Parsing the World Through Painting

While organizing my photos from several old computers, I came across the following images juxtaposed against each other because their file names were wedding.jpg and world.jpg. They both date from 2005, when I was 19-20. The images threw my brain down a rabbit hole back to a very difficult period in my life.

The first is a picture of me and my husband, then-boyfriend, (was he ever just my boyfriend?) dancing at a friend’s wedding where he’d been a groomsman. I can honestly say that I was happy at the moment that photo was taken. The second is a scanned copy of a painting I did that same year. It caught my eye because I’m wearing the same clothes in both. The painting shows all the things I saw when I looked out at the world. You can click on the painting to see a larger copy.

Photo of us at a wedding

(To answer a question – I’m not tiny, I’m 5’7″, my husband’s just over 6’2″.)

My painting of the world. A woman wearing a kerchief faces a child reaching up to her, two dark shadows, a bomb, a woman holding the dead body of a child, a woman with a shopping cart lifting her arms skyward, an person in an orange jumpsuit with a ball and chain, fighter planes dropping bombs over a burning building with a woman kneeling on the ground in front of it over a body

In 2005, I was coming out of a very deep and at one point suicidal depression. Though the initial depression had been cause by my mother’s terminal cancer diagnosis, it spread to encompass all the huge and horrible things I saw in the world that I knew I had no power over: vulnerable children with no parents, families unable to buy food, inmates in a society where rehabilitation is extremely difficult, famine victims, sweat-shop workers, people mourning the loss of homes and loved ones in countries that my country was bombing. Those were just a few of the things I saw. Other paintings and crayon drawings I’ve done show more.

At twenty, painting was how I tried to sort these things out and to express the hopelessness I felt about…everything. I’d leave it there, but since I’ve come through the depression, I decided to share another scanned crayoning I did during the same period. Again, click to see a larger one.

Crayon iconography of Tabitha, peacefully sewing clothes by hand

The drawing is a rough kind of iconography. The woman depicted is Tabitha (also called Dorcas), who is remembered for doing good, helping the poor, and specifically for garment-making. As a sewer-crafter, I identified with her gifts and drew a number of pictures, quasi-icons, of her. One is still hanging in my bedroom, but I don’t have a scan of it. I also have an icon of her which I commissioned from a monastery.

During this period, I was a heavy quilter and one way I felt that I could show love of many kinds was by making quilts for nearly all the girls I lived with and one guy who was my closest friend at college (and several for ProfX). I also made quilts which I donated to the local homeless shelters when they asked for blankets and smaller quilts which I donated to Quilts for Comfort, a group in my hometown which provides quilts to children (and now adults) dealing with long-term illnesses. I used to piece and quilt them all by hand, which was a meditative process and let me work anywhere.

I haven’t talked about this period of my life in much detail in a long time. I hardly ever paint or draw now. That’s not a proper ending, but there you have it.

3 Comments

  1. Kelly says:

    The first image is happiness. The second is despair/hopelessness/all manner of dark/fearful feelings. The last is peace.

  2. Spring says:

    I haven’t drawn since I was a teenager. Sometimes, I wonder if I should have taken it up more during my divorce as a way of coping. Drinking probably wasn’t the key.

    My cat helped a lot, once I got her back.

    I love that picture of you and your husband. You guys look so happy together.

  3. Clayton says:

    The crayon icon is beautiful.

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