"GATEKEEPER" © SHEILA WOLK 1999/2000
Preparing for this painting I took hundreds of photographs of pink roses and watched as they bloomed and died everyday. I needed more inspiration as to the heart of the rose and life, but during this period I had to spray six paintings to get them out of my way since my paintings range from four to six feet.
I wear a professional gas mask to do the spraying but after the job was done I realized that I forgot to put the filters on the mask, I passed out. I didn’t feel well after I awoke so I went to sleep and the next morning I had no vision or hearing, I thought I was dead until I touched my arm and then I realized I was in severe trouble. Being rushed to hospital I was told that I had severe toxic poisoning and it would take a long recuperation. Two years of no sight and hearing left me frightened and desperate. Along with Prednisone and the swelling of the flesh, the realization came in that I was a useless person.
I remember standing in front of the Gatekeeper sketch staring at it in vain, nothing but black, but I also found myself pondering survival and how I could translate this into the Gatekeeper if my sight and hearing ever came back.
I turned on my 1500 watts of light everyday and prayed to see the light and one day I saw it, like a small pin dot, a speck that gave me hope. This procedure went on for months, approximately five minutes, which grew to ten then fifteen, ohhh happiness. Each minute that I could see a little I would paint a rose, or a petal, a vine or leaf. I felt the importance of patience and persistence. I realized that prayers could be heard; I realized that pain could yield joy. I realized that my impairment was replaced with wisdom, the lesson that I can be strong at my weakest moments
The Gatekeeper was my savior; the dripping roses, which I added later, were my prayers being answered by my angels. By the time the painting was completed, my vision was restored and my hearing (outside of a small permanent loss) was back. I learned at that point that each painting had to have great meaning and importance, no matter how long it takes.
I was named Sport Artist of the Year in 1987. American Sport Art Museum and Archives (ASAMA) gave this auspicious award to my soft-edged pastel paintings of the hard action sports .