One of the pieces I have been working on the most lately is an allegorical figure of healing and renewal.

"Blossoming" Oil on Canvas, 18 inches X 24 inches
“Blossoming” Oil on Canvas, 18 inches X 24 inches

The strength of a human soul is not unyielding steel

It is the resilience of wildflowers, fragile petals in the sunlight

At summer’s end, drifts of bright flowers sway like waves

Autumn sows and wilts, faded remnants scattering, preparing

Winter follows, freezing the bare ground

Yet beneath the frost, small seeds of hope sleep

Time must quietly nurture them from stillness to growth

Unfurling lacy green tendrils, then buds, then blossoms

The sun and the flowers have returned

Sowing, Resting, Growing, Blooming

This is the rhythm of nature, of endurance, and of life.

I chose my flowers for this piece very carefully, weaving together my botanical obsessions by selecting a variety of plants known for healing properties or Victorian flower language meanings, with a few that have personal symbolic meaning. For example, I chose crocuses and the snowdrop for a heart ready to thaw. In cold climates, these flowers are always the first burst of color to emerge in spring, often through skiffs of snow. Their bright colors meant spring would soon follow. I have always felt immense joy when I first see them. I also love the lotus for its ability to grow beautiful flowers from the mud.

My hope is that this image will be a invitation to introspection and renewal. It’s a long process after a hard winter for the earth to thaw. It takes even longer for bones to knit, and longer still for grief to run its most painful course. Time will mend. I know each person will bring their own meaning to this piece, and I hope it can soothe the sorrows we all carry with us and make us remember to put them aside for a moment. Take a deep breath. How are you feeling? Do you need a rest? Do you need to take a moment to meditate or pray or relax? Is there something you need to release or forgive? What could you do to take care of yourself today?

The Triumph of Technology

If you’re tired of everything quarantine, please feel free to skip this post. I get it!  We are around six weeks in and have 5 more to go for sure, and maybe more… we just don’t know.

The world has been at home now fighting the spread of covid-19 on a global scale for the first time in history.  Because of snapping my ankle, I have been mostly at home since November – that’s going to be 6 months of mostly at home time once the calendar says it’s May 3, 2020! You would think this would make me more likely to write, all this time at home.  Surprisingly, because I am not able to go talk to friends and get out as much, I find that I am quieter.  I have been writing less, talking less, and painting more.  Dreams are more vivid and paintings are more experimental.  In fact, I have run out of larger canvases and panels, thus I finally emerged from the studio to order more panels and stretcher bars and realized I have been exceedingly quiet and would like to write a few posts about recent experiences and paintings while I wait for the shipments to arrive.  This post is about the beginning of the seed of a painting.  The formulation of the idea before it can even become a design.  My mind has been actively sorting our current state of events both to figure it out and to figure out how to process this in a painting format.

Daily I think about the following questions on some level.  But the answers can only come with time:

  1. Will my daughter have her graduation ceremony or will quarantine be lengthened again?
  2. Will this be a one-time sheltering event, or is this a “new normal” that will reoccur? If so, how often?  Are we going to go into quiet mode every century, every decade?  Every few years?
  3. How effective will these measures be long term? Are we going to emerge only to flare up and have to go back indoors?
  4. Will the vaccine come out rapidly enough to allow for at-risk people to shelter successfully until it is released?

It’s a bit depressing, so I try not to think about it too much.  Mostly I paint, but it’s undeniable that I will end up tackling this topic because it is new territory for the world in the realm of humans and technology. 

All the past epidemics took humanity by surprise.  They traveled at the speed of horses, then boats, then trains, and finally planes, wiping out huge percentages of the population back in the days before modern medicine, peaking with Spanish Flu.  Technology was mostly transportation and warfare pre-1900.  It served death either directly or indirectly for a long time.  There have been so many more of these epidemics than I had ever imagined!  There have been over 20 of them in recorded history to sweep through and kill over a million people, and if you lower the requirements down to 100,000 deaths, they are almost countless.  It’s been quite recent, only 100 years or so, since medicine improved enough that technology finally started to be more of a help to us than it was to the viruses! 

“The Triumph of Death” Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1562 One of many horrifying plague-inspired artworks that makes me grateful that I live now and not then. Image from Wikipedia

Now we have streaming video in our arsenal.  This is the first epidemic where the world has been able to shelter to “flatten the curve” (limit the number of people who are sick at one time in order to more effectively share hospital resources and medical attention).  Never before have we been in a position where streaming technology and society-wide fluency with video conferencing software, plus the infrastructure of wires and access to computers and smart phones for every household has allowed us to fight disease by staying home (except for essential personnel – thank you all for the risks you take to keep us all alive!).  We are utilizing the Internet on an unprecedented scale. People who never learned to use conferencing software before are trying out video calls for the first time.  

Humans are immeasurably better-equipped to deal with illnesses than we used to be.  It is not the days of plagues that sweep through and kill the majority of the population.  We know to wash our hands and sterilize infected surfaces.  We can hold classes and chat with friends on the computer screen.  We have hours of wonderful entertainment at the touch of a button to help us pass some of the time indoors. We have amazing technologies that allow us to continue to invent better outcomes in the future. I find that very fascinating and full of hope.  I have been actively working on a design for a painting to visually explore this new evolution of our electronic hive mind. Truly technology is externalization of human evolution!