her, working, thinking, planning, trying new things. My brain is abuzz with creative activity when she is around. I love my Muse. But there always comes a day when she leaves me—because my Muse is the upswing of my BiPolar Disorder.

Diagnosed at 16, I'd sworn off meds forever by my mid-20s. I am who I am. I could not create the way I do if not for the manic side of my disorder. I have no choice but to embrace it - the frenzy in my mind is consumed with art and creation during these times. I work with incredible focus and I am up all through the night doing so. It is worth the trade off of her inevitable absence. 

I haven't conquered the Muse. I cannot summon her. I only know I am grateful when she is here - and when she helps me create an amazing collection like this one. We are a great team. I couldn't have done this without her. We created this collection together.

In honor of my muse, I will share with you something that I wrote for her a couple years ago. When she leaves me, I sometimes read this in order to remind myself that she will, indeed, come back again.

MY MUSE, MY DISEASE, by Shan Leah

Occasionally she calls from far away, her voice faint through the fog
It wakes me from my stillness; my mind floods once again with her lyrics

My body quickly fills with her and together we howl for days and days
She dabs sweat from my brow as I lose another nights sleep to her script

My heart pounds when she is near, a ceaseless percussion
I feast on her, swallow her, consume her, for soon she will leave me

A few weeks—at most—she is mine, so I crawl upon her back and ride her
Because she never tires, not when she is with me

A neat little girl, she is, small and tight; packed inside my gut, she nests
Riddled with disease, she will be with me only a few days more and so I sing

I lend her my voice and she dances for me, her final surrender
The empty pages fill with our orchestra, our tears, and our blood

She uses me up until I am empty, spent, and weeping with exhaustion
And then one morning I wake to her vacancy, and again my mind is still

I float in a pool of impotence, emptiness; she is gone, so I go back to sleep
The sheets cling to my sticky body as the sun falls and rises and falls

But the empty pages still need to be filled, so I dutifully hum the slow, quiet words
A few weeks—at most—and I will again hear her calling through the fog

I weep for her and the time we have spent
I hope she has not forsaken me and our love, such magic we make together