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2012, acrylic on unstretched canvas, 37 x 72", by Jenny Badger Sultan

Acrylic painting with stenciling by Jenny Badger Sultan: 'Falling Roots'. Click to enlarge

When I was a child I fell all the time. I'm told I had a continual goose egg on my forehead from falling off of benches and things. My knees were often bloody from falling while running on the very rocky driveway outside my house. Mom would bandage them with torn sheets. And falling downstairs was so common that it became one of my recurring nightmares. My last fall downstairs was as a teenager, dressed for church, when my braces cut up the insides of my mouth.

With some reflection, I later thought that my falls were in part due to the fact that I never had normal depth perception; my eyes have never worked together to create a three-dimensional stereo image in my brain.

During the middle part of my life I don't remember falling being a big issue. But ten years ago, while hiking down a stony stream bed on the Appalachian Trail with my daughter and son-in-law, I had a spectacular fall, right on my face on a stone, knocking out one of my front teeth. Being a quick thinker and not able to face the world with a missing tooth, I quickly jammed the tooth back in its socket and held it there til I could get some dental help. Hooray! the tooth is still alive and well in my mouth.

I've had some other spectacular falls, especially while recovering from chemotherapy a few years ago, but I never broke a bone until this March when I tripped on some uneven pavement at Civic Center and went down flat on my face. It turns out that I had fractured my humerus. It's been quite painful and still hurts when I stretch way up.

I know how serious a fall can be as we get older and many of my friends and acquaintances have had bad falls recently.

I wanted to do this painting about falling as a meditation, focusing on becoming more aware and more balanced. I have also been learning T'ai Chi with a wonderful teacher as a way towards this end.

See also the early watercolor Falling--different treatment, same theme.


I had been given a roll of finely textured canvas by a friend whose artist husband had left it when he died. It was just the right width and had two finished selvedges. (I have not been able to find anything like this canvas since I used it all up.) So I was inspired to make a series of long panels on this unstretched canvas. Although I had a subject in mind for each one (except for Deep Time), I began in a completely random way, first scraping wavy paths of different gold powders mixed with acrylic medium down the center of the canvas. Then, working sometimes on the floor, sometimes on a table, sometimes on the wall, I scraped on colored glazes, pressed on textures, made resists and worked very freely and experimentally. At a certain point, for Kore and the Green Man, I drew the concentric circles and the bodies and continued to develop color and texture within those structures. Additional imagery and creatures arose out of the accidents in the paint or from dreams and imagination.

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