I spent some time the other day looking up madness, lunacy, and hysteria…hysteria because part of Virginia Woolf’s condition has been attributed to her womanhood, and women over time have been seen as more susceptible to flights of fancy or emotional over-reaction.  I used the OED…which I still need to photograph for you.  I love the OED because it offers actual uses of words over centuries gleaned from tireless research and reading; it is my kind of dictionary!

The madness definition is standard, but I did find part of the definition thought provoking, as I often do when seeking clarification for a word to which I think I already know the meaning.  (Denotation often helps sift through connotation or to explain connotation.)  In the madness definition I found the phrase “out of one’s mind.”  Out of one’s mind…genius…the mind…thoughts…freedom of thoughts…potential…isn’t genius out of the ordinary use of the mind?  I really like the implications of this phrase in relationship to how I think about the symbiosis of madness and genius in certain artists.

Genius is fascinating.  The first definition discusses a “tutelary god” or “attendant spirit” that helps govern a person and his/her abilities. (What if madness is a sort of attendant spirit for some artists?) The fourth definition is more common…exceptional intellectual power…but the clarification at the end is interesting, too.  The clarification says that genius is often “contrasted with talent.”  So I looked up talent…which suggests natural ability–either physical or mental.  Again, nuance in meaning helping me to think about the implications of each word.

Hysteria is common, too…excess of emotion or unhealthy emotion.    I didn’t find anything unusual…but again I think it is helping me to better focus my thoughts and my work.

Beyond my definitions, I have been thinking about surface textures for my madness piece, and I realized I want to add applique, FME, cording, and couching.  I may have said before that I want the surface to be throbbing, pulsing, and varied…such as I imagine madness to be and how I see it manifest in Vincent Van Gogh, Virginia Woolf, and perhaps Sylvia Plath.


A larger piece of FME for my madness piece. I will definitely be using this one…I love eyes in it.


Another view of the same piece…I need to get busy embellishing it!