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Letters to Cynthia - 1

21 August 2018

My Dear Cynthia,

I’ve spent my morning looking through your eyes, through your observations and recordings of your worlds and the souls of the people in them. They seem stark, tragic, moments of humanity's deep sadness yet the redeeming presence of connection that you maintained with those that filled your life. You were not merely the recorder but a participant. I think that gets forgotten. You did have a role in life, a role of your own construction described by your dear friend and art therapist Britta. An occupation of observation. Yet Cynthia, I read such conflicting accounts of you: the kind maternal figure, an empath, a destructive impulsive artist, an exotic sexy young lady, an emaciated ill women, catatonic, married and unmarried, a compulsively passionate creator, a sister, a friend, a caretaker, a service user, independent, dependent, manic, depressed. Who were you Cynthia? Whose account matches the women you lived? I have so many questions and only some ambiguous answers. Maybe it’s your unique mystery that intrigues me, the knots in your timeline that I can’t quite unravel. The only true internal voice you left was through your sight, your hands, a translation between your brain and your actions for me to see in your work. The notes you left to the lovely Britta, and a letter you wrote to another friend gives me a taste of you but of you speaking as a friend, and I would say as an artist. I do not think there is the possibility of unravelling your identity/self from your identity as artist, the compulsion to create… a compulsion born of illness? I do not know. I’m not sure you do either.

A stranger and a friend,

Helen

Helen is completing her workplace at the Bethlem Museum of the Mind in conjunction with her master’s degree work in Museum Education at the University College London. Join Helen to learn and chat about Cynthia’s life, and life’s work at the museum on Saturday 25 August at 14.00. Click here for more information and to reserve your free tickets. 


Cynthia Pell, "Thinking; Self-Portrait" LDBTH951

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