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Appearances can be Deceiving

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The invisible characteristic of chronic pain makes up a huge part of chronic pain’s battle.

This very invisible quality that I loathe for not communicating my hell, but love because I can somewhat fool the general public and resemble my old self, also provides another horrendous scenario. It allows the blatant abuse from insurers who use the invisible quality to their advantage avoiding the payment of rightful compensation to those owed it… yes, those like me!

But my point with this post is that so many would label Frida’s wardrobe as ‘beautiful’ when really it was a communication method that screamed her daily torment. Need I state, I so relate to this…

Original post Michael Hoppen Gallery

Frida by Ishiuchi Miyako (2013) is a photographic record of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s wardrobe and belongings. Following Kahlo’s death in 1954 her husband Diego Riviera began placing her personal effects into the bathroom of their Mexico City house, “The Blue House“, which later became the Museo Frida Kahlo. Riviera gave instructions that this room should remain sealed until fifteen years after his death and it in fact remained unopened until 2004 when the museum decided to organise and catalogue the contents. Ishiuchi Miyako was invited to photograph these artefacts, over 300 unseen relics of Kahlo’s life.Fridas Leg36-s-

As a project Frida is both a departure from Ishiuchi Miyako’s normal practice and a natural conceptual progression. While moving away from the Japanese subject matter of her earlier series, the work reveals Ishiuchi Miyako’s continued obsession with the traces we leave behind both as individuals and as a society. In her earlier series, Mother’s (2000-2005) and ひろしま/ Hiroshima (2007-), she photographed previously worn garments, evoking the lives and memories of the people who wore them as well as the social climate of post-war Japan. In documenting Frida, Ishiuchi Miyako again respectfully sifts through the ephemera left behind by an individual and in doing so makes intimate revelations about one of the twentieth century’s greatest artists. Frida Kahlo (1907 -1954) was an invalid throughout her life. Having protracted polio as a child she was then involved in a near fatal bus accident at the age of 18, which resulted in numerous surgical interventions. In the aftermath of her accident Khalo constructed her iconic wardrobe to camouflage her physical ailments. Ishiuchi Miyako’s images document the traditional Tehuana dresses that both concealed the damage to her lower body and acted as a feminist salute to the matriarchal society from which they are derived. * Through her photographs Ishiuchi came to recognise the parallel between these traditional garments and the kimonos of her own country, an “ephipany” that is evident in the images themselves. Throughout the photographs there is a particular awareness, a tenderness that is inherent to a woman looking through another woman’s intimate possessions. As she painstakingly catalogues the chic of Kahlo’s sunglasses, the intimacy of her darned tights and the corsets that were to be the armature by which she survived.

…a woman who used fashion to channel her physical difficulties into a courageous statement of identity, strength and beauty

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Intermission, my solo exhibition in Hobart

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It’s my PN anniversary, eight years (if I don’t subtract the 4.5 years it took me to find out it was in fact PN)!

Obviously time brings on reflection which in turn invites the ‘melancholies’ (yes, I did just make up a word). But I have significant reason to bury the ‘melancholies’ this year with the celebration of my solo show at Penny Contemporary in Hobart.

During a recent four months on the East Coast of Tasmania, I was able to focus on my fine art and decided to document my ‘self’ during this very reflective time. Theo and I took time out to ask ourselves, ‘What next?’ having lost my battle for part-time compensation and realising that sustaining, even a part time sitting job, is difficult for me. It was a most valuable time for both of us.

I’m going to leave the review for Intermission to two brilliant women; Australian artist Barbie Kjar (who will open my show and who’s words appear on the invitation), and my niece Kat Moritz, who’s words appear below.

Consider this post your invitation. View all the works here. See you in Hobart!

Solace 457 x 508 mm. Dec 14. Oil on linen.

Written by Kat Moritz

Artist Soula Mantalvanos’ most recent exhibition, “Intermission” signals a bold departure from previous works into more mature, more personal and much more intimate territory. Aptly named, the exhibition is a series of self portraits, which – as a whole – stand as a bold exploration on the artist’s behalf, of her identity as an individual during this intermission of life that she has found herself in.

Painted in the solitude and anonymity of Tasmania’s still very much unspoilt east coast, well over 500 kms from the artist’s inner city home of Collingwood, the works represent an equally pared back and exposed Soula. Leaving behind over seven years of chronic pain and the familiarity of city life, Soula’s portraits are as much of an experiment on her behalf as they are very tangible markers of a new direction in her work.

“I wanted to ask [all those hard] questions and answer them without influence – put them on paper and exhibit the experience. Perhaps I’m testing my confidence? Perhaps I’m wanting to prove to myself that I’m an artist once again?”

Soula’s portraits may have been born out of a pause in her life but, paradoxically, as a body of work, they speak of journey; of transformation; of maturation. Soula makes no effort to conceal brushstrokes or to avert the gazes of her Soulas that stand before us. Instead she commands them to look us straight in the eye, sometimes with poise, at other times with hope, however, always with sincerity. There is no hiding in the wings for this artist or these works; they most definitely warrant to be positioned centre stage; humbly; quietly, however, centre stage nonetheless.

Exhibition Details

Download the invitation
Intermission Invite pdf Intermission
Self portraits by Soula Mantalvanos
Opening Saturday 7 March, 2015 at 4:30pm by Australian Artist Barbie Kjar

Exhibition continues
MARCH 6 – 25, 2015

LOCATION
187 Liverpool Street Hobart Tasmania
EMAIL & PHONE
info@pennycontemporary.com.au 03 6231 5655 pennycontemporary.com.au

Supported by
Aesop, Chronic Pain Australia, Coal Valley Vineyard and Pain Australia

Permission granted and now it’s back to reality!

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Boxing Day Self Portrait For Theo

Or is it possible I never really left my reality? As if anyone can leave chronic pain behind and really have time off!

Sensing the cynical? I best write this post two ways. Technically, the permission ends on Thursday night when we head back to Melbourne so I’m going to post my brain’s two conflicting versions:

1. Crap thinking out-of-the-way first version

Pulling yourself out of life isn’t easy and especially if you’re forced to do it. I was forced and that force keeps on damn well forcing. It brought Theo and I to Tasmania for a four-month ‘sabbatical’ with the topic of research being chronic pain and how to live with it. Truth is, the topic has more likely been what the hell do we do now? It was also meant to somehow help me rid some more pain and pace up my driving, exercise and some daily chores. I was unsuccessful. (more…)

Signing off for 2014 under an Olsen sun at MONA

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Soula At Mona John Olsen PainitngOr should I say, looking forward to 2015?

Looking forward is more my tune but the changeover of another year, especially with chronic pain, calls me to reflect and to ponder my future.

It’s been three gorgeous months in nurturing Tasmania where I’ve eased my work load, upped my fine art a little, and squished obligations to almost zilch (bliss!). The year will end and sadly I haven’t been able to incorporate driving into my abilities, nor a consistent and regular exercise routine, and Theo is still carrying much of our daily living load… but…

…as I keep stating, finding life balance with chronic pain is really very difficult and I believe ‘we’ are doing very well, yes it takes the two of us, Theo and I.

I’ve stopped my medication and thankfully that rid the night-time hallucinations. Although dainty, my fort has been held without meds, monthly massages and Traditional Chinese Therapy – for this I give huge thanks to the implant in my body.

Indeed the Sun is beginning to shine down on me, and yes, I will certainly be marking the months of this Tasmanian trial period in my spirit’s fashion with a small solo exhibition. I’m working on self-portraits that will exhibit at Penny Contemporary in Hobart. Here’s your diary date: Opens March 6 until March 25. If you want to follow this artistic endeavour, subscribe here.

There’s so much more I could write, but I’m going to keep this light and hopeful and keep my bigger news to kick off the new year…

Signing off now… sending love, health, happiness and the warmest of hopes for pain relief to those of you who need it.

Soula

Painting by John Olsen, The Source on the ceiling at MONA

Robert J. Echenberg, MD

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Dr Echenberg http://www.instituteforwomeninpain.comI don’t think I need to write an introduction for Dr Echenberg or Bridge for Pelvic Pain. The only explanation I feel I need to give is that I was drawn (pardon the pun!) to Dr Echenberg’s fabulous ‘patient expressions‘ web page on his site: www.instituteforwomeninpain.com and had to send him an email.

I landed on The Echenberg Institute website after participating in the Pain Pathways facebook chat. From there I was also contacted by Carin Willis, the Founder and ED of Bridge for Pelvic Pain who also took the time to send me a very touching email expressing her appreciation for The Hurting Strings and requesting that we connect and stay in touch. Carin was also kind enough to send this review:

Soula’s video about her literal fall into chronic pelvic pain (pudendal neuralgia) is one of the most profound short-films about chronic pain and its affects on the patient and their families and care-givers I have seen to date.  I highly encourage anyone dealing with chronic pelvic pain to watch Soula’s video “The Hurting Strings” and to share Soula’s message of patient advocacy, having a good support system, and to focus on the possibility of hope that shimmers through very dark days.

Considering Dr Echenberg is the Founding Board Member of Bridge for Pelvic Pain and a member of the International Pelvic Pain Society and has “seen people from over 25 states in the US and from at least 5-6 other countries”, I’d say many are aware of his work and dedication in the area of chronic pain. Instead of writing more of Dr Echenberg’s achievements, I’d rather paste part of his wonderful, empathetic reply that arrived in my inbox. It gives me immense hope and reassurance for anyone with chronic pelvic pain, and provided me with great appreciation for my advocacy efforts.

I know you will be inspired to read more about Dr Echenberg’s work and feel the hope that I did when I received both his and Carin’s email.

…upon opening my messages just now your site, your book, your story… so much more light here in Pennsylvania even though it is almost midnight.

One of my main missions is to spread awareness and hope about the science and art of dealing with chronic pain and push hard for earlier diagnosis and integrative and effective therapeutic approaches in order to “prevent” the spiraling down of tens of millions of women and men just here alone in the US – the supposed bastion of medical technology.  The training of health care practitioners everywhere in lower genital tract pain is almost nil.  Several of my “projects” and involvements you can find at www.bridgeforpelvicpain.org  which is a new non-profit out of Colorado whose mission is to raise world-wide awareness as a grass-roots organization to engender hope and education at all levels – and another active project is at www.paindownthere.com where a few of us have produced a soon to be released 2 DVD set designed for young women to learn properly about their bodies and give up to date information about ‘connecting the dots”

Thanks again for finding our site and offering your inspiring work.

Sincerely,

Dr. Bob Echenberg
Member:  International Pelvic Pain Society
Co-Author: “Secret Suffering: How Women’s Sexual and Pelvic Pain Affects Their Relationships
www.instituteforwomeninpain.org

Dr Echenberg http://www.instituteforwomeninpain.comOffice phone:  610-868-0104
paindownthere.com/
www.facebook.com/Paindownthere
twitter.com/painfulsex
instagram.com/paindownthere

Bridge for Pelvic PainCarin E. Willis
Founder & Executive Director, Bridge for Pelvic Pain
Skype/Phone number: 719.445.7040
www.bridgeforpelvicpain.org
Facebook: Bridge for Pelvic Pain
Twitter: pelvicpainB4PP

Semi Finalist for the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize 2014

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Ms Soula With TheoAlmost 150 works were selected from nearly 1,000 entries.

2014 judges were, Edmund Capon AM OBE, and Lewis Miller, Australian Artist. Both viewed all entries and made their selection of semi finalists.

Very chuffed to be selected as a semi finalist regardless of the outcome. The portrait was flown up to Sydney for a second round of judging. She didn’t make the final cut of 30 finalists but I feel so content that Ms Soula is going to great lengths to create awareness for invisible pain. (more…)

Cathartic collage, my self portraits for sale

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Self Portrait, collage 6. 360 mm x 500mm. Pencil, collage (pages from Frida Kahlo novel & strings attached). NFS. © Soula Mantalvanos

For sale… well, all except for one… actually, two.

Collage has been a little more therapeutic for me than my usual art forms. I think it must have been finding a technique that I could manage and one that didn’t add to the fatigue and pain. Cutting small pieces of paper and glueing, drawing, attaching was just so light and easy. The painting of small pieces of paper and the careful ripping and tearing was like rocking. So gentle, so calming and at the same time feeling like I was handling my pain, expressing it and getting it out of my body and onto the art piece.

It must have worked, my progress continues and even though it’s very slow I’m ecstatic to know I can plan more artwork. I am creating again, I am my self.

One of the two pieces not for sale (and that is not shown here), is the original piece that I used on the cover of my book. Each of the 500 dust cover jackets comes with four strings attached by hand and is my offering as an original hand touched piece of art by me (well actually Theo had to attach them all!). The book is $39 plus postage.

Contact me if you want to purchase my artwork, these are the original pieces, no printouts will be sold. Paypal or Direct deposit available. Will post safely and securely free within Australia (plus postage outside of Australia).

Collage 2. Self Portrait. 360 mm x 500mm. Oil, collage (pages from my book Art & Chronic Pain, my personal prescriptions & strings attached) on Khadi paper. $780. © Soula Mantalvanos

Squelette. Self Portrait. 360 mm x 500mm. Oil, collage (pages from my book Art & Chronic Pain, my personal prescriptions & strings attached) on Khadi paper. $780. ©Soula Mantalvanos

Collage 4. Self Portrait. 400 mm x 500mm. Oil, collage (pages from my book Art & Chronic Pain & strings attached). $780. © Soula Mantalvanos

Collage 5. Self Portrait. 360 mm x 500mm. Oil, collage (pages from Frida Kahlo novel, my book Art & Chronic Pain & strings attached) on Khadi paper. $780. © Soula Mantalvanos

Collage 6. Self Portrait. 360 mm x 500mm. Pencil, collage (pages from Frida Kahlo novel & strings attached) on Khadi paper. NFS. © Soula Mantalvanos

Texan Physiotherapist, Sara Sauder interviews me about PN

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Excerpt from Sullivan Physical Therapy‘s Sara Sauder. Read the full interview on her blogspot.

Sara Sauder's BlogspotSoula Mantalvanos is an Australian artist living with pudendal neuralgia.  She runs a website  and a blog that chronicles her life since developing pelvic pain.  These mediums are helping people around the world learn more about pudendal neuralgia (PN) and how to find the much deserved medical care they need.  Soula has created a book titled Art & Chronic Pain – A Self Portrait which portrays her pain experience in the most beautiful and honest way.  Most recently she gave a talk to 180 pain specialists at Australia’s 2014 Alliance for Improving the Management of Pain.  She is an open person.  Soula was willing to answer my questions and I am thankful for this as she is very eloquent in shedding light into what it is like to live with a pain that no one else can see.

Please know that this is Soula’s story.  Your story is just that – your story.  If you have pelvic pain, I want you to appreciate that each narrative and each journey is unique.  Gather what you can from listening to others that know what you are going through, learn from what they have to say and use that to take one more step forward.

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Visual Pursuits book review on Art & Chronic Pain – A Self Portrait

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I’ve mentioned before I live in an art hub of Melbourne. I’ve also made it clear how much I love my community and how much the people living beside me have helped me manage my pain by energising me with their friendship, their creative work and some most distracting conversation.

These inspiring creatives (across all forms of art media), make me feel at ease, even as my painful-Soula-self. Whether in pain, feeling (or not) up to outings, when I appear leaning and sitting in all sorts of positions, and in some cases requiring their help to carry things home, or leave them behind for Theo to pick up later, I always feel accepted and loved, and that makes me so damn happy!

So, when one of those divine people, Marguerite Brown, reviews my book, I feel quite chuffed. In fact more than chuffed, honoured, that she spent her time to write a review in her own beautifully articulated words and publish it on her amazing blog, Visual Pursuits.

For anyone considering purchasing my book, or if you already have, I recommend Margue’s insight, it’s a brilliant review. Here’s a snippet:

In Art and Chronic Pain – A Self Portrait, artist Soula Mantalvanos shares her experience with chronic pain, which has been a debilitating presence in her life for almost seven years. Soula suffers from Pudendal Neuralgia, a painful nerve condition that developed following an accident where a fit ball that she was sitting on burst, causing her to drop violently to the concrete floor beneath.

Early on in the book Soula describes that split-second, and the devastating effects that followed. A highly active yoga-loving woman before the accident, throughout the book Soula gives a deeply personal account of the psychological, emotional and physical impacts of living with chronic pain for so many years.  These negative effects were compounded by the fact that her condition Pudendal Neuralgia baffled her doctors, and took four and a half years to even diagnose.

Soula weaves her story through a spare yet effective use of text, combined with evocative imagery that gives visual form to one of the most insidious aspects of chronic pain, its complete invisibility to the outside world.

To convey the loss of control over her physical being that has been presented by Pudendal Neuralgia, the artist commissioned a marionette in her own likeness by marionette maker Colleen Burke.  The result is an exquisitely crafted and hauntingly realistic version of herself in doll-like form. Soula paints, draws and collages representations of the marionette at various points throughout the book.

Read more…

The book: Art & Chronic Pain – A Self Portrait

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Art & Chronic Pain, A Self Portrait Book by Soula Mantalvanos

Art Chronic Pain Soula Mantalvanos-01

Yes, I’ve found another medium to express my pain and you can own your own copy of it!

I didn’t see the point of creating a long description of my living with pain, sharing my tips, turning journal entries into a pain story. Afterall, first and foremost, before the person in pain, I am an artist… so my book had to contain many pictures and few words, just 32 pages in fact, but I believe it’s a complete story. It doesn’t hold the solution for PN but it’ll allow you to explain it to someone else, leave it on the coffee table, and it will be light enough to carry around. Above all I created it to express my experience so far and so that it is a bit of a companion to another PN family member. The idea was for the reader to feel empathy in a world where no one seems to understand, and to ease the pain as you look through it. (more…)

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What is Pudendal Neuralgia (PN)?

Most simply put PN is Carpal Tunnel in the pelvis/buttocks. Compression of the Pudendal Nerve occurs after trauma to the pelvis and is aggrevated with pressure. The pain is often described as a toothache like pain, with spasms, sensations of tingling, numbness, or burning. It can be very debilitating.

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