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Papa Pick Me Up

This is the kind of work that results when one allows themself to be led by their unconscious.

I was toiling on a portrait one day when I heard the ding of a text. A friend (who knows I hate scary things) had sent a link to a video, and I made the mistake of hitting “play.” The war in Syria was raging, and the government forces had just dropped barrel bombs on their own people in Idlib. The video showed a father carrying his son whose legs had been blown off in an explosion The father lays the boy in the dirt near a truck - probably hoping that it would transport him to a hospital. The video was grainy, but the audio was clear - the immobilized little boy, arms outstretched, was repeatedly screaming, “Papa, pick me up.” The father suddenly runs off and the boy crumples to the dusty ground. Later we learn the dad was searching for the rest of his family who were trapped beneath their flattened house.

Some weeks later I was in the studio, probably procrastinating from the same unfinishable portrait, and I started to build…something. My only goal was to use things that were lying around the studio so I could justify not throwing them out. Something was gripping me, but I often feel that way when indulge myself in pure art-for-art’s sake fits, and I allowed the impulse to control me over the next couple of days. By the time I grabbed the torso of a doll I had recently found somewhere, I realized I was making a loosely figurative sculpture. And at some point thereafter - I don’t remember if it was a couple, several or many days - I realized what was happening. I was making a portrait that mattered. It was the little boy from Idlib, and his limbs were simultaneously being gruesomely ravaged, but also regenerating. He was both sinking into the base of the sculpture and rising from it. This was suffering and salvation.

Certainly, I had been conscious of the fact I was trying to process the content of the video for those weeks - I couldn’t un-see it. But without intent suddenly all of the mental torment was pouring out of me through my hands.

I wish I could take credit for any of it (I don’t even know if it’s credit-worthy), but this catharsis was just me acting as a conduit to channel this story. I don’t believe in God, I am not spiritual, but I really do believe what I’m writing, and further believe that anyone in their own way can serve the same purpose. All that’s required is to suppress the conscious mind, harborer of ego, that inhibits ideas and sows the seeds of doubt that thwart our instinctive actions. And I’m not saying whether any of this is good or bad - it is just…Is.

There are a zillion practical reasons not to pursue a life in the arts, and a few good ones. Paramount atop that short list is the psychic healing effects that art making can provide.


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