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Mary Beth Lawler Art Blog

Toxic Art

by marybeth , April 11, 2008—12:00 AM

Topics: art materials, chemical process, non-toxic art supplies, toxins

Well, there goes the hair. This is one of many sinks-full. I knew I had thick hair but this is crazy. I have a wig fitting this afternoon which should be interesting. I'd love to say that I am being very brave about this but I'm not. I cry a lot, grieving for my lost locks. Hair is so tightly associated with our sense of beauty that it's easy to feel ugly, odd, or disfigured when you don't have any. I know it's going to grow back but that's not a big help at the moment. My dear departed Aunt Marie said often, "Everyone gets 15 minutes a day to feel sorry for themselves, then they have to shut up." Ok my 15 minutes is over. I have been thinking lately about all the materials in our lives that cause us harm. I grew up near a chemical plant that researched, developed and manufactured plastics. Many days the air was filled with an acrid smell and sometimes, low lying yellow clouds. I worked for an ad agency as a graphic designer for many years, it was in the days before computers. Hard to imagine isn't it? All the reproduction processes, film, photostats and color keys were done with some sort of solvent or chemical process. Mechanicals were pasted up with rubber cement. Editing or repositioning the copy meant flooding it with rubber cement thinner. My hands would go white when the thinner stripped out all the oils. Spray adhesives were used on a daily basis for mounting presentations. Foolishly we all smoked. We didn't know. We didn't know it was making us sick and worse, we didn't have alternatives. How many art supplies, pigments and paints contained lead before we knew about the harm? How many times did we point a brush with our mouth? Thankfully we have non-toxic art supply everything now, warning labels, ingredient lists, laytex gloves and filter masks. Some materials still aren't the greatest thing for us, but at least we know it and can take measures to handle them safely. Who knows why I got cancer, genetics, environment, exposure to toxic chemicals, all of the above? Take inventory, If you have old materials that might be harmful, get rid of them (safely). If your materials aren't labeled non- toxic then handle them with care. We have enough other hidden hazards without having our art damage our bodies.




  Richie Sarno

04/26/2008 * 00:13:13

Brown hair, blonde hair or no hair, you always look beautiful. Besides Beauty comes from within. I only say that because I am a homely looking guy. Might we see you as a red head soon?



  Madeline ( homepage )

04/14/2008 * 14:11:51

Hi Mary!

What does one say when it's such a traumatic experience? You do know that you are in my prayers but even that doesn't put that crowning glory back on your head. I will tell you this, my dear Queen of the Universe, my girlfriend is going to be losing her hair in a few weeks. She had a lumpectomy, had a port put in for chemo, and her lung collapsed. She is doing better and hopefully out of the hospital soon. I am only telling you this because her attitude is outstanding as is yours. By all means, your aunt is correct. Fifteen minutes and then only positive thinking. I have always respected and enjoyed you and your artwork but even moreso now. It's true. There are so many things that we probably have done to ourselves with paints and other things and I STILL point the brush by putting it into my mouth! Always amazed at your strength. What you see in the sink is not YOU. It's hair. Your hair, but it's not YOU. YOU are a dear heart and wonderful artist who needs a special touch of God's hands right now. Warmest hugs and my most positive thoughts. M


  Caroline Henry ( homepage )

04/12/2008 * 19:18:23

Hi, Mary. I have been following your blog, and am one many members of your long distance cheering squad. There is a lot of wisdom in what you say about thinking through our management of art materials--and other every day chemicals--in a best effort to be kind to our bodies.

Of course you grieve for your hair. The brain may tell you that it will come back as beautiful as ever, but the emotions will have their say. I met one of my friends a couple of years ago on her first hatless outing after chemo. Her hair was less than two inches long with a soft natural wave; I just thought she had a really cool hair style until the rest of the group was congratulating her on her progress. With very best wishes, Caroline



04/12/2008 * 10:49:32

Hi Mary, I want you to know that I have had this terrible experience of losing my hair. In 1990 I had breast cancer and a lump pectomy, I was on chemo and radiation. The day my hair began to come out--I became frantic and drove to the nearest beauty saloon and got a wig. It looked awful, so I found this place where they fit you to wigs and it looked just like my own hair. I wore it until my hair came back. It was a hard time in my life. But the Lord gave me the courage to face it all and I am thankful that I got through it all. Take heart Mary, I will pray for you. Millie


  Millie Smith ( homepage )

04/11/2008 * 23:06:41

Hi Mary, Again i am writing you to let you know that I too went through this really terrible experience of losing my hair. In 1990, I had breast cancer and chemo, and one day my hair started to come out and I panicked . I drove to the nearest beauty saloon and got me the first wig I could find. However it was awful and so I found a place that fitted you to a really nice wig. I wore it for many months. At night I would sleep with cotton cap as my head would get cold. I will tell you I was feeling just like you are now but my hair did come back and it was straight. It was a few years ago and I am free of cancer now. I did have another type of cancer in my othr breast in 2002 but no chemo and I am doing good. Take heart and know I am praying for you . I also hope that others take your advice about toxic paints and etc. I am careful now, oils are the thing that got to me. So I don't use them or turpentine and dont use them anymore. Millie

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