1982: The Face of Pain

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The Face of Pain

In May of 1982 I was part of a Field Training Exercise at Malamute Drop Zone, Fort Richardson, Alaska. I was responsible for managing the Army end of all airlift coming in or out–the Airedales will fly anything, but the user has to make sure it’s ready to go. Because of that assignment, my small detachment was located a few miles away from the main body of the battalion.

Between the length of the initial deployment (I was awake and working for 36+ hours) and the environment (dust combined with wide ranges in temperatures) I came down with a cold… which rapidly turned into pneumonia when I couldn’t get to the aid station right away. It wasn’t until our medic determined that I was running a 103-degree temperature that things started to happen, but I still spent a night in my tent by myself before getting to a doctor.

It was during that night that I saw this creature. Yes, it was a fever-dream but it literally scared the hell out of me. When I was finally able to make noises when moving my lips I asked who he was and he responded “Skaaa, the bringer of pain”

As I said before, I know it was a dream–and I know I have an over-active imagination at times as well… but every time I go through particularly nasty bouts with illness or pain that last for any length of time I can almost see this bundle of spruce sticks over in the corner, eyeing me with malicious glee as he sharpens the skewers, hooks and other implements of his trade.

Orcavalry

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Orcavalry

My signature piece during the late 1980s. Airbrush, acrylic and colored pencil on hot-press watercolor board. I don’t have the dimensions handy but I am thinking it’s about 24″H X 20″V.

Looking at this painting conjures up some very conflicting memories. I did it in the late summer of 1986: I was suffering through the initial onset flare of ankylosing spondylitis which brought with it chronic severe back pain interspersed with spasms in my chest and an elevated sedimentation level in my blood that had the doctors considering rheumatic fever at first. We were living in Orem, Utah so it was very hot – but I did have a second story studio over the garage which provided me with a nice cross breeze. I was listening to John LeCarre novels on books-on-tape and I was extremely homesick. I had been able to fly north for my sister Robin’s graduation the previous spring but the visit just wasn’t long enough for my taste

So, I look at this and think of homesick spies with back-aches sweating in 90 degree weather with 0% humidity….