Thursday, January 16, 2020

Portrait of an Artist: Corina Duyn. By Donal Buckley

 Artist Donal Buckley writes a weekly column in the Dungarvan Observer about fellow artists, writers and crafts people living in our area. I had the honour to chat with him last week. 
We talked for a long time about all things creative, and about the challenges and opportunities while ill. He is a pure gentleman.

Donal kindly forwarded the transcript so his words are available to many.
Thank you Donal.


 Portrait of an Artist: Corina Duyn


Corina Duyn is a beautiful lady. From her gentle smiling eyes to the tips of her tapered fingers, honed by years of creativity, she is loveliness personified.  Corina also has Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, or ME for short. This is a complex and disabling condition that still isn't fully understood nor is research in to this illness sufficiently funded. In spite of all this, Corina Duyn is not defined by her condition. She considers it to be another path whose obstacles she must try to cope with in life. It is where she has encountered new experiences and met new and interesting people. I went to meet her at her home in Lismore, a cottage overlooking the Blackwater Valley. Over a cup of coffee and a chocolate croissant we chatted about the world and art.  


Which artist do you admire and who inspires you the most?

Emma Fisher is a theatre set and costume designer who also has a Doctorate in Puppetry and Disability from Mary Immaculate College in Limerick. She designs and makes puppets as well as creating animation. As a puppeteer she has produced and performed in many theatres being nominated and winning awards in several categories. Emma set up "Beyond the Bark" puppet and installation theatre in 2007. Much of her work is centred around the Limerick area with Limerick Youth Theatre, The Belltable Arts Centre, Saint Mary's Cathedral and Bottom Dog Theatre Company among others.

What are your reading habits?

A book which made a big impact on me and learning to live well with illness is by American author Julia Cameron who collected various tips and hints from artists and writers to help other artists with artistic block, disability or recovery. She put these tips and hints into book form and tried to have it published. She was turned down. She decided to publish the book herself by typing and xeroxing several copies and selling them at the local bookstore. It became so popular that a publisher, who would eventually become Penguin Books gave her a contract and sold millions of copies worldwide. The Book was originally called "Healing the Artist Within" but was re-titled "The Artists Way" in 1992 before it went global. It has helped many people, including myself, with self confidence and harnessing creative talents and skills.

Are there any particular colours you like to work with?

I have a great love and appreciation for nature, which is the inspiration in my life and often features in my creative work. I prefer all the colours that occur in nature. Whether its the blue of the sky, the greens and browns of foliage or the silver of seas and rivers, they are best seen in their natural state. 

Do you like listening to any particular music?

Any kind of gentle meditative music sounds good to me, at this particular time in my life. If I had to pick just one specific piece of music it would be the classical "Stabat Mater" by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi. He wrote it in the final days of his life in 1736 and the manuscript in his hand writing is preserved to this day. He wrote the final notes before he died of tuberculosis at a Franciscan monastery in Italy. 

Where is your favourite place?

If you go to the Beara Peninsula in West Cork and carry on past Castletown-Bearhaven towards Lambs Head, you will see a group of buildings high on a cliff. This is called Dzogchen Beara and is a tranquil retreat created byPeter Cornish which follows the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. He wrote about it in his book "Dazzled by Daylight". It is set in a beautiful natural environment with stunning views. It also has a Spiritual Care Centre that offers support to those suffering grief, life limiting illness, coping with disability or burnout though it is open to anyone. Its a pretty, positive and peaceful.(and that's just the letter"P"). There is an energy here combined with the magnificent scenery that is conducive to the healing process.

...

     Its difficult to pin Corina Duyn to a particular creative genre. She is an artist, a designer, a writer, a puppet maker, a lecturer in puppetry and disability. Her latest diversification is in to the field of shadow puppets. It is a very accessible art form which gives her the scope to explore and share the experiences of ilness Her education gives no indication of her vocation as she studied Nursing and Social Care.      

       Corina was born between Amsterdam and the coast of the Netherlands(she won't tell me when). From an early age she showed a flair for creativity by making her own rag doll at the age of ten. She arrived in our midst in 1990 when she made her home in Lismore. Before, during and after her diagnosis with M.E., Corina was and is a leading light in our arts community. She has featured  on tv and radio with such notables as Padraig Naughton, Sister Stan and Sean O'Rourke. She also featured on the Nationwide programme which can be seen on YouTube along with a video on the launching of her book "Into the Light" among others. Other books in her repertoire are "Hatched", "Cirrus Chronicles" and "Flying on Little Wings". In 1996 Corina was commissioned by Waterford Crystal to create a miniature representation of their factory floor. She has given talks on puppetry and disability to students in the UK and Irelnd, as well as Brazil and Chile via Skype. Corina Duyn hasn't succumbed to her disability but increased her capabilities.

         Should you wish to view any of Corina's video's, buy her books or find links to other aspects of her creative life, you can go to www.corinaduyn.com/site/ where you will find all the information you need and contact options. Because she is saddened and frustrated by the lack of care for M.E., Corina is one of seven women advocates for M.E. sufferers in Ireland . The M.E.A.I. is a national advocacy group that lobbies for better facilities and conditions for the many people with this illness in the country. 

        I could so easily fill many more pages on the extraordinary life of this exceptional woman, but for now I will rest my case for the beautiful lady with the beautiful mind. 
I will leave you with her favourite quote, from American Singer/Songwriter Kris Delmhorst, "I don't want to rip the skies wide open, I just want my song to be heard". Corina Duyn, I hear you, and I thank you. 



© Donal Buckley, published in the Dungarvan Observer, 17 January 2020, page 46
 (although newspaper comes out on Wednesday's, this week 15th January.)

Friday, December 13, 2019

'Invisible Octopus' (8) short film abstract

Living in the shadows of an Invisible Octopus: Working on ‘Invisible Octopus’ inexplicably forced me to examine and establish the truth about what is my normal.


During the past five months I have been working with Dr. Emma Fisher through a mentoring bursary from the Arts & Disability Ireland Connect Scheme. The aim was to write a script for my existing puppets, as well as explore alternative forms of puppetry to accommodate the physical challenges due to my chronic illness/disability M.E.. In this paper, which I am sharing in sections, I explore the background to ‘Invisible Octopus’ and the challenges, opportunities and personal revelations it brought. 



Aram and Marwa on filming day with support of Lorraine

Film


The intention was to create a short film. So far I have a script, and possible ideas on how to proceed with the project.here is a abstract of one of two short sessions we did. For further details about the project, please see the links below.

 Click here for short film abstract (1.40 min) of



'Invisible Octopus’ 


'Invisible Octopus' (7) The Play of Shadows

Living in the shadows of an Invisible Octopus 


Working on ‘Invisible Octopus’ inexplicably forced me to examine and establish
the truth about what is my normal.


During the past five months I have been working with Dr. Emma Fisher through a mentoring bursary from the Arts & Disability Ireland Connect Scheme. The aim was to write a script for my existing puppets, as well as explore alternative forms of puppetry to accommodate the physical challenges due to my chronic illness/disability M.E.. 
In this paper, which I am sharing in sections, I explore the background to ‘Invisible Octopus’ and the challenges, opportunities and personal revelations it brought. 



Previous posts


  • (7) Shadows (this post)

Exploring shadow puppetry


The play of shadows


During the last mentoring day Emma and I explored shadow puppetry with the use of an overhead projector. Emma managed to attach a small screen to the bed end of my profiling bed (hospital type bed) and placed the overhead projector on a bed tray standing over my legs. 

Totally wedged in, but breathing life into a whole new world playing with light and shadows, movement and stillness. I experienced the beauty of creating a mini world with herbs from my garden and marveled at the possibility to change the colour of the light on the screen through movement of hands under the source of light. 





Gently moving the paper puppet in a wheelchair over the ‘grass’ made from fennel leaves, the shadow of ‘Octopus’ appeared in this tranquil scene. Encroaching slowly on the puppet, pushing her about, lifting her up in the air and leaving her drop, wheelchair and all as ‘Octopus’ moved closer to the source of light, blocking out the image of the puppet, changing tranquility into chaos.






The illusions of life 
are fragile
in the shadows

of an Invisible Octopus 

(See HERE to read the rest of this poem)



Where from here



Having worked with Shadow of an Invisible Octopus made me confront the stark reality of declining health. This project is possibly the most powerful focus on my daily difficulties of life with illness. Although I have used many forms of creativity over the past two decades, I believe Puppetry is the most confronting and at the same time healing art form of all

In the coming months I hope be able to define where this project is going: Will it really become a film? Will it go beyond the series of these short abstract on my blog - and the various articles for journals? Will it be an illustrated poem? Perhaps a book, incorporating this journey, and delving deeper into the challenges of ill health? Will it be an installation, which can tour around the country, using the yet to be created sets, and showing the short video clips on the set walls? 

 I most likely will explore shadow puppetry further, as it proved to be a very accessible to me.

Invisible Octopus as a concept to explore illness/disability through puppetry, is far from finished. Although I must also admit too that I have very little energy to remain fully engaged in the current process. But there is always a way...!


'The walls we continue to face'


I am only starting to understand a whole new level of the power of the puppet, 
in all its forms.  
And in the process, I am hoping to find that light again, 
measured by the intensity of its shadows.




What a journey is has been.
Thank you Emma Fisher from Beyond the Bark for guiding me on this amazing journey.
Thank you Lorraine Shanahan for wonderful PA support;
Aram and Marwa for input in filming. We are not finished yet.
Arts & Disability Ireland for awarding me the mentoring funding through Connect.

 Thank you to everyone who supported me through this time of creative growth, accompanied by challenging realities. Big thank you to you, My readers and followers on social media -  thanks for joining me and for your kind comments and responses through various media of Facebook, Instagram Twitter, email and in person. 

It means a lot to know that although my life is as ‘hermit’, 
I am certainly not alone.

shadow puppetry, figure in wheelchair and skyline of Haarlem, Netherlands
traveling back in time... through shadow puppetry




I am one 
In a worldwide community of hermits
where freedom of movement
is no longer a right



PS, if you were inspired by the puppets I made... I have an online puppet making course available, to create puppets with clay head, hands and feet. Suitable for all levels of ability. See more HERE


Thursday, December 12, 2019

'Invisible Octopus' (6) Hanging on by a string

Living in the shadows of an Invisible Octopus 


Working on ‘Invisible Octopus’ inexplicably forced me to examine and establish
the truth about what is my normal.


During the past five months I have been working with Dr. Emma Fisher through a mentoring bursary from the Arts & Disability Ireland Connect Scheme. The aim was to write a script for my existing puppets, as well as explore alternative forms of puppetry to accommodate the physical challenges due to my chronic illness/disability M.E.. 
In this paper, which I am sharing in sections, I explore the background to ‘Invisible Octopus’ and the challenges, opportunities and personal revelations it brought. 



Previous posts




  • (6) This post


Octopus on my shoulder

    The following reflection follows on from the post "M.E. as Invisible Octopus" in which I introduce Octopus and write about being taken into hospital. 

    During my hospital admission, the not knowing if I could return to my own home and remain living independently was a daily thought. 

    After three weeks a temporary extended home care package was put in place. On discharge I was not sure if I was actually able to be at home. The last nurse I spoke to was worried I would be back in hospital later that week. It was a gamble. My reasoning was that I would only know how well I would function by actually being home. 


    In spite of its function as a reservoir for human darkness - 
    or perhaps because of it- the shadow is the seat of creativity... 
    (Jungian psychology)



    Finding my way back


    Yet again I had to find my way within this illness. It’s all a continual learning process, including accepting strangers into my home, into my personal energy field. There was nowhere to escape to. All I had were my thoughts and the birds outside my window. But as Maya Angelou so poignantly wrote: … the caged bird sings of freedom...  


    House Sparrow


    I had to find peace in my solitude. I am aware I am just one person in this worldwide community of hermits, of people living with invisible illnesses hidden behind their walls, locked in their thoughts. Yet, this emptiness, when ready for it, is also a space to breathe.


    The Girl - home in her hospital bed

    This experience brought me back to my creative mind and ultimately to my puppets, and back again to the reality that I had to find new ways to create, to evaluate and to find value in my existence. I realized that I could no longer work with my puppets, but maybe I could write a script for a film? 

    Being in touch with Dr. Emma Fisher brought me to a point where I decided to apply for a mentoring bursary from Arts & Disability Ireland. I learned a whole lot more than just how to write a script. As I wrote in previous posts, I came face-to-face, ‘puppet-to-face’, with my reality. 

    At times I was so engrossed in the project that many nights, at the edge of sleep, I would think of another line for my poem, or another aspect of my journey to explore. A wonderful time spent locked away in my creative mind, a learning, healing and therapeutic experience.

    At the same time, I am aware that it is easier to think about props and set design than to focus yet again on new health issues. Working on Invisible Octopus was escapism at best. However, being so involved in the project was physically too much. I had to concede and take a big step back. 



    The other side of the creative process


    A drive down the ramp... Octopus came along...

    Working on the props was manageable to a degree, as I could stop after ten- or twenty-minutes work. Filming however was a lot more energy consuming than I had anticipated. The two very short clips we explored - me leaving the house with ‘Octopus’ on my shoulder, and the garden scene with ‘The Girl’ in her chair with ‘Octopus’ invading her space - brought on relapses and put me into bed for days/weeks.


    Filming 'Octopus' by Lorraine, Marwa and Aram

    The filming was done by Aram, with assistance of Marwa and Lorraine. I was there too, obviously, but did not take part in any physical way. Yet it was too intense and too much of an onslaught on my limited energy.

    I had to rethink the project and put a much longer timescale on completing it. This also means that filming in my beloved garden has to wait till spring. This possibly changes the story again…


    Hanging on by a string


    There are many very short segments of film recorded. I realized I had (still have) great difficulty looking at them. My brain can not comprehend a sequence of short clips of a few seconds each. 
    This of course would make it difficult to edit the proposed film. I had not anticipated this added complication, courtesy of my illness. After months I put the short clips together, one after the other, unedited. That was the first time I could actually watch the footage.

    Under my beloved tree, among the birds


    It brought a sense of unease. The imagery is immensely powerful, but something wasn't right. In order to get the puppet most in view, she was moved from under her beloved tree. Cinematic this made perfect sense. The imagery is amazing. Powerful. Stunning. The puppet took her rightful place and was not part of the background. But I, the puppet, I felt was no longer one with nature. Although the puppet was still near the tree, a meter away from the base, it changed the story. 

    The reality of Octopus...

    I realized that the tree in my garden holds a huge significance for me. I sit under it. And lie under it. It is full of bird feeders. Full of birds. I see them from my recliner in the livingroom and from my bed. My life revolves around my garden, the tree and the birds...
    Wow. That was a very strong emotion to deal with.


    shadow puppetry with tree and birds in my garden



    I am aware that in editing we can possibly mix both the scenes of ‘The Girl’ under the tree among the birds, and the closeups of ‘Octopus’, so powerfully filmed.  I also realized that when others animate my puppets, the story changes. It brought inner conflict. It made me think back about a question posted by Puppeteer Chris (Facebook, 26 March 2019):

    “Is it OK for me as a white male puppeteer to represent (through my craft) people of old age, colour, other-wise gendered, or differently able? These people are severely under-represented in our artform so should I refuse such roles? 
    Some of the answers: L.P: “… I think it depends how you represent people as well as who you are yourself…"  K. B: “… not who you represent, it's how…” 


    At the time I thought it would be wonderful if able-bodied puppeteers could animate my puppets, as it was beyond my ability. This still holds true, but I realize that as a disabled puppet maker I need to be very clear when explaining to the animator about what story I want to portray.  I would also need to be accepting of how other people’s energy enters my puppets. 

    Puppets move via the breath and energy of the puppeteer. This knowledge became so apparent during those two short filming sessions. But I also became very aware of my own ability, and disability. And how my immediate environment plays such a big role in my life, dealing with illness and the creative process.

    So much learning...

    Thursday, December 5, 2019

    'Invisible Octopus': (5) A Poem

    Living in the shadows of an Invisible Octopus 


    Working on ‘Invisible Octopus’ inexplicably forced me to examine and establish
    the truth about what is my normal.


    During the past five months I have been working with Dr. Emma Fisher through a mentoring bursary from the Arts & Disability Ireland Connect Scheme. The aim was to write a script for my existing puppets, as well as explore alternative forms of puppetry to accommodate the physical challenges due to my chronic illness/disability M.E.. 
    In this paper, which I am sharing in sections, I explore the background to ‘Invisible Octopus’ and the challenges, opportunities and personal revelations it brought. 



    Previous posts


    Póilin reading the draft of poem in her book
    While working on the project I decided not to have dialogue in the proposed film. Instead I'd have Póilin Puppet reading a poem alongside the footage. Writing a poem links in with my previous writing.
    Póilin will read in the garden, beside the hospital bed, or in the living room.
    The sounds would only be nature sounds. No music.


    This is as yet a draft poem.
    Explanations and imagery related to the poem can be read/seen in previous posts. See links above.


    Invisible Octopus 

    by Corina Duyn 



    Birds transcend
    the limitations of my body
    while I live in the shadows
    of an Invisible Octopus
      
    The reality of life
    with the unpronounceable illness
    Myalgic Encephalomyelitis
    is hidden and fragile

    M.E. as Invisible Octopus
    acting as Puppeteer
    Keeping me upright
    or let me stumble at will

    Inflicting pain
    Challenging my brain
    Letting go of the strings
    leaving me lifeless

    My creative mind
    the visible thread
    throughout this twenty-one-year long story
    Transforming pain into poetry

    The desire for freedom remains
    Like the birds
    I too need to fly the nest
    and be one of the flock

    Negotiating the right balance
    between pulling and letting go
    Strength so close to weakness
    Joy so quickly pulled away

    Octopus pulling strings violently
    Knocking me down
    trapping my words
    [……]

    Medics silencing me further
    [……]
    Dismissing Octopus’s reality
    Sending me for psychiatric assessment


    I disappear further
    into the shadows
    Into the reservoir
    of darkness

    Fear
    Sadness
    Grieving
    So many losses

    Vulnerability of illness
    Uncertainty of knowing
    If I improve again
    Or not

    Accepting
    I can no longer
    Live
    Without full time care


    I am one
    In a worldwide community of hermits
    Where freedom of movement
    Is no longer a right

    Breathe ..
    Each moment is a death
    Each moment is living
    There is movement in stillness

    Finding peace in my solitude
    I am one with the birds
    Their beauty and harmony
    Uplifting and strengthening

    Rising from the ashes
    I fly among the birds
    in freedom of mind
    If only for brief moments of time


    The illusions of life
    are fragile
    in the shadows
    of an Invisible Octopus






    Copyright:
    * Abstract may be quoted, but please reference the source: 'Invisible Octopus', Corina Duyn, 2019. www.corinaduyn.blogspot.ie, (please include direct link) and date accessed. And it would be great to hear from you where you have used my writing. Thank you



    To be explored in Next chapters:
    • Hanging on by a string
    • The play of shadows