2021 Best in Two-Dimensional Art – Sabrina Kliza

Hang Slanted

Medium: Acrylic paint and thread

A migraine is a neurological condition. They begin when a stimulus triggers nerve cells within the victim’s brainstem. This stimulus can vary from hormones to caffeine and alcohol to changes in sleep patterns. The trigger can be hard to identify. However, once the nerve cell is triggered, the neurons travel along the person’s major pain pathway causing a multitude of symptoms. While migraine symptoms vary from person to person, some include severe headache, sensitivity to sound, light, and sometimes touch, loss of vision, dizziness, and immobility. For me, migraines come with maddening pain, dizziness, lightheadedness, and immobility.

For this artwork, I created the acrylic painting beneath the golden thread during a migraine.

The painting started normally enough. I did an entire photoshoot to get a self-portrait reference. This piece was supposed to be sickly sweet and feminine. It would be a great piece of protest as a week before I watched an art documentary. In it, the narrator said that he didn’t rank Marie Casat’s art too highly until he started filming it for this documentary because her work was too sweet and too feminine. He said it as if feminine matters were unimportant and second rate ideas. That angered me. So I sketched the head on our left and laid out the plan. I painted underpainting with precision and tactile skill, but then things started to change.

My hand trailed over the painting.

My marks became wild and uncontrollable.

The logic that ruled my brain fled. My thoughts turned senseless.

Put red there.

Add more purple.

Paint another face.

Hang slanted.

When my attack on the canvas ended, a wall of pain slammed into me. A migraine. I was slightly grateful. I know migraines. I hadn’t just gone insane.

I cannot describe the pain. I cannot tell you where it was or how horrible it was. My brain blocks it from me. The more I focus on the event the less it becomes certain and the more the reality of it starts to bend. But that doesn’t matter now. I took some pain reliever and went to bed.

The next morning I woke and stared at the painting.

Hang Slanted.

That’s what I called it. A title filled with demand commanded by a pain crazed girl. I thought it was hilarious at the time. I still kind of do.

With this new piece, gone was my original idea of femininity and innocence. It didn’t bother me much. I deal with chronic pain. I know how to be flexible and work with what I’ve got.

The painting sat on my desk for a week or two. I thought I would maybe paint over it one day but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. It represented my migraines so well. Then I saw this contest and I thought, perfect.

First, I added in the thread face embellished with golden thread. The exact proportions and obvious skill allows the viewer to see how much my migraines impact my abilities to paint and draw. Then, I added the neurons since migraines are a neurological condition. However, once I began to embroider them, anxiety overtook me. This anxiety stems from suffering chronic migraines and I found myself unable to finish them.

But that is alright.

Now, the unfinished neurons represent the continuous impact of migraines on me. Even when I am absent of pain.