On March 2nd my father would have turned 80. He died a scant month ago — days shy of his 80th birthday. I’ve spent the past many long days packing up his apartment — a labor of staggering bitter-sweetness, for with every tear comes a laugh, and every laugh, more tears.
Among his things was this painting I made three years ago.
Thinking back on the creation of this piece……
I remember it started with the image of the young woman on the left. In fact, I had glued her down to the panel some years before, and then never returned to the piece. At that time I had in mind that the piece would be about romantic love and yearning. I tore her in half, which seemed to emphasize the breaking of her heart, and glued the two pieces to the panel. I then abandoned the piece.
Three or four years later I was working on a series of panels for a large art show I was to be in later that summer. I found the panel with the woman again. She seemed to be begging for her story to be developed. At the very least she needed a suggestion of place; a scene for her story.
So in my studio that late spring of 2008, I found a photo of a window frame, and collaged it in. The window panes were too blank though….
Looking around, I found a photo of my childhood home….Hmmm…..might just work…. I enlarged it and collaged it so it appeared through the window.
Still….it needed something…another figure perhaps?
Excavating more stacks of photos, I found one I had taken of a bronze figurine on a Tiffany clock — a clock that had been in my family a long time. I enlarged the clock figurine and placed her in the bottom corner. She seemed almost to be talking to the young woman on the left, but I couldn’t quite tease out their conversation nor determine their relationship.
After some thought, I deemed all the parts of this piece now were competing for attention with each other. All were of the same high contrast black and white. A difference needed to happen; the competing lights and darks needed to be reduced somehow.
On a bit of a whim I brushed on a light blue wash of paint on the right-hand side of the piece, visually pushing it back.
The right-hand side — the window, the distant house (my childhood home), and the elegant, older, dignified woman — became ghostlike.
With a quiet gasp I staggered with the sudden recognition that this painting was of my own story, and my utter heartbreak at losing my mother. She died months earlier to breast cancer.
With a wave of emotional recognition, I admitted aloud there in my studio as I leaned over this painting, that…..I wasn’t ready for her to go.
Blinking back a river of tears, I gave voice to the gaping break in my heart in a way I hadn’t been able to do before, and whispered those words aloud, over and over again: “I wasn’t ready for you to go….I wasn’t ready for you to go…..I wasn’t ready for you to go…..”
Some weeks later, during the opening reception for the art exhibition, my father, without knowing anything about this piece or the meaning behind it, commented to a very close friend of mine that he was really drawn to this piece. My friend, knowing the emotional story behind the painting, revealed it to him.
My father bought the painting.