Here is a post I put up on my Groundbreaking Girls website last week. It happened to be National Widow’s Day. Don’t feel bad that you didn’t know this. It’s a new thing, I think. And new widows are the first in the know—given the responsibility of spreading the news. I don’t know if there is a Widower’s Day on the rise…or whether it is something they would even want. ANYWAY…here’s the post (and a little art history.)
“Being creative is not so much the desire to do something as the listening to that which wants to be done: the dictation of the materials.” —Anni Albers
Anni Albers (1899 – 1994) was a German textile artist and printmaker. She is perhaps the best known textile artist of the 20th century. Rebelling against her comfortable upbringing by choosing to become an artist, she attended the modernist Bauhaus school, where students lived with challenging and impoverished conditions. For a woman, there there were very few options for further study after the foundation level so she entered the woman’s weaving workshop, but she quickly embraced the process and materials of an art form that she would come to revolutionize. While at the Bauhaus, she met her husband, Josef Albers, who would become a master instructor at the school as well as one of the foremost artist/educators in the world. Anni eventually became the head of the Bauhaus weaving workshop herself.
When the Nazi party pressured the school to close (which it did a year later) the couple were invited to move to America and teach at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Though the Albers had never lived there, they embraced their new chapter of life, sharing their understanding of modernism and art to a new generation of American students. Over the years, they continued to make their own art and collect others’, rarely making work together but always encouraging each other’s creativity with deep understanding.
In 1949, Anni Albers became the first designer to have a one-person exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Albers’s design exhibition at MoMA began in the fall and then toured the US from 1951 until 1953, establishing her as one of the most important designers of the day. Through her long life, she continued in her passion for design as she wrote books and moved into the field of printmaking. She is credited for establishing Design History as a legitimate area of academic study.
Artist’s Note: Did you know that today is National Widow’s Day? Neither did I, till a friend let me know. Since I’m a widow myself, I thought I’d look up “widows in the art world” for my painting inspiration. Anni’s name came up. Josef (who was 11 years older than his wife) died in 1976, leaving Anni as a widow for 18 years. The two of them were famously close colleagues, having met in art school when they were young, enjoying a deep intellectual understanding with each other. I didn’t meet my own husband till I was 35 and he was 40, but we had both been educated in our own art colleges, and were still making when we met…and then, of course, after. I recognize the closeness of having two like-minded individuals making a life together. Especially, I think, as artists, its a rare thing. And yet, they weren’t making things together. They each had their own area of interest. My parents are like that too. My dad is a painter and my mom is a printmaker…and I admire the together/apartness of choosing to live that way as a couple. Like Josef, who developed two important alphabets through the Bauhaus, Vernon was a type designer too. I miss him. That’s why I chose to paint this picture from a photograph of Anni and Josef together. I imagine they were intrinsically entwined.
My wonderfully sensitive and gifted friend, Belle Logie, gave me the above painting for my birthday last year. It’s a “Waterloo Sunset” with Vernon and me up on the bridge.
This week, she sent me a song she wrote about us. She said it was okay for me to share it here. I think its beautiful and sad. Sometimes, that’s the best kind of song.
Good evening, I was blessed to know Vernon and to be able to visit him these pastcouple of years, and accompany him and Allison, as he came on hospice care.Alison asked me to share a few thoughts today….I had heard a thought expressed recently that made me think of Vernon and ponder hisreality: “We are all spiritual beings having a human experience…..”The idea resonated with me…. and yet, on this side of eternity, it’s easy to think andbehave as though the opposite were true…That we are simply human beings seeking some kind of spiritual experience……And so it is in our search for meaning and understanding that we try and attachsignificance to the events in our lives, and a reason for everything we encounter…However, sometimes bad things happen in this life that are completely random, with norhyme or reason,…….with no apparent or satisfactory answer to the question “Why?”Tonight we are not focusing on the question “why” but the question “Who?” Who is theone holding Vernon in His loving arms…..Who is the one sending his “new mercies”every morning?We are here not only to celebrate Vernon’s life, but to celebrate his union with Allisonand the love they shared! The depth of that love has been on full display. For instead ofwithdrawing, Allison embraced the dire circumstances with remarkable courage,honesty and vulnerability and allowed it to shape her in positive ways. In so doing sheblessed and honored Vernon and has left an indelible mark on us all.Allison, I think of that moment in the hospital when you were sensing things to comeand were overcome with emotion. You truly embodied the song we were singing at thattime…… “When evening falls so hard….I will comfort you…. I’ll take your part,oh, when darkness comes…..and pain is all around……Like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down.” For Vernon you were truly a bridgeover troubled water, allowing him safe passage out of darkness and into the light!!!!I remember having some meaningful exchanges with Vernon in the past when ourfriendship was first cultivating. I think he discovered I was a sort of safe person for himto discuss his beliefs because I had lived in France so many years and was wellacquainted with and influenced in a positive way by a European worldview.Vernon had more of a philosophical, intellectual, and pragmatic approach to hisspirituality, and was somewhat skeptical of organized religion. He wasn’t looking for patanswers or a neatly packaged belief system, rather, he was someone who was thinkingoutside the box…..Someone who was comfortable with having more questions thananswers! Someone who could respect ambiguity, uncertainty and mystery.Some may have questioned his faith at times, but to me, with Vernon, the waters randeep; and I saw evidence of a deeper spirituality. The kind of spirituality that wasnecessary to see him through his darkest times and it resurfaced again in reassuringfashion in those final days and hours as his body, metaphorically, labored to birth hisspirit into eternity.
So, I reaffirm that Vernon is a spiritual being, who had a human experience!And in the big picture, he had a wonderful human experience filled with love andlaughter, shared with his devoted lover and partner, enriched by his son and daughterboth of whom he cherished, enhanced by fulfilling work, meaningful friendships, asupportive family and a loving heavenly Father who has taken him home……It was a life well lived and we were all blessed to be a part of it.Rest in peace Vernon!
I’ve been missing Vernon for a long time, but its only recently that a new kind of loneliness has been allowed to seep in. I notice it a lot when I get still, when I talk to God, when I’m practicing yoga, or maybe painting in silence. The rest of the time, I can keep myself pretty busy, which keeps some of that at bay. This is the loneliness that is unattached to words, but I know that pressing into it makes me so sad to realize again that he is really, truly gone and won’t be back. That most of my life will be separate from our season of family, even though the decisions that came from the life we shared still affect us every day. I may have shared this analogy on here before, but I’ll use it again: when someone you care deeply about dies, its much like a piece of duct tape has been pulled from a painted wall after being stuck together for some time—part of the paint is left on the tape and part of the tape is left on the wall. When a person dies, you are changed (though not as much as they are, obviously)—a part of them lives on in you, and a part of you goes on with them. When its someone REALLY close, it takes awhile to adapt to the new version of yourself, because you are not who you were before and the world isn’t what it was before either.
It’s kind of a strange time again because I’m very aware are now in the final month stretch before the 3 year accident-versary. The first death. Or rather, the night his life slowed down—his body, his brain, our time with him—it was when his life out slowly toward the finish line, though we didn’t always realize/accept it. How could we have known? One always fights for life, even if it is in a shallow form, as long as one can. For us, it was the tape trying harder to adhere to the wall and the wall offering all the paint it could part with. It didn’t feel like letting go, it felt like attaching more tightly. So that we could let go, but be changed through the experience.
I went all the way to Denton, Texas, and look what I found waiting there. Pigeons painted on a wall…above an alphabet, bonus! I’ll never stop noticing. Also, here is some paint already peeling off Vernon’s bedroom wall, scratched away by the bed rails and possibly his hands. It looked like he was fighting to get out, but actually he was fighting to stay. And in his way, he made that happen too.
“Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.“—Hippocrates
When I was in England in November, I had the opportunity to record a podcast for the BBC Radio 4 show Soul Music. It’s was an unexpected invitation that came up about two weeks before my trip. My friend Ian Mcglynn (who released a version of Waterloo Sunset to help support our family after Vernon’s accident) had been contacted by a radio producer who had discovered his song online, and so he shared the story with her. Anyway, it was several months ago now that we recorded in London (yes, at the official BBC studios!) but I just received an email today from the producer, Karen:
“With apologies for the delay, I’ve finally had it confirmed that the Waterloo Sunset edition of Soul Music will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in the UK on Wednesday 17th May at 0902. It’s a new slot and a high profile one. It’s the first programme in the new series so will get lots of publicity and on-air trails.”
EEK! Now I’m nervous. What did I even SAY? That’s the problem when you generally have a lot to say: you aren’t sure what is going to actually come out of your mouth…and you don’t remember what you said very well either. Which is fine with friends and family because you know they love you anyway. Big sigh. Well, its going to be out there soon and I’ll find out (along with a lot of people in the UK) what I said. It was a lovely experience though…really special to return to London to talk about Vernon and his favorite song. It felt like a way to share him one last time with his fellow citizens, a way to bring him back to the land. We’ll see how it goes! Maybe even Ray Davies of the Kinks will hear it. What a thought! 🙂