As an artist, I am looking with loving eyes at faces, hoping, through the ritual of memorial, to rediscover and redistill their beauty and originality, and ultimately to come to meet the living souls that are always available, never lost. My task is, through the ritual of memorial, the faith in eternity, and the power of friendship itself, to build a bridge over the vast, immobilizing sea of horror, grief, and denial that paralyzes us in the face of violence – of racism and genocide – that will allow us to move toward the joy and love we naturally feel for all of creation, and for young creatures in particular.
I have been painting nature and children’s portraits, as well as making children’s books, for many years now. Viewing nature as a gate to the spiritual realm is a thesis running through all my work. I have frequently explored memorial as a healing medium for grief, both in paintings and in children’s books. I began the souls series, faces of children who lost their lives in the Holocaust, awarded fellowships in 1998 and 1999 from the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, in 1997 as a personal ritual of mourning, springing initially from a place of loss. Over three years the early products of the simple and painful exercise of bearing witness (the most I could offer initially) slowly began maturing, becoming, ultimately, glorifications of the eternal force of energy and love which is a soul, which is growth itself. Which cannot be lost.
My work is an awkward passion. I am drawn to these children. As I paint their faces, I love them dearly. The exercise of painting these portraits serves to organize, clarify, and sanctify my own consternation, raises me out of despair. If I’m giving all I have to give, I feel I’m participating as a citizen, being a working part. It is not about me; I disappear joyfully into the process. When I look at each painting now, after studying a face for an intensive period while striving for a likeness, I feel I am seeing a lifelong friend; this is the healing experience I want to share. Inasmuch I have sometimes been impelled to give “gifts” to these friends; some pieces are narrated with text from various sources: pan-cultural scripture, poetry, secular nature writing, journal entries, letters. I have sometimes incorporated images of animate beings - the buzzing, tweeting, singing divinity so concentrated in nature and its creatures. When we meet a new and true friend, we offer part of ourselves to the other’s soul and thus to the universe at large. This simultaneously enriches and enlarges us in return. When a loved one dies, the ritual of creating a living memorial, in any form we invent, can be integrating, progressive, and healing. In the realm of spirit, this interactivity repairs broken bridges, clears paths, opens dead ends. All is one, all is connected.
Portraits are living memorials. My thesis is: with enough love and an enormous, terrifying leap of faith, in the eternal realm of spirit, nothing has been lost. It’s true: we can’t bring these little souls back their lives. But we can make friends with a face.