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Archive for September 11th, 2017

Memento mori-remember death! These are important words. If we kept in mind that we will soon inevitably die, our lives would be completely different. If a person knows that he will die in a half hour, he certainly will not bother doing trivial, stupid, or, especially, bad things during this half hour. Perhaps you have half a century before you die-what makes this any different from a half hour?

Leo Tolstoy

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I am bringing a group of selected paintings with me to this Saturday’s Gallery Talk at the Principle Gallery that will only be available for that day.  Going through a few paintings I came across the painting above that has lived a quiet life with me for many years now.

It is a 16″ by 20″ oil on canvas painted in early 2001. Titled Blaze a Trail it was hanging in the Principle Gallery on September 11, 2001, that sad day that still haunts our country these sixteen years later. I don’t like to commemorate it outside of thinking about the tragedy of the lives lost that day. But for some reason this painting reminds me of that day, even more so that the work that emerged in the time after the tragedy that was a direct reaction to it.

It has become a sort of memento mori  for me, a reminder that we never know when death may visit each of us. Maybe that’s why it has spent it’s life with me–since soon after September 11th so it’s about 16 years now– with its face to the wall, away from my eyes. When I would go through the stack that held this piece I would shuffle by it quickly, hardly taking it in as though I just didn’t want to see it.

But for this show I pulled it out and left it so that I couldn’t help but see it on a regular basis. At first, I felt a mild discomfort with it that tainted how I saw it. But the more I looked at it, the more I was able to look past the day I had attached to it and see what I saw in it before that day. Ans I saw that there was much to like. I liked the rhythm of it, in the bend of the tree and the roll of the landscape. I liked the darkness behind the orange in the foreground.

Most of all, I liked seeing the dislodged paint brush bristles that were embedded in the paint of the sky. I ran my fingers over them this morning while looking at the painting and it touched me that they were a direct link back to when I was working on it in the months before September 11, a time that seems ages ago and naively innocent now. Those bristles were of that time and touching them made me remember how very good and creatively energetic I felt in those days.

And in that instant, this piece no longer felt like a memento mori reminding me of  our mortality. No, it felt much more akin to its title, Blaze a Trail. It felt like a celebration of  life and embracing fully the time that remains.

It is now for me as much a memento vitae– a remembrance of lifeas it was a memento mori.

I am still deciding if I will bring this piece with me. I have mixed feelings. We’ll see…

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