Yesterday I skied with a man who is visiting my brother here in town….he, also a physician….a man well-disciplined in the ways of science.
Lunch at Totemoff's started out amicably….the usual "ski chatter". Then "the friend" began to speak of his father's ongoing ordeal with Alzheimer's. He spoke in almost clinical terms: synapses, tangles, things like that. I saw pictures flash in my mind sometimes as he spoke. And I thought that was the end of that.
Today I went into the studio to paint. And, as usual, had little or no idea of what I was going to "choose" as my subject. Honestly, I had no ideas, just some vague feelings that could not be pinned down. So I taped up a blank sheet of heavy weight "Stonehenge" paper, from England. I took out the grease pencil and started drawing what seemed like abstract shapes on that sheet. Then some recognizable forms began to emerge, and I watched them emerge, still not having any idea where all this flurry of activity was headed.
I chose colors based on what felt right. These seemed right….a light ochre and a watery blue and nothing more. As shape and color merged, I became aware of words forming in my mind….words which were, however, not my own. What they were "saying," had nothing to do with me; for example: "I call." I finished the the first painting, stood back from it and knew that "I call" was in fact the "correct" title…completely congruent with "my" feeling.
Since there is a part of our make up that simply cannot take "yes" for answer. I said out loud:
"I call what?"
"Or, to whom"?
"Who is doing the calling"?
Well, when artists ask questions like that, very often they get answers that are unsettling. And such was the case today. I knew right then that the words and hugely intense emotions I was "hearing" and feeling came from our visitor's father; the older man struggling with Alzheimer's.
Fine, call this crazy, call it anything you like. But the insight of that connection was so CLEAR, and so unequivocal, that its validity is unassailable. I painted three pictures in fairly quick succession while crying the bitterest of tears---tears not about me, and coming from where? Each title for the piece, and the subject of each painting came as a message from this man I had never met. I can neither recount, nor discount, this experience. The first painting: "I Call". The second painting: "I Reach," the third painting: "I Salute." These were messages NOT meant for me as a final destination, but rather meant to move through me as secretary, or conduit. That was absolutely clear. So, call it what you will. Frankly, even I don't know what to call it. I've sometimes felt that I have some paranormal tendencies. Maybe this confirms it. Well, it's either that or call the guys in the white coats.
I gave the paintings to the physician-visitor who also wept as I described my "process" in painting them. "What is the salute?" he asked. My feeling, and what I saw in my mind tells me that the father was saying something like, "I salute you for your accomplishments. I salute you for being an exemplary father and husband. I salute you as my son." I know it sounds mushy, but it was VERY clear….and the images I saw associated with it were powerful: framed family pictures and a diploma, told me of the message's intent.
So, is it something about living in Santa Fe that brings this out or what? I could say that I'm mystified, but that could be too close to the eerie truth.
Here are the images. Just three paintings that shook up my day.
(The title was written across the bottom later. Synapses and tangles emerged.)
"I SALUTE" (you)