These are recent thoughts, I am still pondering.
Recently I have realized something – I paint hope instead of pain.
Some artists paint pain. They take the problems in the world, natural disasters, political situations, people in distress and they portray them in powerful ways.
I respect those artists and the power their work can have, but thus far in my career I am not one of them. I paint hope.
In college I painted bones, but I did not paint them in a morbid way. I focused on the joints of the bones and added animation to them referring to life. I was looking at something often associated with death through the lens of hope.
When I paint landscapes I don’t paint back alleys or garbage cans. There are artists that create powerful images of those types of subjects. For me, maybe someday. Instead, I usually paint small slices of a landscape in a quiet way. When I look at my landscapes, the idea of waiting comes to mind, but I don’t know how they read to others. Waiting is related in some ways to hope. It is anticipating something in the future.
I have lots of ideas for paintings that spotlight injustice, illness, war, disaster, (etc), but I have not been successful in painting them. I have wanted to be a voice for those facing trials and have tried. My troubles are nothing compared to what other people experience. My struggles are with depression type issues, over 9 years of infertility, miscarriage, having my miracle child almost die in the NICU, and having my only living child be diagnosed with a rare non-hereditary genetic condition. During one attempt I used my personal experience to investigate the emptiness and despair of a barren woman. I started the painting, but like other paintings along this line that focused on the suffering of mine or others I never finished that painting. I ended up throwing away the canvas a year ago. I had tried to paint my personal pain, but it wouldn’t come out of me. Through all my small trials I tried to paint pain, but instead I painted colorful butterflies in flight. I paint the time after the cocoon while I was and am in a cocoon waiting for the other side.
I am not saying it is easy to paint hope or have hope when you are going through a difficult, terrible experience. After my first miscarriage there was a time when I didn’t paint. I had to move to a point of healing to have a voice of expectation. At one point we did not know wether my miracle child would live or die, during that time I could not paint at all. That was a time of silence.
I need to embrace what I paint and not fight against it. We need artists to use their talents to bring attention to serious issues. We need people to speak out against hate and injustice. We need people to bring attention to refugees and the casualties of war. But we also need artists to give hope. I think there is a balance so that we take action, but do not give in to despair and hopelessness. I may want to do the former. I may wish to do the former. Right now my task is the latter. I will still try to experiment from time to time because as an individual moving through time, I will change and maybe someday I will paint the problems of the world in which we live. However, for now I am making colorful butterflies in flight. I don’t paint them as a reflection of what life is. Instead they are a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel.
On a side note: I am talking about painting here. I am not saying that it is enough for others to speak and me to be silent. I still need to DO something and work for change. I still need to give of my time and resources to help others in the small ways that I am able.
Butterflies are moving living flowers that have survived a transformation in a cocoon. The butterflies are not all perfect – sometimes they have broken wings. I will usually paint them with the broken wings because I find that an interesting testament to a hard life. A butterfly is an image that has multiple personal meanings to many different individuals. I love that it positively relates to many different people. I know a thyroid cancer survivor who sees the shape of a thyroid in the butterfly. I have heard stories of others who have gone through painful situations and the butterfly represents the other side of the situation. Sometimes it can refer to loved ones. For me, as a Christian, it also has religious symbolism referring to death to self and life in Christ. It is a symbol of and survival beyond a terrible time and anticipation of the future.
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