Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Final View

I was asked if my art was self expression. She assumed I would paint in dark colors if I was in a dark mood, or in light colors if I was in a light mood.

Since I am in a mood to explain...

Above is a portrait of the dying months of an elderly woman, as I perceived she was experiencing the world through hearing/seeing the thoughts and emotions she expressed to me. I lived with this woman during her last 7 months, not so much as her health provider ~ more as the resident comic relief.

Oxygen was not entering her brain fully during these months so her thoughts often drifted into dementia. She came up with the most astonishingly surrealistic verbal imagery during these times. At other times she was completely lucid and enjoyed a good reminisce or ponder of what the future might bring. She was a world traveler who adored history and would hold forth with great aesthetic movement of hand and turn of vocal phrase. The fact that she was the daughter of European peasantry and was raised in the wealthiest town in America colored her points of view. She had embraced both life and death in her professional career. She helped hundreds of people become their better selves.

I painted this portrait immediately after she died. Yes, there is my own expressive self in the piece. The colors are my own choice (the colors of her bedroom walls and garden outside), as are the specific images (symbols, really). But this is a portrait of what I had seen happen in someone else's life. In other words, if I had painted a lemon that I set on a table next to my canvas, and the painted image looked like a lemon to you, you'd think lemon. You wouldn't ask me if I was being self expressive. Likewise, if you had been in the house with me as I lived with this dying woman for 7 months, you might look at this painting and think: dying woman. Our society recognizes that portraits can be of what we see on the outside. Less obvious are the many portraits out there which are about what it is to think/feel on the inside.

As soon as this piece was publicly exhibited it was snapped up by a collector who recognized the nature of the portrait .

If you click on the image you might be able to see the tiniest vignettes within the larger picture. This is a woman going over all of her memories, rereading a thousand books, questioning too many of her own assumptions, and letting go of a hundred dreams. Her final view.