Thursday, February 26, 2009

St. Anthony of Padua

St Anthony of Padua is the patron saint of lost things: objects, obviously but also people, relationships, and faith, the kind of losses that can really kick your ass. It took me until a couple of years ago to fully realise that loss is a part of the human condition, that when we show up here it's part of the deal and that I'd be a lot better off if I could accept it. I was able to discover this very important piece of information because I was in grief counseling. I was in grief counseling because my brother has ALS and because our Gramma Sara died suddenly and unexpectedly. Unlike my beloved grandfathers and great- grandmothers she was not ill or in decline and I had no reason to expect that I would not see her later that day or the next as planned.

This St Anthony of Padua shrine is about losing my Gramma Sara. When I was sketching out ideas for a St. Anthony piece the memory of cleaning out Gramma's house kept coming back to me. Gramma had lived in that house for over fifty years. My dad and uncle grew up there. We had the luxury of waiting six months before having to touch anything. At first it was strange, but then exciting as all sorts of interesting things were unearthed from drawers, closets and cupboards: love letters to my Grampa, photographs, vacation souvenirs from long ago, the pinking shears my dad loved cutting paper with as a child. And then, it was empty. I think it was the sight of Gramma's closet that really hurt, that really All of the familiar clothes that she inhabited, her shoes, her lady-like pocket books, were gone, dispersed amongst us or donated to the women's shelter. The shoe rack- where I had stashed the box of chocolates she begged me to hide on her so she wouldn't eat them when I was six- gone. I got my sweet tooth from Gramma Sara. So the emptied closet was what I used to communicate that feeling of loss in this shrine.

back of shrine: drawing of Gramma

I treated the top of the shrine like it was the top of Gramma's dresser, which was a place of great interest for me as a child. I used the space to tell the story of what happened and also evoke that which is particular to her: the dresser scarf, her pincushion, the drawing which came from a photograph of Gramma on my Uncle John's First Communion day, her earring. The pincushion became the holder for the painting, or retablo, of Gramma's soul leaving the hospital, where she passed away. The toy ambulance tells how she went to the hospital, that it was sudden, an emergency from which she could not recover.

The small painting itself shows St. Anthony of Padua finding Gramma- because he finds what is "lost"- and guiding her to Heaven. I painted this for my own comfort, because I wanted to believe that Gramma continued on in her journey, her soul evolving and growing, healing, free from worry and knowing peace. Word has it, though,that she and Grampa John are still at the house, where my youngest cousin and his family are now living. I'm not sure wether to worry about this or not: are they stuck, or simply choosing to stay by the family they were so devoted to in life, in the home they made over fifty years ago?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

It's All About the Story

I have been making art since childhood. Then, as now, I have an internal dialouge with myself, contemplating the nature of the subject at hand,telling myself a story.

This is the St. Claire of Assisi/Rabbi Harold Kushner shrine. St. Claire is also known as "the Illuminator", and she is the patron saint of television. She is known for transmitting some extremely powerful and effective prayer. Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote the following:

"If prayer worked the way many people think it does, no one would ever die, because no prayer is ever offered more sincerely than the prayer for life, for health and recovery from illness, for ourselves and for those we love.

People who pray for miracles usually don’t get miracles, any more than children who pray for bicycles, good grades, or boyfriends get them as a result of praying. But people who pray for courage, for strength to bear the unbearable, for the grace to remember what they have left instead of what they have lost, very often find their prayers answered. They discover that they have more strength, more courage than they ever knew themselves to have."

The reason I made this shrine is because my brother has ALS, and it is dedicated to people who have chronic or terminal illnesses, their families and caregivers. The words on the TV set say "Pray for Courage". The word painted inside of the shoe is "hope". It is difficult to see it in the photograph, but there is a rose growing out of the TV antenna. On the back of the shrine is Rabbi Harold Kushner's quote and a prayer bank- a slot to deposit written prayers.

This is the story I was telling myself as I was making this shrine: First, it must take place is Los Angeles, because the little house was inspired by the films of David Lynch. An older lady who looks a lot like my Granmma Sara comes home from the hospital. She always looks nice when she goes out- purse, skirt, hair just so. It is late, and she has been there all day. As a matter of fact she has been there every day for the last week or more. Her husband is terribly sick and no one knows what is wrong with him. She has spoken with every specialist, she has waited on all of the test results. Her stomach has been clenching and unclenching.
She has been walking around on hope all week. She doesn't want to lose him. Today she and her husband were told that he has an incurable illness that will claim his life. She goes into the living room and kicks off her shoes, something she never does, she always puts her shoes away in the bedroom closet. The shoe lands under the TV and she doesn't care. She was walking around on hope, but the worst has happened. Now she has to go to sleep alone in their bed. Now she has to imagine life without him. Now she has to anticipate the terrible pain of loss. At this point I just want to help this lady who reminds me of my Gramma Sara so badly. I don't want her to be crushed by hopelessness. The mermaid sits on the TV where she has been for the last fifty years, probably a wedding gift. She has been dusted every week, not a chip on her. She is sweet, but no help really. So I put Rabbi Harold and St. Claire in the room to look over the lady, so she won't be so alone. I need to know that someone has this lady's back, or I won't sleep. She's going to need their help.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Little Pick-Me-Up : $5 and $10 dollar print sale!

5.25"x 4.25"

Saint Jude is the patron saint of hopeless causes or difficult situations, and I think that the world at large could use his help right now. There are a lot of people who are being adversely affected by the economy, and there are many more people who have never, even in the "good" times, known financial security. I work for a private, not- for- profit human services agency. I see good people struggling every day to provide for their families on less than ten dollars an hour. If we are lucky and the state budget allows there may be a 1 or 2 % increase on occasion, but these cost of living adjustments don't cover the actual cost of living and no one ever gets a raise just because they are a great employee who does a wonderful job, yet we have so many people who are caring and dedicated employees . In honor of these people and the valuable work that they do, and everyone who is out of work, under-employed, or working for minimum wage, I am offering Saint Jude prints for 5 dollars every day so that everyone who wants one can have one.

I always base my St. Judes on my brother Wally because he has turned a lifetime of difficult circumstances- autism, epilepsy, ALS- into a beautiful life full of meaning and love for his fellow human beings. Jesus told St. Jude that whoever loves Him, He will find them and make his home with them, which is why I like to show him in or with a house.

In addition, I am offering both of my new Saint Monica (the patron saint of mothers) prints for 10 dollars each until June 30th, so that everyone who wants to can buy their mom, wife, partner, grandma, or any other fabulous mom they know a lovely Mother's Day gift!

6 X 8.50

This painting is about how hopeful we are, as parents, that everything will go well for our children, but how little control we actually have over what will be. We have to accept that and still do our very best for our children. St. Monica is shown here praying for the well being of her unborn child, serene and centered despite her precarious surroundings. In her halo is my favorite quote from St. Monica -"Nothing is far from God."

This particular St. Monica was inspired by my mother-in-law, who is incredibly cute and pretty and who nurtures all living things, be they children, animals or plants. �

5"X 6"

This St. Monica painting celebrates being the mother of an infant and the impulse to want to surround them with all that is soft, sweet, and happy for the short time in their life that you can. She was inspired by my baby daughter and my mom, the wonderful woman who supported and encouraged me as an artist from the time I was small.

All three of the original paintings were done in gouache . The prints are printed on archival paper with archival inks. To purchase a print please go to

I wish you peace,