Michael Payne—Saved by the Art
A rediscovered talent changes one man's life
by Michael Payne
When I heard about the bookbinding workshop here at TPAN, I thought it was about writing mini-diaries, but it ended up being much more.
I suffered from lipoatrophy [facial wasting] for years. We gay men are very concerned about our appearance and I was very depressed. I was seeing a shrink when we did the bookbinding workshop.
When I did the book, I didn’t expect people to react to my art the way they did. It was more then a therapeutic stress reliever. The whole experience for me was divine intervention. It was like God saying, “Look, you have talents you could be using. Stop focusing on that [problem] and focus on your gifts and everything else that you’re blessed with.”
It got me thinking about art and doing something with it.
Jesús [Macarena-Avila, the instructor] had asked us to collect photography or pictures from magazines that reflected something about who we are. Then we were to merge pictures into this little book that we made.
I have hundreds of sketches and paintings just sitting in my closet collecting dust. I also keep a diary of what I call profound thoughts, constructed while daydreaming. I pulled some thoughts from my diary that seemed to connect as a caption to my drawings, then I incorporated them together. The question was how to do this without destroying the original artwork.
Jesús came up with a great idea. Why not Xerox the artwork, then condense the copies so they could fit into the small books? The results even amazed me.
I don’t have time to focus on the lipoatrophy any more. I’ve been pulling out my art little by little and as I can afford it, I’ve been framing it. I’m on a fixed income and it may take a year, it may take a couple of years, but my goal is to get all of it framed. It’s become like a child to me. Maybe a hundred years from now, it can be a part of me that survives.
I realize, wow—I really like what I did; it’s really good. I just didn’t have the self-confidence to pursue it more. This has made me re-evaluate my whole life. It’s like when I was first diagnosed, in 1995, and I thought it was the end of the world. I was told I had three years to live, and was very depressed.
I have an upcoming consultation on surgery for my lipoatrophy, but I don’t care what I look like any more. I don’t want to focus on that. I’m too busy trying to accomplish things now.