|One of Kathleen's Metal Sculptures on Her Front Porch|
I traveled to Glen Flora, Texas to meet with this artist, which didn't bother me a bit, since she is my sister, Kathleen Quigley. I thought she was going to have an agenda for our meeting, and was ready to let her direct me to any subject she wanted to tell me about. I imagined she would be saying things like "This is what I am currently working on; This is a piece I have recently done and my inspiration was, etc." I was spellbound when I sat down with her on her patio last Thursday and she wanted to tell me her story instead of focusing on anything about her art.
|One of the Drawings She Did Blind - A Color Combo Which Surprised Her|
Before I tell you more, let me give you the history of what happened to her in June of this year. She got sick with a lung problem that doctors could not identify. Initial diagnoses were TB, pneumonia, and then the one that landed her at Methodist Hospital: a growth in her lung and the possibility of lung cancer. Having survived Stage III Breast Cancer, you can imagine how the prospect of another form of cancer would sit with Kathleen, along with the fear she was feeling. Another symptom was a rash that covered her hands, the back of her neck, and encompassed her chest that no doctor could identify. Normally, Kathleen is a person who has extremely high levels of energy, only to find herself barely able to get out of bed to make herself a bowl of soup. Doctors gave her no answers. After 25 blood tests, 2 biopsies, 3 rounds of antibiotics, seeing over 12 specialists (auto-immune experts, dermatologists, internists), she was no closer to a diagnosis. With more rest then I think she has had since she was a baby, she started to heal slowly.
|A Close-Up of Some Lamps That Kathleen Designed and Made|
She felt well enough to go on an already planned and paid-for vacation to Maine two months later, knowing she was still exhausted and would need to continue to rest. While there, her neighbor gave her a book , and in it she found a premise that spoke to her. This Hawaiian tradition is about taking 100% responsibility for your life, which made her see she was 100% responsible for her health. It was not the job of others to save her. It was hers. She had been heading in a spiritual direction with herself for a long time, but she forgot to include her body on the journey. She started juicing every day, cut refined sugar out of her diet, and started to listen to what her body needed. She focused on eating foods with high alkaline levels and not counting calories. When I saw her I barely recognized her. She had lost about 25 pounds, looked vital and was calm - her breathing had even changed.
|Oil Pastel That Kathleen Created While In Bed Sick|
One day, she made the flower above using oil pastels while sitting in her bed. Unable to practice her traditional forms of art (sculpture & painting) through her rest period, she invented an exercise for herself to do calling it "100 Days of Drawing." The challenge was to do drawings with oil pastels while her eyes were closed. She thought it would be interesting to not pick the colors ahead of time, but to also pick them with her eyes closed. She does the sketch for 3-4 minutes, opens her eyes and does not pick new colors or alter the design. She simply finishes the piece by filling in the drawing.
|One of the Drawings Made With Her Eyes Closed|
|Another Blind Drawing|
"My eyes are a tool, and my mind gets in the way of what I create. When I was 28, I was building furniture that was sold in Galleries. I was building a large screen and painting flowers on the interior, when I did an experiment of painting a flower with my eyes closed. I liked the flower created by my blind eyes better. My hands knew what to do. This is probably why I like welding, because your eyes are pretty much closed with the headgear and the fact that it is high heat makes you have to work very fast."
|Her Gallery Space - The Overhead Lighting Fixture & The Vases On The Wall Are Her Designs|
"I think I needed rest this past summer. Everything in my life had changed: my job, my marriage, where I lived and what city I lived in. Instead of resting, I just kept going in order to not sit with myself. I create now because I enjoy it."
Her house itself is an experience to walk through. Looking at the display in her bedroom made to organize her scarves & jewelry with branches she found on the beach and some discarded antlers boggles my mind. It's an effortless endeavor for her to see found objects and form things. A combination of the sculptor in her and the courage to follow her gut.
One of my favorite things in her house are these mushrooms. The one at the top of the photo is a real mushroom, and the one at the bottom is a bronze of one of the mushrooms. It's this kind of unexpected placement of items and the twist she puts on ordinary objects that makes you leave her home inspired to look at your own space with fresh eyes. She is fearless, and has been since the moment our father found her sitting on the top of the kitchen counter in the middle of the night with her hand in the cookie jar. She was 15 months old and had crawled out of her crib.
|Real Mushroom and Bronzed Mushroom|
I asked Kathleen if her art was innate, and she said, "I just don't know if it is innate. It's my essential self." I left her house with a new-found love and appreciation for my sister, who chose to share her struggle to inspire others rather then promoting herself. An astrologer once told her she was an artist and a healer. I know this about her now - I saw her truth as she spoke.