it feels like time is speeding by and the music in my ears continues. the music in my living continues. i haven't felt many moments of normalcy in my livelihood and i have always been okay with that but lately i have had the chance to live again. and not to live like a cancer patient but to live like a healthy individual on this earth. it has been a long time that i haven't ignored my sickness and went out with friends at night and not worried one bit about my health, my further, my MRI scans, my X-rays, ANYTHING. it has been crucial for me to stay in the positive, i know this. but it is even more crucial to feel human and alive. i can not comfortably settle with patient as my title. that is not the only way to categorize my living, if a way to categorize it at all. i played the radio this morning as the sounds exist right behind me as i type. i usually work in silence in my room against the window when i type these entires. i usually isolate the moment from the abundances of any moment in hopes that i won;t be distracted from the toughest that begin in my head. i have accepted living in this world and its complicated and elaborative spaces that involve many many factors. sometimes we need to make peace with these multiplicities. sometimes we need to confront the fast pace and live in those spaces. this reminds me of my differences in living home in the suburbs versus my past living in the city. this is why i consider myself an individual of two spaces; two places. the city and the suburb. these two spaces have fueled different work looking back and moving forward. i see how my habitat has effected my work, my mood, my experience.
my thoughts continue as the music continues. they bounce back and forth to the past week of all of the amazing things that have happened for me. i once wondered if everything i believe is amazing really is to others. and then it didn't matter one bit. if it means something to me, it is everything i fell, everything i believe. my truth and my definition or understanding of this livelihood propels me. i then find myself thinking of the other night where i orchestrated my first official college art class. this has been my dream since i was very young. at a very young age i found myself climbing into my mother's closet for a set of high heels and old sunglasses i could pop the lens out of to make myself seem more official sporting them. i would grab an old suit from the 'dress-up' trunk and prepare the lesson plan for the day. i would set up two seats, one for my yiayia and one for my papou (my grandmother and grandfather). whenever they were in town to visit they knew it was time to play students. i took on the role of planning the lessons, grading the papers, disciplining, and continuing with teaching dance to my yiayia after class so she could make some extra points on her low grade i had given her the week before. i taught her to dance. that meant i taught her to dance the best way i knew how which mostly involved me twirling around which ever way i decided as best. i declared the 'right way' as my own way. whether it be teaching or dancing i was always confident in my decisions, or creations.
i think of these moments in my childhood as the beginning of my career. the very beginning of this livelihood. i always created. whether it was a lesson plan for my grandparents to a potion of flowers and leaves in my backyard with my neighbor friends. i was always making, working, interacting with the world and people around me at a young age. i have noticed now that i have always been attracted to this world. fascinated by this living. enriched by new experiences whether anyone else defines them as bad or negative or amazing and positive. i guess i have always defined my perception of this livelihood. whenever anyone questions or has questioned my perception of this living i am thrown off. this is how i guess i felt before getting sick last year. i felt confused about this living because i felt misunderstood by those around me. mostly in my new environment of the city. perhaps i needed more time to convince everyone my reasons for making. my reasons for the creations i manifested. but the problem at the time was that i didn't know them myself because my body was angry with me. the tumor has taken control over a part of my brain i believe to effect my attention to who i grow up with. my self had darkened. these are ideas i wonder about often in thinking of my second diagnosis and how it all played out.
i sat in the NYU medical center as i unloaded my bag of past sketchbooks and older work created before i was diagnosed with brain cancer this past spring. i felt nervous to soon sit in front of a group of fifteen or so medical students all around my age and older, to discuss my life and my making. where would i start? of course i have been thinking about this for the past three weeks and ever since the idea of teaching a class came up. i believe we are always thinking, always churning ideas through our minds. it is only when we start to pay attention when they become actualized as thought. this has been my dream to be a teacher. any kind. to plan a lesson with reason and purpose that educates a group of individuals previously unaware of a subject or experience. i had this opportunity to educate highly educated individuals. highly intelligent and inquisitive individuals. this is everything to me. if i do nothing else in this livelihood, i have done something powerful in this moment.
i started my lecture with my story at age thirteen. then quickly trailed on to my current battle by firstly explaining my art practices and how they predicted my current battle with brain cancer. the class all sat before me as i told my stories, surprising myself how quickly it all flowed out of me with such reassurance that this is the exact space i was meant to be with the exact words i needed to speak. i did not loose the class' attention for one minute. once i finished my lecture i asked the class to then ask me whatever they wish. i was then met with a mixture of inquisitive questions both personal and medically based. some scientific and some more emotional. i enjoyed this spectrum because it furthered my understanding of their understandings. after a few more raising of hands the questions became about what was to happen next. i then disturbed the project i had hoped would inspire the class to paint today. i opened up a folder i had made of all imagined i created the week before i was diagnosed with brain cancer, which included a stack of black and white images of sketchbooks and a psychology book with a human head on it. only i made these copies completely askew and jarred as when i photocopied them i twisted the book while the light scanned the image to be printed. at the time i had no idea why i did this. i just did it because the image created was interesting and new. the black and white pages printed out completely jarring and twisted; malfunctioned images would be the proper term to call the. these mini malfunctions that i created on this copy machine referenced what was actually occurring in my human head as the tumor continued to live breading cancer through my cells unknown to me.
the entire class laid out the images i provided on computer paper in black and white on a table within the classroom. i asked the class to do one specific thing for me after referencing these images i created. i asked for color. this ask for color had to do with my current presence in this living. all of my work created before my diagnosis this past spring was made in black and white- void of color. now in recuperation and hopefully survival i have been introduced and become friends with color again. color has entered my life again and i discussed this with the class of students about to paint.
the work created was fantastic. yes this group is a bunch of medical studies but they all had artistic inclinations. the discussions continued as they painted and i walked around having conversations with the medical studies in the room. as the night continued it felt like i was just hanging out with a group of old friends. music by outkast was playing on pandora when i returned after washing my hands from some paint, which always seems to end up on my skin, and it felt like this group really connected to this activity, this moment in time, this experience. i found such purpose in the entire night. i felt such purpose in my living weaving through that room of medical students, seeing all the amazing artwork they created, asking all the fantastic questions they had. i got the chance to be an art teacher, fusing my medical experience with their own. fusing my love for creation with their own. sharing my livelihood and experiences, and beliefs with their own. i felt complete in my practice. i don't think this feeling comes around too often for a lot of people. i am blessed for all of the attention the class gave me. i am blessed to have called any creation for that day a result of my existence. this is everything to me.
when i talk about the importance of others in life i point straight to this experience as example. these people have continued me and have enriched me. they have reassured me for this living and this practice i so believe in. i simply cannot thank them all enough. i continue just as i hope they continue. practices as doctors and practicing as art makers.-nicki
a special thank you to Robert Spencer for attending my first exhibition BONE TO BRAIN 90.13.20. and asking me so many questions upon first meeting. also a big thank you for staying in touch and deciding to plan the Gift of Time painting class lecture and project entitled An Event with Nicki Muller.
HUGE THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO TOOK PART!
YOU HAVE CONTINUED ME.
86. march thirteenth two thousand and twelve. 7:35 am - 8:24 am
in the wake of the night in the dusk of the morning i continue
it feels so long ago since i really stopped and written here upon this computer, upon any notebook for too long. i have constructed activity for myself to take part in every day to continue my living. to keep me 'busy' they like to say. well 'busy' is working. since i didn't continue my classes for this semester i was worried i'd be left with too much time- which i know i am not good with as an individual because i need a consistency of production, or action, of production. that is probably why this past summer was so rough on me physically and mentally because the radiation and chemotherapy would make me extremely tired at the simplest of tasks. becoming out of breath was no joke when i took a short walk around the block. i remember relying on using my bicycle after the first main surgery once i got somewhat better to keep me active. but even so i was never as far traveling as i used to be. i had to acclimate to a new kind of space i existed in. i had to become okay with this world again and in new ways. this summer was rough. on my physically and mentally continuously. right into my fall registration and class schedule and production. yes i made myself return to class because that made me 'okay'. i was not okay but if i mentally believed so perhaps this hard time would pass. if i convinced my brain and body that i was over this cancer, past this disease, and that my body was functioning properly again, then it would in reality and i would be continued. i had hoped to be continued but i gave myself until the end of the year. mentally i just needed to finish the year. have my solo art show, be recognized for it and i was good. i was happy with that. of course i had hoped i'd get the chance for more living but i had come to terms with my life ending. i really did. with the new year of 2012 january was odd to me. i was still on plenty of medication and feeling odd. but i was continued. and that kept me going. the idea that another day wasn't ludicrous and actually very possible. so january started to play by and then february i started to feel my body revive. with decreasing the chemotherapy that killed intense cells all last year to nothing and then starting my new chemotherapy drug this past month i am a completely new individual than the woman i was only a few months ago. it has almost been a year since this journey began for me. this second battle with cancer. its almost as if me and my cancers quarrel for a while, negotiate some terms, decided who gets what points and who gets to continue. this is my living. exciting for sure. by trying none the less. i can't say i'll ever be completely strong. but i can say with all of the people who have surrounded me; with all of the strength and belief that has continued me- i can't give up. it simply wouldn't be fair to everyone who stands beside me. to all those who have raised their hands to continue me it would be wrong of me to simply give up. to think last december was my last december was wrong. i was wrong. but this world has proven me such. these people and their strength has proven me wrong. i am so glad they have.
i have been painting constantly with the new year. before and during both bouts of cancer in my living i have painted many a things. i have inquired many thoughts, colors, emotions, both subconsciously and consciously. i have discovered new places in my being just by utilizing the canvas and paint. the paper and pen. creation has continued me i am sure. creation has proven my reality. i analyze all the work i have created before my second diagnosis with my high grade glioma tumor and it frightens me how much we are subconsciously aware of but consciously blind to. i created work a semester before the spring semester the tumor was discovered and removed the week i woke up and could not read my homework email this past spring of 2011. that fall before i created an image for my final piece for the class at my dorm room desk with my two colored markers. one was black and one was red. the image read "INFECTED" at the bottom and was attached to a brain image created at the top of the page. i was fascinated with street art at the time and had them posted around NY as a street art campaign. the project was about an infection of the mind. of an idea. but i didn't understand at the time whose mind i was actually referencing. the mind would be a reflection of my own cancerous infection. it gives me the chills to think i had printed out scans from google of brain scans. why did i do this? why did i feel the need to create in this way? i remember looking at the image at my desk and thinking what i should create next with these fascinating images i would soon have made for my own reasons. i remember putting them aside after using them for that one project for that one class. i remember referencing different diseases such as AIDS but this had nothing to do with AIDS at all. this had to do with my cancer. my brain. my future experience.