In 2003, I produced a body of work titled, “In the Spirit of Frida Kahlo.” The body of work dealt with my response to an illness that resulted in the removal of a portion of my lung.
Since then, I have undergone numerous surgical procedures in order to treat the chronic pain that was a side effect of the surgery.
A year and a half after the surgery, a CT scan revealed two more malformed blood vessels, one in my right lung and another in the left lung. Facing the possibility of another surgery, I continued to paint, hoping that the images would allow me to think of the illness in a different way.
After reflecting on the body of work, “In the Spirit of Frida Kahlo,” I decided to continue researching other artists who painted their personal encounters with their own mortality.
This search led me to the artist, Hollis Sigler, who created a body of work that explored her experiences with breast cancer. I was intrigued by her use of the painted frame that borders most of the images in her “Breast Cancer Journal.” This additional element made the paintings within the frame seem precious.
I began exploring the use of painted borders in my artwork. I started by painting frames in red and gold. For me, red and gold are colors that have always denoted wealth and abundance. Adding gold leaf to the borders further increased their beauty.
I wanted to pair the beautiful frame with images of my own mortality. By juxtaposing decadent gold leaf frames with images of death, I wished to encourage the viewer to look at such experiences as a beautiful treasure. Confronting death allows a person to gain a greater understanding of what it means to be human. James Marsters, an actor/singer, once said, “We are the most human when we are most vulnerable.” It is this vulnerability that I wish to explore and celebrate.
Click on a thumbnail image to view the full painting and an explanation as to why Cathy Germay painted it.
The above paintings were painted in egg tempera. Egg tempera is a medium that uses egg yolk in the paint.
After dividing the yolk from the white of the egg, the painter mixes the yolk with dry powdered pigments. A little bit of water is added to manipulate the thickness and the drying time. Some vinegar is then added to preserve the paint.
After mixing, the paint is then ready to use. Since egg tempera will crack if painted on canvas, the artist must paint on a hard surface, or board. The board must be gessoed with traditional gesso, and not acrylic gesso. If the artist uses acrylic gesso, the egg tempera will not have anything to adhere to, and will flake off. Traditional gesso allows the right absorbancy for egg tempera.
Before oil painting was discovered, artists traditionally used egg tempera. Examples of their works can be found in religious icons and devotional paintings.