Thursday, October 30, 2008

Honoring the Dead

"Father," mixed media collage, 7" x 8"

Here is my response to the art prompt from this Thursday's Inspire Me Thursday. The theme is Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead.

This year I couldn't quite get into the Day of the Dead aesthetic of sugar skulls and marigolds; instead I was drawn to Japanese imagery with coy, yin & yang, and the kanji for "father." As I have learned to do over the years, I just followed my intuition and allowed the feeling of honoring the dead to fill the page.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Commemorative Hand-Made Wearable Art

Apparently, the Lakeside School cross country team created these t-shirts in honor of my dad and have been wearing them for their workouts. I think they are also going to be donning (or have donned) them at the State Cross Country Meet this year.

My dad would have found this hysterical -- and a little embarrassing, shy and humble as he was. I keep being surprised by the reverberations of my dad's life. Just the other week there was an article in the Seattle Times in which a football coach at Ingraham offered thanks to my father for donating weights to the school's weight room...and now these t-shirts.

I guess each life leaves an echo. It would be quite amazing to see 30+ teenagers running around Seattle wearing these t-shirts. Keep an eye out for me, will you? And have your camera ready.

Friday, October 24, 2008


"Retreat," mixed media collage, 4" x 5"

The act or process of withdrawing, especially from something hazardous, formidable, or unpleasant.

The process of going backward or receding from a position or condition gained.

A place affording peace, quiet, privacy, or security.

A period of seclusion, retirement, or solitude.

A period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, or study:
a religious retreat.

Middle English retret, from Old French retrait, retret, from past participle of retraire, retrere, "to draw back," from Latin retrahere. (from the Free Online Dictionary)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Left Behind

"Left Behind," mixed media collage, 6" x 12"

I only have the image today, not the words. I will leave the words to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross:

"When your loved one becomes sick, there were medical visits, case histories, and physical tests. Then they found the lump and your world immediately began to change.

Now you sit alone and remember the story of your loss. You may find yourself retelling the story to friends and family. Immediately following the loss, everyone wants to know how it happened. You tell your tale through your sadness and tears. Your talk about it after the funeral. When friends come over to visit, you discuss parts of the story you continue to grapple with....

While you try to comprehend and make sense of something incomprehensible and your heart feels the the pain of loss, your mind lags behind, trying to integrate something new into your psyche. It is something that moved too fast for your mind to understand. The pain is in your heart, while your mind lingers in the facts of the story, reenacting and recalling the scene of the crime against your heart. Your heart and mind are joined in one state, pain remembering pain.

Telling the story helps to dissipate the pain. Telling your story often and in detail is primal to the grieving process. You must get it out. Grief must be witnessed to be healed. Grief shared is grief abated."

From On Grief and Grieving

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Inner Travel

"Inner Travel," mixed media collage, 6" x 11"

"The self-explorer, whether he wants to or not, becomes the explorer of everything else."

Elias Canetti

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


"Love Blossoms," mixed media collage, 4" x 11"

I've been altering old photographs lately (hence this piece above and the last two pieces I've posted on Quiet Girl). There's something fascinating about re-inventing the past and bringing the past into the present through artistic manipulation.

The two people in the piece above are my parents who met in junior high, dated in high school, and married in 1965 when they were in their very early twenties. My brothers were born in 1968 and 1970, and then I was born in 1975 when my mom was 30 years old. This November, my parents would have been married for 43 years. My dad's birthday is also in November, and he would have been 63. My goodness, so many numbers to contemplate!

I've been feeling my mother's loss quite deeply this week. When I think about the loss of her husband--the one and only companion of her life--I feel my stomach clench with sadness. And yet, I find joy in imagining them through the years, adding color and light to the black and white, knowing that I can always bring their relationship to life with paint and wax and cut-out dragonflies and birds.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Just Do It

"Prince of Action" mixed media, 4" x 11"

My dad had a very clear, straight-forward decision making process. When something needed to be done, he just did it. If he knew he had to stop something, he'd just stop. My dad developed type two diabetes when I was young. He had to cut out sugar and modify his diet in other ways. He knew what he needed to do and he just did it. There was no struggle, no expression of loss, no complaining. If asked how he felt about having to adjust to such a change, most often he'd say something like, "I'm not happy about it, but it's what needed to be done." Sometimes I wish I had just a pinch more of this no nonsense approach. While I appreciate and honor my deep, soul-searching, emotional musings about things, sometimes I wish I could cut through all of that for a moment and just get something done. No worry, no second-guessing, no agony over what is best. As my dad told me once when a tree had fallen, smashing up the deck in my parent's backyard, "It doesn't matter how I feel about this, I just have to fix the deck." And he did.

My dad was not unemotional--he felt things very deeply--but he rarely (perhaps never?) became immobilized due to fear or a sense of burden or worry. When he was diagnosed with kidney cancer in January, he told his doctor, "I'll do what needs to be done." I find it amazing how my dad was always able to move forward, even through massive obstacles and setbacks. During hard times, he'd gather himself up, take a deep breath, and ask, "Okay, so what's next?"

So today, as I sit here hearing the Seattle wind whipping and swirling outside, I ask myself "What's next?" What's next for my business, my art, my writing? How do make a real living at what I do? Normally, I would have a little meltdown and simmer in my worry for a while. What would my dad say to me if he were still alive? I think he'd say, "Ode [one of his many nicknames for me], figure out what you need to do and do it." It sounds so simple and so excruciatingly hard all at the same time. I can hear myself asking him," But how do I know what to do?" and I hear his reply: "You know by doing it." I guess I need to start taking some steps, huh. I suppose I can't just think my way into doing, I have to do it. One, two, three, here I go....