I am no longer dancing with fear; now it’s got me in a full lip-lock embrace. Work has stopped. My hands are poised above the canvas, handcuffed and inert; the only movement is a tear that falls from my eye.
Bereft, I need inspiration to carry on and sally forth.

Bittersweet, a balanced notion, is behaving more like its wild cousin manic- depressive. Hope flares brightly, shining great light onto a beautiful future, while doubt and insecurity conspire to dampen it.
Life, both physically and emotionally, has been hard-pressed and over-worked in the last sixteen months.
I have seen the worst in human nature. And I know I ain’t seen nothing yet.

As I write these words, pain flashes through my right hand and flares. Every compression of a keystroke tangles the severed nerve endings of the index finger. Multi-layers of scar tissue are chafing at one another and erupting. It’s been like this for five months now--ever since the accident and the two surgeries.
Rations are as low as my spirits. The hard-earned monies that had been saved to finance my journey are now burning my time. The schedule lost six months of creative luxury to medical fallout.

The slate is still full and charged high. Two very personal projects have tied me to the galley oar. The effort is Herculean; I am both God and Monster.
I have rewritten thirty-five Coagula essays and added fifty illustrations to create a book titled ‘Artist’s Pants.’ I am proud of the effort--and that frightens me. I like the work--but what if someone doesn’t? I’ve been writing in a vacuum, my own bubble, without feedback. I fear the slap of rejection. I know that pain well.
The main project is a conceptual piece of monstrous proportions and hearty challenges. I have been blessed with a vision and now I must manifest it. Communication issues have been vexing; some ideas cannot be understood by all audiences, but I try. The puzzles are complex; I burn for solutions.
The immediate future frightens me because I know the fight ahead. A decade ago, I removed ambition and desire from my lexicon. As much as one can, I eliminated competition from my life as well. In doing so, I was able to scuttle a ship full of pain. At last, I could breathe again.
As much as one can in our nasty little world, I was able to live in this hyper-real state and succeed on a number of levels. I gained a higher consciousness. For the most part, I am peaceably happy and now all that must change. The next level of the new work demands that I must engage. Vulnerabilities must be contained so ambition can ride. I must communicate and parlay---and I am dreading it.

I am in trouble. Conditions are dire but well provisioned. I possess all of the skills and talents that will be required of me… But there is an enemy at the gate. The Fears have massed and their battle cry is loud and in unison.
I must keep going. I must keep working. My time is running out. Quietly, a teardrop falls to the palette in ultra-slow-mo. It kerplunks and shatters into a million diamonds…

In dark times, I often turn to my leather-bound copy of ‘Artists In Adversity’ for inspiration. The big book gives me solace and comfort when the seas are storming.
I always reread my favorite chapter first. ‘Chapter Seven: The Art of The Endeavor’ favors the creation of an artwork over the finished product. One can argue the merit of a Christo installation but we all agree that the planning, financing and execution of the work is a masterpiece. I love any Nancy Rubens sculpture but I am much more interested in how she made it. A Matthew Barney movie may lack narrative drama but the financing and production of the film did not. I am empowered by their hard-wrought efforts.

I settle into a wingback chair in the library. Rawlings brings me a brandy in a large snifter. A fire roars in the fireplace, dappling shadows on the wood paneled walls. I turn to a new chapter and start reading...

“On August 16th 1916, photographer Frank Hurley looked up and saw great beauty. In his diary, he writes, “The scenery is beyond my powers of description. The cliffs rise almost vertical from the sea from 4 to 500 feet, and then by stoop terraces to over 1,000 culminating in a magnificent peak over 3,000 feet high.”
He saw great beauty, yet the world around him was one of profound desolation. Hurley and twenty-one crewmembers of the Shackleton Polar Expedition were waiting on Elephant Island for their salvation. Four months earlier, Sir Ernest Shackleton and a smaller party had set off on a mad rescue attempt to reach South Georgia, an island 800 miles across treacherous seas. Who knew if help would ever arrive?
On Elephant Island, the temperatures averaged five degrees below zero. The gale force winds threw slush and rain at them. Food supplies were growing scarce. Seal or penguin was served with a side salad of seaweed. And Hurley was grateful. He wrote, “Everyone has been able to have his fill of this excellent food with which nature provides us.” In a time of trial, poverty and abjection, Hurley saw abundance and appreciation.

At the age of seventeen, James Francis Hurley bought his first camera, a Kodak Brownie. It took him four months to pay it off with his meager wages as a stevedore on the Sydney harbor docks. Hurley was passionate for the limitless possibilities of photography. Not only did he have a keen eye, he was technically proficient with the alchemy of film development and printmaking. He also had a ken for adventure.

After success as a photographer of the 1911 Mawson Expedition to Antarctica, Frank Hurley caught the eye of Shackleton, who was looking to finance his own expedition to the Arctic. Money could be raised with the potential of show business profits. In that golden age, tales of adventure would be presented with a lecture, stage show and photography exhibit that toured the world. (Later in his life, Hurley would prove to be a master showman. His travels around the world and his documentation of both World Wars earned him acclaim.)

On the Shackleton expedition, Hurley demonstrated great courage and creativity. The Australian was as tough as nails. His optimism saved many lives. He led by example. His engineering prowess solved many technical problems throughout the hazardous voyage and rescue triumph.
Hurley’s work as a photographer is incredible. His composition is jaw dropping and evocative. The sincerity of the work outshines a dazzling theatricality. He was not limited to black and white. At the time, color photography was in its infancy. Hurley mastered the color technology with his chemical prowess and an eye for light. He was equally adept in the new medium of motion pictures. Hurley was relentless at getting the right shot, for which he would risk everything.

Early in the Shackleton Expedition, their ship Endurance had gotten trapped in an ice floe and the explorers drifted helplessly for months. As winter bore down and temperatures fell, the ice compacted and crushed the hull. The ship was sinking. Hurley’s glass plate negatives were stored deep in the submerged hold. He stripped down and swam in freezing waters to retrieve his artwork. The inhuman cold split the tips of his fingers.

On the first leg of the daring rescue, each man was allowed to pack only two pounds of personal belongings. Hurley left all of his heavy camera equipment behind. Out of 400 photo plates, each one a historical document of the journey and evidence of a new continent, Hurley and Shackleton had to choose only 120 to bring with them…”

As I close the book “Artists In Adversity”, my mind is oddly at peace. It’s always a relief to get outside of my head and find a greater context.
I am ready to get back to work.

GORDY GRUNDY is a Los Angeles based artist. His visual and literary works can be found at