Several weeks ago, on a lark, I applied for a position as painter/animator for an upcoming film titled Loving Vincent, about Vincent Van Gough. You can learn more about the film and view the trailer here: http://www.lovingvincent.com It is a fascinating concept and hope the film does well. I spent an entire day pulling material together to send in my submission for a chance to travel to Poland for the summer to paint and animate frame by frame, and earn a bit of cash.
I do have the chops for the project, but you could never tell by my portfolio. The whole process of trying to gather materials together was eye opening. I sent in my application simply to finish what I had started. It was obvious as I tried to organize images and information that it wasn’t going well. Needless to say, they didn’t call. However that’s not the point. At the end of the day, trying to put together a reasonable bio and digital sample sheet revealed that several years of building an art career has pretty much been lost.
Yes, I set painting down intentionally to care first for my mother and now for my wonderful in-laws. I did realize (at least to some extent) the sacrifice I was making at the time. I did hope one day I would return to it. Now, I’m realizing that in order to do so, I’ll have to start back at square one. I’ve lost or misplaced my archive of slides that need to be transferred into digital format. I have no idea who owns the works that were sold through various galleries and shows. A few blurry prints from old photos is not going to cut it. All the years of art shows, awards, group and solo gallery shows, and earning a listing in Who’s Who are gone. Perhaps gone is the wrong word. Irrelevant. The world of art has passed me by while I’ve attended to other (important) things.
Questions arise. Do I have the passion and the stamina it will take to start at the beginning again? Do I even want to, or do I want my creative expression to be more personal and out of the public eye? So far, that has mostly been the case. That begs another question. How do I make a living? Building up a body of work, entering shows, framing, and transporting work all take a chunk of change. Eventually, you may start selling and recouping your output but there are no guarantees. Do I want to go through that process again?
There always seems to be more questions than answers. Today is no different. But questions are important. Sometimes, more important that the answers. You wouldn’t know it by many conversations in the public square. Conversations about faith, social justice, equality or politics revolve on various people claiming they have the answer but often to questions no one is asking. Questions that have no relevancy. Seriously, a seventy year old Christian woman is paraded down the street naked in Egypt, there is genocide in the Democratic Republic of Congo, there are serious questions of racial inequality in the United States, and our biggest public dialog is about bathrooms?
We need to not be afraid of hard questions and hard answers, or even no answers. Else we run the risk of being irrelevant.
Psalm 119:49 - Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope.
Hope is a precious commodity. If we have hope that better days are coming, or that our lives and actions will have purpose and meaning we can endure. Remove that hope and life seems pointless. We are unwilling and sometimes unable to continue on. In the book of Proverbs (13:12) it is written, “Hope deferred makes a heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is like a tree of life.”
I have known despair and I have known hope. I have to confess, as a caregiver for someone at the end of their life hope can be in short supply. I don’t even know what to hope for. Dad continues to lose ground to dementia. He can no longer remember a simple instruction to hand an envelope to me. He forgets by the time he walks over to the desk. He’s taken to swearing like a sailor which is not something that was ever part of his make up. Yes, he’d get angry. But he expressed it in other ways. So what do we hope for? A peaceful end that comes sooner rather than later? I suppose that would be best, but what a loss that will be for each of us. For Mom, who does not want things to change even though change is swirling all around her. For Mike who is losing his parents bit by bit, day by day. For me who has been so blessed by good in-laws for thirty years. They are such a big part of our lives and have done so much for us.
But hope is not about our present circumstances. Hope is about a future waiting for us that has something worth hoping for. I am trying to remind myself of that. Years ago, God sent someone to give me a word of hope. An unknown young woman who approached me saying that the Lord had revealed to her I was an artist who had put aside painting, but that He had a plan for creating art through me. That was almost ten years ago, and not much has happened in that area of my life. At the time she spoke that, I was caring for my mother who was suffering from Alzheimer’s. Before I had much time to recover from that journey we entered into helping out Mike’s parents. First, driving across the state weekly, and then moving them closer to be able to help with their daily care. We are truly blessed to be able to do this. More than I can say. But when I look to the future, when they are no longer with us…hope is not my first thought. Nor is art.
I wonder - what does hope look like in this part of my life, at this part of our journey?
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.