Feeling Bare

Have you ever gone outside and wondered if you’d remembered to get dressed? This became a real concern one memorable summer day when I was immersed in painting the inner world. (Excerpt from a work-in-progress.)

Pen & Ink drawing of my house in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, early 1980s. by Nancy Wait

Pen & Ink drawing of my house in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, early 1980s.
by Nancy Wait

One Monday that summer when I left the house at noon to go to the office, I stood outside, key in hand, about to lock the door, and suddenly wondered if I had remembered to put on a skirt.

I knew I was wearing a blouse. I could see the puffy white sleeves from the corner of my eye. I hoped I might have least remembered a slip, but all I felt against my legs was the breeze.

A moment of panic ensued while I gathered the courage to look down. Yes. There it was. The white cotton eyelet skirt that matched my blouse. I was presentable. Ready to face the outside world. I breathed a sigh of relief as I locked the door and dropped the keys into my bag. But what a turn I had given myself. The fear that I had come out of the house only half dressed. It was unnerving. I mustn’t let it happen again. I came down the steps and closed the little black iron gate behind me. How strange not to remember if one was dressed! As I walked to the corner and turned left on Utica, I reminded myself to act like a normal person.

I had been painting that weekend. Perhaps I had stayed up most of Sunday night painting, showering and getting dressed late Monday morning, and that was why I had trouble orienting myself for life outside the studio. When I was working I forgot everything else. I was in my own world. Coming out again could be tricky. I reminded myself to be more careful next time. To take into consideration the transition. Acknowledge it. Give it the attention it deserved. All would be well if I could just remember to do that one thing.

But I had felt so bare walking out the door. Maybe I had been painting figures without any clothes again, and that was why I felt my own self bare. Yet it was more a question of vulnerability than clothes or the lack of them. Stripping myself emotionally. Being willing to go beneath the surface. It was alright when I was alone in my studio. But going outdoors again, facing the regular world, required an inner adjustment as well as a change of wardrobe.

Maybe I was spending too much time alone. I once had a painting marathon that lasted four whole days. Four whole days cut off from the outer world and its business. A world that didn’t concern me until I had to venture out for food, or go to my little job in the city. Four days, unless I was too ill to go out, was the longest time I had spent working by myself.

But going outside would have broken the mood. I might come back a different person. I might have had different thoughts in my head when I returned. Or what if my muse slipped away while I was gone. Certainly a trip outside would have changed things. The work tended to come in fits and starts. I dreaded having to put down my brushes when everything was flowing along nicely. Better to stay inside as long as I could until the picture was finished. Let time slip by and dawn and dusk go unnoticed. I couldn’t afford to let my reality be anything other than that of the picture.

There was a vast difference between relating to the outer world I shared with others, and the inner, invisible world which only I could see. Going outside again after an intense bout of painting, seeing no one, having little or no interaction with the outside world, would continue to unsettle me.


About Nancy Wait

Nancy Wait is an artist a memoir writer, author of "The Nancy Who Drew, The Memoir That Solved A Mystery," and a former actress (stage, film and TV) in the UK under the name of Nancie Wait. She once hosted the blog talk radio shows "Art and Ascension" and "Inspirational Storytellers." Her current project is a second memoir, "The Nancy Who Drew the Way Home."
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