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Haunted by Canvass

A few years ago, in late 2017, I asked for an art challenge from friends, family, and art fans. They were to give me a few sample photos to work from, a small narrative about those reference photos, and why they feel it should become a work of art. I completed a few of these with some success, save for one. A canvass image that has been haunting me since it's inception. I have never finished it, not due to lack of trying, but due to fear. This canvass project, "Remember Me", haunts me.

"Remember Me" is about letting go of loved ones who have passed, all relationships healthy or unhealthy we can not change or replace or speak to or about again. I wanted to give the viewer the chance to send a calling card of love- like a message in a bottle to the lost on the other side of whatever has happened between them and us, so we can not reach them—a message of longing, hope, and wellness.

Read Pablo Naurta's Poem "The Dream"

The photo references wereof the sea at night, and a street full of umbrellas, seeming to float over the road.

Last Kingdom is also a tv series. Click below.

When I started composing this piece for the first time, I read The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell, British History For Dummies by Seán Lang, Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin and watching Vikings created by Michael Hirst.

The idea of a dirge thoroughly enchanted me. How ships become burning funeral pyres and send loved ones, and messages to loved ones on the other side of (J.K. Rowling best line, and why you read the whole book series in my opinion) adventure.

"To the well-orgainsed mind, death is but the next greatest adventure."

(Ps J.K. Rowling, you know Harry should have died. I wish you dared to let your novel be the tragedy that it was meant to be. I don't care that it's a kids book, death happens.)

Reference photo below

I liked the idea of a message in a bottle sent across the sea, to the other side of adventure. But what if the bottle was a floating umbrella? And what if Marry Poppins (By P. L. Travers) got her flying umbrellas from the place where loved ones received their floating sea umbrella messages? What if she was hired by a dead relative of Mrs Banks; who asked her to take care of their children's children on our side of life? Like a saint sending an angel on a holy mission in an answer of prayer by Mr Banks.

In a tv series called The Wonder Years, The main character, Kevin's father, leaves the light on for his kids when they have left the nest, are not coming home, or will be out later than his bedtime.

This sean always tears me up:

The idea that is letting go is not all bad, but is invariably painful, resonates with me. I love how Neal Marlens and Carol Black wrote this tv series. I am often struck by the idea of an older man telling some younger kid, how things were, and how he felt growing up. Daniel Stern's voice as a narrator creates a calm within me that I still reach for every time I place my first stroke on my canvass. The message: "I'll always leave the light on for you." was like an echoing storm in my head as I started to plan out how this painting would look.

(Lit in the cathedral of Notre dame In loving memory of Maureen Mary Agness Culder Cusack, who was forever lighting candles as a way to share her cares and concerns for the lost, loved and lonely. (This was lit before the need of restoration, two weeks before the church fire of 2018.).)

I thought about Catholic mass vigils, and how inspiring they are as one candle touches another until the whole place is filled with a glowing ambient light. Or of Asian religions like Buddhism which light incense at the graves of their ancestors. I also thought bout my youngest sister, and her favourite Disney movie, Tangled's light sean.

For most of history, our fascination with light has to do with life and remembrance of the lost, and the wish for grace in unrepaired relationships.

With this in mind, I looked for sea lanterns. I decided to attach them to the floating umbrella's mast to light the way for the messages as they floated out to sea. And towards the sailboat, which was the underworlds postal service that came only once a moon.

Creating a written narrative for my works helps me see clearly what I want to say visually. This underworld postal service, is a large part of that narrative, but I am not so sure it will come off as obvious in the visual narrative. Somethings, are just for the artist to know, and that is perfectly fine with me. My main goal is to create a sense of emotion in the work. I am not always successful, and sometimes that's on me because I am not completely willing to commit to giving it my whole heart. It takes guts to be a artist, and for me, the hardest most satisfyingly awesome thing is to put those emotions on to the canvass. This requires bravery, and I am not continually brave person.

"Remember Me" slightly freaks me out. Every time I try, someone I love dies or gets hurt. It's been four and a half years, and each time I work on it, I have another name to add to an umbrella's lamp post. This work is drenched in personal grief and wishes for loved ones I or others can no longer reach out and or touch. It's like the sea eats another one I care for, and I have yet another name to place on a umbrella.

After designing this work, I prepped the canvass, started the underpainting, and My mother-in-law died. Part of me feels I should have used this as motivation to keep on with the painting, but, it was too painful. I also realised I needed to change the canvass's viewpoint to be less vertical and more horizontal. The realisation took my heart out of the painting.

A year later, I pulled it out again, changed the underpainting to a horizontal work, and once again, one of my relatives died. Seven months later, I tried to be brave. I started on the early mid layers of the painting, only for someone I love to lose her baby late in her pregnancy. 8 months later I tried once more, with a different colour pallet and my brother from another mother's Father pass away from a violent succession of aneurisms. This work hurts me. I have never done something so painful or emotionally challenging in my entire life.

Now, I am slightly superstitious about working on this piece. Each time I do, someone I love or is close to me gets hurt or dies. Since pulling out this canvas and creating the third reboot: Two of my loved ones have fallen down the stairs, my mother has broken her pelvis, my cousin lost her baby, and my grandmother passed away yesterday.

But, here is the thing, I can not cower from this work forever. So, here's to being much braver then I feel. You see, this work is supposed to be about sending off good wishes, prayers and saying goodbye to loved ones who have gone to the great beyond. When I started working on this work's initial idea, I never knew that its lessons would be so harsh. Or that I was creating a piece that would cut me so deeply.

However, I think that since we are in the middle of a plague, mob riots and uncomfortable divisions, it's entirely appropriate to finish this work this year. I am not the only, and we all need a place to send peace, loss and memory. My mind has changed. The work is no longer for me, but for those who can no longer be reached.

Stay safe everyone, and to my loved ones: I need you! And if you can, stay on this side of adventure, just a little bit longer.

This post is in loving memory of Mary Agness Moans Mapes. A example of undaunting courage and unbendable faith. The center of my quest to seek the other side in Joy, not fear.

22 views2 comments


The comment section is working! The answer to our problem is that you have to have an account. I love the umbrella theme. Was the first image of a red umbrella in water your original that you then are taking to other paintings? Or was it inspiration?


Michelle Rose
Michelle Rose
Jan 30, 2021

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