"Grief and Eucalyptus" is a painting about my mom's death. Not so much about her or really the cancer or painful last days but about the event as an idea. A pivot point in my own life.
I've done other work which was about my mom's death in some way. More abstractly linked, more of a ripple effect than an explicit exploration. This one is different. This one hurt a little.
Most commonly, I paint ten or more paintings in a series before I know what I'm trying to say. I need a lot of data, several facets, the big picture; I need to process and reflect, to see it all laid out. However, with this particular painting, I knew what it was about as I painted it. I didn't know what everything meant, but I was processing as I worked. How did this feel? Self-aware and uncomfortable. I'd rather not make art this way.
There are three elements in this painting: a vase, a box, and a eucalyptus branch. They are each saturated in meaning.
The vase belonged to my mother. She was an artist and had even done a pastel with this vase as the main subject. She only started doing pastels in the last five years or so of her life. One day she pulled out an old box of French pastel sticks a neighbor gave her as a teen. (He was also an artist and had bought the set in Europe while in the military.) My mom had kept these pastels for decades, afraid to use them because she didn't feel good enough. This was the tune of her lifelong spiritual lessons in which God continually and faithfully created resolution. She finally decided it didn't matter if she was good enough.
These pastel paintings are some of her best work.
The second element in my painting is a box. It is a closed chapter of life. A coffin. A private collection of memories. I keep my own, special moments here and I share them specifically and deliberately if at all.
The third element in my painting is a eucalyptus branch. Besides being a beautiful tree with exquisite leaves, the eucalyptus is renowned for its many medicinal properties. One of its highlighted uses is to soothe a highly charged emotional state.
I've only unpacked a portion of this painting's symbology - each of the three, simple elements has layers and tangents of meaning. However, I think it is enough. I think anyone who has experienced loss will be able to connect with these elements in their own way. I invite you to look at the painting and use its meaning to explore your own responses to death.