The story behind "Clocks"
After studying grief art for my senior thesis project, I've been doing a lot of reflecting on my experience of grief. This painting is one "thought picture"that I am glad to finally get out on to canvas.
Although I’ve healed so much from my grief, some pieces still try to hold to haunt me. One of these pieces is from the night of my dad’s death, after the paramedics and the pastor had left and my mom and I turned off the lights and curled up in the family room couches, too awake to sleep and too exhausted not to try. We laid in silence but our thoughts tumbled around inside our heads, screaming. I thought about what life would be like without my dad, revising every childhood dream in the absence of a father. I promised myself I’d grow up now, that I would take care of my mom and younger siblings, that I would do well in school, that I’d work hard for a college scholarship so that mom wouldn’t have to.
How strange it was that that little girl on the couch was weeping that night, while at the same time chanting the verse her dad himself had given her:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27).
That night changed my life and the thoughts I experienced and promises I made as I laid there greatly influenced the person I grew up to be today. I painted myself as I am now, 21 years old, curled up in the same couch of my memories. I painted the details of our old house (which mom and dad built together) as I remembered them most: the teal walls of my middle childhood, the new brown couch we later bought, the original yellow-stained wooden cupboards and black and white linoleum floors. The memories of my childhood home become a sort of dollhouse: remnants of a past, carefree girl, artificially reconstructed in an effort to reclaim them.
I was twelve years old when I experienced mortality in full force for the first time. The clock hands also point to twelve, sometime around when dad was pronounced to have left us. Old parts of a clock battery turn the clock from the interior of my form, indicating the same capacity I have for mechanical expiration. Other bits of clockwork become stars in a turbulent sky. Time carries my dad away, and I am left to float on a violent sea with no power to control it. A harsh, unnatural light- like the one that woke me up in the middle of the night- keeps me from escaping through sleep. The memory is overwhelming.
Yet even as the memory of this night haunted me, it materialized as a painting in my mind’s eye a few years ago and stayed with me as such. I gave it material form, and left touches of surrealism to show the distortion of memory as the event is more and more removed with time. As I finished painting, I got up to look at it from a distance. Suddenly, I didn’t feel like the little girl lying on the couch anymore. Suddenly, I felt freer to leave my painting on the table and walk away.
This gravestone is a milestone.
It doesn't have to be the end.
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