So, up to this point, all of my painting experiences had been beautiful and wonderful and fun. I’m opening up, I’m exploring color, I’m creating never before seen images. Shangri-la. Nirvana. Heaven. But not the next one. I started “Fatima” much the same way I start most of them, meditating but with no plan in mind.
When I was done (or so I thought), I was distinctly unhappy with some loud orange rectangular sections on the left and in the upper right hand corner. But I had already signed the painting, and doesn’t that signal that the work is done?
Which raises an interesting question. How does an artist know when a painting is done? When do you stop painting? How does anyone know when anything is done? How do you know when a relationship is over? When are you satisfied? When can you walk away? When you get right down to it, it’s really all the same question, isn’t it?
If I kept painting after I signed my initials, couldn’t I spiral into a never-ending rabbit hole, painting and fixing, changing and perhaps ruining the painting that was meant to be? But what was meant to be? Do I have free will to paint what I wish or will I simply paint some predetermined picture over which I never really had any control? Do I have some measure, some percentage of influence over the finished picture? Or am I like an obsessed, scorned lover calling desperately in a futile attempt to change the course of a fatally fated match?
Well, I had signed my initials. The fate of the picture was sealed, wasn’t it? There should be no more painting, and besides it was time to pick up my kids from school. But as I drove along, that bright orange was nagging at me, nagging at me. The picture wasn’t right. Something was wrong. As I write this now, I know there was one other time in my life when I drove along and heard those words in my head.
It was 10 o’ clock on a cold February night in 2000 and I had been working seven days a week for months. I had just finished a trial in New York state court, and as I rode along in the back seat of a town car down the FDR winding its way down to the Brooklyn Bridge that would take me back to my loft in Brooklyn, I heard a voice in my head, “Something isn’t right. Something is wrong. I’m 33 years old and maybe I’m never going to have kids.” But I had signed a contract, sealed before God. My fate was sealed, wasn’t it? I was so tired that the subconscious thoughts of my approaching new reality floated loudly through my head and I was powerless to fight them.
This time my son said, “I don’t like the orange.”
There it was. The painting was ALL wrong. I felt like someone had injected a massive overdose of depression directly into the vein of my left arm. Since I am usually a very upbeat, positive person, this was way out of character, but I was obsessively depressed about the state of this painting.
I went back and stared at it until it hit me. It needed an overlay of a shocking blue color that didn’t “match” at all. I have no idea why, but I did it. It felt very tortuous. I was very unhappy the whole time I was doing it. I was literally sweating and uncomfortable. At a certain point, I knew it was “right” is the only way to put it.
Usually when I finish a painting, I look at it, I feel a weird deja vu like I have seen it before, and I love it. Not with this one. I did not know it, and I did not understand it, and I did not love it–at first.
When I arrived home, my ex greeted me cheerfully, “Hey, how are you.” I don’t know why, but I gave him a look of complete and utter disgust, and I went into the bedroom to change. When I entered the living room, I met a different person there, unmasked, and smoking nervously by the open window. “I need to talk to you,” he said.
We talked very briefly, but there was no need to talk. I have no idea how I knew, but I knew he had betrayed me. I accepted that I would have to paint this picture a shocking color I had not expected to use, no matter how much it hurt. I just did it. I told him to get out. The picture was done. The relationship was over. It was time to walk away. I was heart-broken, but I knew it was right is the only way to put it.
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The next morning, my husband Brent and I stood up my new painting and started examining it. To me, this painting is purgatory-a place where souls are trapped in between lives and where some are moving from one place to another. There is a window on the upper right containing more souls. There is a “people mover” with people walking or dancing. There are train tracks leading somewhere, and there are cage-like structures. There is a large face in the center of the painting trapped under the cage. That figure can alternate between looking like a regal woman, an old man and a young boy. I feel that the spirit in the picture is trying to convey that it is in a place it is not happy about. In person, the features of the face become 3D and at night the colors are wild and glow.
Purgatory in this sense is not just a place in-between lives. Living your life in the wrong relationship or on the wrong path can be your purgatory on earth. You must be aware if you are in a place where you are merely waiting and not realizing that a relationship is dead or the path you are on is a dead-end. Is it time to move on or change course? You have to know when to add a shocking blue to the picture, you have to know when the painting is finished, and as TD Jakes says so beautifully, you have to know when to walk away. Else you will spend your life trapped in a virtual cage and never experience the bliss you are meant to find.
I meditated on the name of the person trapped in the picture, and I heard the name “Fatima,” which became the name of the painting. When I googled the name, I learned that this is the name of the Blessed Mary who appeared and revealed three secrets in the early 1900s beginning on May 13 (my mom’s birthday) to three children, one of whom has the same birthday as my husband (June 11). In general, the first two of the three secrets were (1) a vision of hell containing demons and souls in human form and (2) instructions on how to save the souls.
In my life, I am enormously thankful for having had the vision to see the end of a failed relationship and the strength to move past it. Mostly, I am thankful I was able to keep an open heart so that when the love of my lifetimes, Brent Britton, walked into my life, I saw him and was able to create a beautiful life together with him and to have the two most amazing children. “Fatima” is the reminder to keep our hearts open to the perpetual motion and changes of this life and to continually move forward along our individual paths and not to become trapped in the stagnation of failing to learn our life lessons.
Observations by other people about this painting include:
- a ghost prison
- a roller coaster
- a stairway to heaven (which I find very interesting because purgatory could be a stairway to heaven)
- a butterfly on a tall tree
- an underground restaurant and
Sending love to you all on your individual paths and an intention that everyone keeps an open heart.
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