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Bloodlines
(A Strong Interest in Blood)

2005, acrylic on canvas, 48.5 x 37.5”, by Jenny Badger Sultan

Painting titled 'Bloodlines', by Jenny Badger Sultan. Click to enlarge

THE PAINTING

This is one of a series of composite paintings; some of the hexagons contain dream images. For example:

1: Me and my Dad in a Cave

from an old photo of me and my dad in a cave at the beach.

2: Operation on my Tongue
dreamed Sept. 1, 2005

I have gone to the doctor because there is something wrong with my tongue--an injury or a growth or something. The treatment is described to me. It sounds as if a cut will be made all around the edge of my tongue and then the whole outside surface will be peeled off. This sounds very extreme. They want to do it the next day. Seems to me the recovery will be very painful. I had planned on painting that day--it’s my day off--and it looks like that will now be shot. Also we had made plans to go camping over the weekend and now that would probably be unwise. I can’t imagine camping with a peeled tongue. Could it be put off til next week? But then I have classes to teach. My son is somehow involved in the dream. Was he maybe going to camp with us?

3: The Man with a Strong Interest in Blood
dreamed July 30, 2005

I am traveling on public transportation. I meet a man and we start talking. I think he is somewhat younger than I and he seems just a little bit off. We talk about places where we have traveled. I mention having been in Southern Italy. He asks me about it, seems a bit incredulous, wonders what we did there, day to day. I mention swimming in the ocean, walking around, playing cards. He makes some strange remarks that lead me to tell him that in Southern Italy and Sicily there are many ruins of the Greeks and Romans, in fact some of the best preserved Greek temples are in Sicily.

He mentions Tibet, saying "You might find body parts or bones scattered on the ground there." I tell him it wasn’t Tibet, it was Southern Italy and Sicily I was speaking about. I decide not to tell him I have been to Nepal. He begins to tell me about places he has been where there are lots of human remains. I kind of get a picture of a cave filled with dead people--perhaps from a very long time ago--where he would find things and then have to figure out how the person died.

I think to myself that he is practicing a sort of forensic anthropology. I am pulled into his interest in bodies and their deaths somehow. He has been revealing an almost ghoulish fascination with death and blood. He says “then I found something that was very extreme, even for person like me who has a strong interest in blood.” He describes a rounded piece of earth within which are the remains of a number of people. He is going to describe to me the scenario he found when he uncovered it, but I say “Wait, I do not want to hear about this.”

He stops and says, “O.K. maybe next time.” I think he has been telling me these things over several days.

I get off at the corner of Allen where N.Y. Drive comes in. It is evening. I walk down to my parents’ house. I hope he will not see where I go and will not follow me. When I reach the house I won't turn on any lights, so I won’t signal which house it is.

I do not want to hear his story of blood and awful things. I worry that he is a sick person and could do me harm.

I feel compromised--as if my own interest in gruesome things has led me too far into his obsession.

Adult and child in cave. Detail from painting 'Bloodlines', by Jenny Badger Sultan. Click to enlarge
My father and I in a Cave at the Beach
Face with bloody tongue. Detail from painting 'Bloodlines', by Jenny Badger Sultan. Click to enlarge
Operation on my Tongue
Man, severed limbs and heads. Detail from painting 'Bloodlines', by Jenny Badger Sultan. Click to enlarge
The Man with a Strong Interest in Blood
Snake coiled in woman's womb. Detail from painting 'Bloodlines', by Jenny Badger Sultan. Click to enlarge
My grandmother saw herself pregnant with a snake
Kids fly broomsticks over a farmhouse. Detail from painting 'Bloodlines', by Jenny Badger Sultan. Click to enlarge
The Witch Children
Woman works in garden. Detail from painting 'Bloodlines', by Jenny Badger Sultan. Click to enlarge
Bloody Floss

4: My Grandmother's Vision
When my grandmother was pregnant she had a vision she would give birth to a serpent.

5 & 6: Bloody Floss and the Witch Children
dreamed Sept. 3, 2005

On a farm, outdoors. My friend and I witness a daily ritual of this farm family. They (children especially) line up along a line--very spaced out, stretching maybe a hundred feet. Then the farm wife reels out a very long length of dental floss to reach from one end to the other. Then everyone along the floss flosses a tooth (the question in my mind is whether or not this whole ritual is repeated for each tooth or whether each person flosses more teeth each turn.)

I say to my companion "They must spend a lot on floss here."

Then the farm wife reels in the floss to see if there is any blood. Anyone who has left blood on it is taken to task. When one child (he’s kind of scruffy--blond hair that sticks out--pixie like, thin) has been identified as having bled, he rises up in the air on a little broomstick and says something in his native tongue (a Slavic language, I think). He is clearly going to fly away, not stay around. Soon there are one or two other children in the air on broomsticks. They start to fly away. They are witch children.


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