All my pretty ones?

All my pretty ones?

Did you say all?—O hell-kite!—All?

What, all my pretty chickens, and their dam,

At one fell swoop?

Shakespeare employs the image of a bird of prey, a “hell-kite”, swooping to the ground to kill all his “pretty chickens”. The word he uses is “fell”. Though a common word, he is using a rather obscure sense of that word, meaning of terrible evil or ferocity.

So, “one fell swoop” originally meant a sudden, ferocious attack, although the sense of savagery in the phrase has been lost over the years and people now use it to mean, simply, all at once…

After living in a home infested with toxic mold I got sick. It took four years and many, many doctors to learn that a genetic anomaly prevents my system from detoxing from mold as one typically might. When a liver is overrun with toxins it releases them into the GI tract where they are reabsorbed by the body. This is particularly disastrous for people who lack key enzymes to detoxify and break them down thus creating a constant circulation unless the toxins are somehow sequestered. My immune system is trapped in a constant loop as it attempts to rid my body of this immortal invader.

Prometheus gave fire to the human race against the will of the Gods. Zeus punished him by chaining him to a rock where an eagle would swoop in and consume his liver. The liver regenerated because he was immortal and the eagle would gnaw it away day after day.

I faced thyroid and adrenal issues, food allergies, and debilitating fatigue, relentless episodes of tachycardia and convulsions and, most upsettingly, loss of cognitive ability. Eventually my health was so compromised that I was no longer able to teach. My art practice, a teaching career of 13 years and my health simply disappeared. In one fell swoop. And I mean it as Shakespeare did. In the most obscure sense of terrible ferocity. I never thought that I would make it to the other side of this massive interruption and now, six years later, I have learned how to deal with this on a day-to-day basis and am so relieved to be back in the studio.

It has been interesting to dig into my studio space and find scraps, shreds of ideas and false starts that have come and gone over the last six years. I feel so alienated…as if I am going through someone else’s things…but then there is a spark of something familiar and I feel a surge of energy in sketches of a crumbling cityscapes, decaying species of mold, mountains of garbage and bolts of electricity…I had been in the midst of researching the science of electricity and the space between curiosity, self-destruction and self-preservation. In 1771 Luigi Galvani observed the leg muscles of a dead frog convulse when touched by an electrical charge. Something that reacts when electrocuted is not necessarily alive and something that appears dead could be revived if subjected to electricity.

Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus written by Mary Shelley is about eccentric scientist Victor Frankenstein, who reanimates a constructed corpse in an unorthodox scientific experiment. The following is a quote from Mary Shelley:

“I busied myself to think of a story, - a story to rival those which had excited us to this task. One which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature, and awaken thrilling horror -- one to make the reader dread to look round, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart…”

Mary Shelley gave birth, prematurely in 1815. The infant passed a few days later. In 1816, her son was born in January and her daughter in September. The boy lived three years and the girl one. After the death of her infant and while pregnant she began to write Frankenstein. She was tormented by the loss. A journal entry in 1815 reads, “Dream that my little baby came to life again; that it had only been cold, and that we rubbed it before the fire, and it lives.”

My work was left dangling, paused on the image of shocking something back to life. Now I have managed to plug in the leads – I just need an energy source…