Paradise painting for Marge

My friend Marge passed away at the start of November. She was a sweet, loving woman that I considered family and I'll always miss her.  As anyone from the Steel Valley can understand, family extends beyond blood relations to include neighbors and dear friends.  She lived in Youngstown in a cute little house with a sweet, spunky dog named Mollie.  I took this photo of her in June when I was home for my cousin's wedding.  She would always tell me, 'Live slow; I've lived my whole life slow, just doing things at my own pace, and here I am now.'  She was 94.

Her passing came during a week that I was scheduled to give a painting demonstration to my class at the college.  Their assignment was to create a collage as the basis for a painting composition.  I talked about different modes of expression, from tight portrayals of their collages to a looser approach, which is what I demonstrated here.

After class, I brought home my demo artwork and continued to paint on it that weekend, altering and building up layers of color. As I worked, I imagined the ambiguous space as a sort of paradise, a welcoming place where the memory of my friend could live.  I continued to add to the canvas, incorporating the pattern from her living room wallpaper into the background.  During that week, working on this gave me some comfort.  Painting the little birds also brought back memories of her sunroom, filled with ceramic bird figurines in varying stages of flight and rest.

This month I spoke to my community class about the artwork; how it developed and why the resulting image was so significant to me.  One of my students who was also grieving the loss of a friend explained it perfectly.  She told me she was grateful for her own painting that week, as it gave her a way to remember her friend and allowed her to get lost in her art for awhile.


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