May 22, 2018

Nineteen years ago today, I received a phone call from my sister that began with, “You better sit down…” Our father had been in the hospital – not ever having recovered from heart surgery months earlier. Life support was being turned off. My other siblings and I raced to his side to say our goodbyes. I can’t remember exactly what I said at the end. I’m sure it was something along the lines of “I love you, and I’ll miss you.” Whatever it was certainly did not suffice. What I do clearly remember are the last words I said to him that previous January… “See you in a couple days, Dad!” … That’s it. In my 17-year old mind there was nothing to be worried about. It was supposed to be a routine surgery after all – what could go wrong? Everything, it turns out. After the operation he never woke up. And at 7:59 pm on May 22, 1999, my life altered course.

It’s been so many years now that at this point I have lived longer without my father than I did with him. I have healed, as much as one can heal from a wound that deep. Now it is simply part of my identity. But I sometimes reflect on how my memory of that experience continues to shape me, and I also wonder how it affects my art.

On the surface, my artwork is full of joy – and that is intentional. I consider myself to be a generally “happy” person, and I am drawn to subjects that inspire me and make me smile! But without a doubt, experiencing loss of that magnitude leaves a permanent mark on a person. There is a deeply rooted sadness in me that is always present and no amount of time will erase. After nearly two decades, it’s no longer overwhelming, but even in the most joyful of moments, I always feel a little reminder that this too is fleeting. I am certain that this awareness has influenced the choices I’ve made in life… and still make. And when I look at my artwork, I can see it there, too. Even the brightest of color palettes and the most whimsical brushstrokes don’t completely hide a little bit of darkness and imperfection that’s underneath — a sense that there is something just a tad bit “broken”.

But you know what? I believe that “broken” can be beautiful, too. I believe that there is more joy than sadness if you know where to look. And to me, the little imperfections are what make a work of art feel truly authentic and honest.

Love you, Dad. <3

Nineteen years ago today, I received a phone call from my sister that began with, “You better sit down…” Our father had been in the hospital – not ever having recovered from heart surgery months earlier. Life support was being turned off. My other siblings and I raced to his side to say our goodbyes. I can’t remember exactly what I said at the end. I’m sure it was something along the lines of “I love you, and I’ll miss you.” Whatever it was certainly did not suffice. What I do clearly remember are the last words I said to him that previous January… “See you in a couple days, Dad!” … That’s it. In my 17-year old mind there was nothing to be worried about. It was supposed to be a routine surgery after all – what could go wrong? Everything, it turns out. After the operation he never woke up. And at 7:59 pm on May 22, 1999, my life altered course.

It’s been so many years now that at this point I have lived longer without my father than I did with him. I have healed, as much as one can heal from a wound that deep. Now it is simply part of my identity. But I sometimes reflect on how my memory of that experience continues to shape me, and I also wonder how it affects my art.

On the surface, my artwork is full of joy – and that is intentional. I consider myself to be a generally “happy” person, and I am drawn to subjects that inspire me and make me smile! But without a doubt, experiencing loss of that magnitude leaves a permanent mark on a person. There is a deeply rooted sadness in me that is always present and no amount of time will erase. After nearly two decades, it’s no longer overwhelming, but even in the most joyful of moments, I always feel a little reminder that this too is fleeting. I am certain that this awareness has influenced the choices I’ve made in life… and still make. And when I look at my artwork, I can see it there, too. Even the brightest of color palettes and the most whimsical brushstrokes don’t completely hide a little bit of darkness and imperfection that’s underneath — a sense that there is something just a tad bit “broken”.

But you know what? I believe that “broken” can be beautiful, too. I believe that there is more joy than sadness if you know where to look. And to me, the little imperfections are what make a work of art feel truly authentic and honest.

Love you, Dad. <3