As an artist who paints the human figure, usually people I know and love, I’m often asked if those pieces that include family members are for sale. I ardently explain that, yes, if you’re viewing something in public, of course it’s for sale, and please support artists and purchase original works! I’m usually met with a look of astonishment and feel the need to clarify.
Art, so often reflects life. Whatever experience I am having must have the room to do its work in me. I must be open, receptive and present with what is happening around me and in me, actively listening and responding to my own process, whether it is the creative process or an emotional, spiritual, physical, therapeutic, relational or mental process (usually all or some of these are active together). Some processes have marked beginnings and/or endings. Some are a bit more ambiguous. Some have sharp edges and some bleed into the next. But all leave artifacts that they existed. Even if the only evidence is that they still live on in our bodies or memory. Our experiences form and give shape to our present lives. They make us who we are. What do we keep and what do we let go?
I sold this piece yesterday. It is called “Blue Hydrangea” and is an Encaustic piece I made by embedding a dried flower into the wax over a layer of oil paint. It was a very important piece for me to have made at the time (early 2017, I think). That flower has always had significant meaning for me and I needed to process some emotional turmoil I was feeling at the time as well as celebrate some important events that had recently happened in my life. I knew I was ready to release it when the time came. I could look at the piece in a different way than when I had made it. It did its work in me. It touched me the way it needed to. Now, when I see it, it feels more like a memory rather than a dwelling place. I became ready to pass it on and allow it to do work in someone else.
Even though I released it, that piece won’t ever leave me. It is now a part of me. It informs my present and my future, or perhaps I should say, the experience of it. The things that we let go never really leave us, whether relationships, art or seasons of life, they stay and get swept up into our Essence. Rainer Maria Rilke pens this thought about lost love: “Don’t think that the great love which was once granted to you… has been lost: how can you know whether vast and generous wishes didn’t ripen in you at that time, and purposes by which you are still living today? I believe that that love remains so strong and intense in your memory because it was your first deep aloneness and the first inner work that you did on your life.” (Letters to a Young Poet).
The power of art to transform us can be magical, whether it is music, poetry, painting or whatever medium, if we allow it to do its work in us, we wake up to the beauty of life. I’m going to leave you with a poem. I encourage you to spend time with it, in your own solitude. You could practice Lectio Divina with it or sit quietly and notice what rises for you as you read the words. Where in your body are you holding a memory or sensation that wants to be noticed? What emotions are attached to that memory? What do you want to remember? What work does this memory want to do in you? Does it need acknowledgement? Does it need healing? Does it need celebration? What kind of tending is it asking of you? Listen to what’s invisible, what is quiet and let it come around you and comfort you. Let it do its work in you.
Everything I’ve Ever Known
Everything I’ve ever known is with me still,
bits of kindergarten wedged between each toe,
high school banished to the shadows behind my spine,
womb pictures hung in rows along the length of my thigh.
Recent years cling
to the tips of my fingers like good dirt
gathered between thick garden rows.
Every place I’ve ever visited has dropped a pebble in my pocket,
history dripping like tears from their thick skins.
Everyone I’ve ever loved breathes through my lungs.
Everything I’ve ever done still travels the
long road of my blood from heart to brain and back.
All of my life is hiding in this imperfect body,
waiting to be remembered
in a certain slant of light,
the timbre of a voice,
the slow path of a hand,
tilt of a head,
curve of shoulder or hip.
Whole years gather in the tatters of a song,
faces swim in good wine,
rooms emerge from the scent of flowers or spice.
Blessing or curse,
everything I’ve ever known is with me,
and I am trying to remember.