Sunday, March 13, 2022

A Way of Life

A painting that began 23 years ago has been completed. July 5, 1999 my oldest daughter died of cancer at the age of nineteen. Numerous times through the years I thought to do a symbolic painting expressing the grief inside and transition which occurred. And yet, something held me back. My life as an artist has been for the most part painting landscapes.  

Amy and I moved to Oaxaca, Mexico one year ago. For months I did not paint, mostly because we were settling into our home. When I began making art again, everything depicted figures from life down here. And then the “muerto” or death symbols, which are widely accepted in Mexico as themes for remembrance of the departed became a staple of my paintings. 

"Watermelon Man," oil on canvas, 24 x 28 inches

When I finished my painting of a skeleton man eating watermelon, I began gathering ideas for the next work. A mural downtown caught my eye. It included a crowd of people, with a man carrying somebody on his back. That gave me an idea to have death carrying someone.

I researched for pictures of a grown person carrying a child. 

When I began my painting, I quickly realized it was autobiographical. 

To begin, it brought up strong emotions of darkness and grief. My artist wife Amy had trouble painting in our studio with my dark artwork next to her. The war in Ukraine had begun and so had the period of BahaĆ­ fasting we observe. Nineteen days of no food or water from sunrise to sunset. This is my last year⏤after having practiced the annual event fifty years⏤those over 70 are not bound by it. I have dedicated my efforts to the people of Ukraine.

I am pleased to have made another “memento mori” work. It reminds us of the ever presence of death and its inevitability. Down here in Mexico it is a way of life. 

No comments: