Thursday, December 1, 2016

Story of Another Painting

2016

The healing power of beauty is so mysterious.

My father's life is ending.  He's nearly 81, he had a wonderful life full of love and manifold contribution--he's a lucky man.  And he was healthy for nearly all of the 81 years.  Then lung cancer struck, and now he's dying of a brain metastasis.  I will miss him terribly.

My days now are relatively normal--not living very close to my parents.  I go through my days at work and taking care of Noah and finding time with Susan.  Intermittently, like today, I manage to get down to visit.  Today I came down after my brother John sounded the alarm: it looked to him like the end was near.  So I came down today and spent several hours sitting next to him while, mostly, he slept.  His face is beginning to wear the mask of death that advanced cancer patients put on.

I laugh at myself: what I read to him was Beowulf, the ancient Old English epic poem of great deeds and monstrous attacks upon the Shield-Danes.  We are of Scandinavian stock.  The warriors in the poem are our ancestors.  I like the idea of invoking for my dad the image of the Viking warrior--our forebear.

Three postings in this blog in the space of as many days, more or less, come by virtue of my mad painting in this very difficult time.  Trump on the one hand, death on the other.  What can I control?  Where can I find solace?  Painting offers some.

I love this painting.  I painted most of it while I was down staying with my mother-in-law after my dad's first big scare.  While he was over the hills potentially dying, I was over here sculpting this lovely model's beautiful back and feet and bum with washes of gold, crimson, purple, aquamarine.  I celebrate the body through this painting.  I celebrate the body as my father's body is diminishing toward oblivion.  

It's a common classical pose: the odalisque or reclining nude.  I have no doubt that this is largely a guy thing, but the beautiful female body, and especially the beautiful female backside, signify, well, life in so profound a way--the fleeting, magnificent fecundity and grace of our lives in these bodies.  As I sought to capture the beauty of this model, it felt like I was pulling out of myself a fierce love of all that we are in this plane: the so transient miracle of our flesh.  

I love this painting.  I am so happy that I got to paint it, and so happy that I get and got to be my dad's son.

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