create. heal. inspire. angie yingst.

Today I am honored to introduce you to Angie from the Still Life With Circles blog. Today she share with us the story of her daughter Lucia, and her healing through careful scheduling of writing and art time into each and every day.  For more ideas and inspiration with Angie be sure to visit her blog and check out my favorite projects from her:  Right Where I Am & the Spoken Word blog round up. xo. ~Beryl

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I always admired people who followed their passions. Before my daughter died, I suffered from terminal self-consciousness and an acute case of perfectionitis. If I couldn’t master something immediately, I abandoned it. I loved art and painting, but I didn’t want anyone to pick out my flaws, notice my mistakes, laugh at my shaky lines, or comprehend the depth of my insecurity. Art felt like vulnerability to me, because I was so earnest in my love and passion for it. Even though as a child, I went to art school, repeatedly told I was a talented painter and a creative soul, sharing my art felt something akin to walking through town naked.

Lucia Paz, my second daughter, died on Winter Solstice in 2008. The grief overwhelmed me. I thought I understood suffering and grief and pain before her death, but I knew nothing. I began writing as a way to navigate the labyrinth of grief. When my husband was slated to return to work, I scrambled again. What was I going to do with myself and my twenty-month old daughter Beatrice? I couldn’t write during the day. Writing is a solitary, isolating experience. I felt lost. I felt I would never be whole again.

I decided the best thing to do for Beatrice and myself was to create a schedule for our day. From this time to this time, we would brush our teeth. From this time to this time, we would walk. From this time to this time, we would eat. It seemed the only way to find some path to normalcy. And in that schedule, I wrote this:

1p-2p Art Hour.

It had been years since I had consistently done art just for myself. I traded an hour of grieving for an hour of painting. I bought some watercolors and a book that read, “How To Do Watercolor.” I bought washable paints for Beatrice and set her easel up next to my own. We painted. When Beatrice painted the wall. I made the decision not to clean up her mess, or teach her how to paint. I just let both of us paint without limitations or rules or self-consciousness. When I stopped focusing on either of us painting “correctly,” I found the first moments of peace since Lucia’s death. The first painting I did was of an apple. It wasn’t miraculous in terms of technique or talent, but it was the most beautiful painting I had created. It represented an hour of peace–something that seemed impossible to me even three hours earlier.  Painting, and later craft and sculpture, were my way to meditate, to pray, to remain present in the moment, to sit still. Painting helped me feel human again, maybe even a little normal.

It wasn’t long before my still life paintings changed and I began painting my emotions and my grief. My hour of painting became two, three, sometimes more. Grief oozed into every part of my life when Lucia died, and months later, art seeped into every part of my grief. Creativity and art became intertwined and entangled. Art became my way of life and my language. In 2010, I started a website called still life 365, where I posted a piece of art, craft, film, music or poetry every day of the year by a family member, mostly parents, grieving the death of their child or children through miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death. Connecting with other grieving parents, experiencing their art, sitting with their grief felt right, important and desperately soul-soothing. We were sharing our stories in a new language.

There is this liberation of my soul, a kind of creative freedom, that I had never felt in my life. It’s not that I feel at all liberated by Lucy’s death. I feel absolutely fettered to grief, but accepting that grief is part of who I am now, I felt a creative freedom to express that truth in whatever way it needed to come out. It’s not that I am more secure. It’s not that I am more confident, but I just don’t care about being the best anymore, or even being mediocre. That is not the point of art for me anymore. I do not want to master the art. I just want to connect to the grief and to Lucia. I try to express the universal experience of suffering. I don’t care about my technique as much as I care about the meditation of painting. Lucy’s death gave me the permission to just be myself through art, writing and craft. She gave me a confidence in the authenticity of my feelings. It is her gift to me, and my way of mothering her, which is truly mothering myself too. Lucy gave me courage, not to go on without her, but she gave me courage to make a fool out of myself. Showing my art or having it rejected was a drop in the bucket of heartbreak, I now know. A criticism of my technique was not the death of a piece, but only one vision of the piece. I just stopped taking it all so personally.

My daughter died. I need to paint.

Giveaway

During those early months of grief painting, I explored mizuko jizos, a Zen Buddhist bodhisattva for stillborn and miscarried children. After Lucia’s death, I searched for myth, folktales, stories, religious stories about the experience of birthing my dead daughter, child loss, and stillbirth. Mizuko jizo became a way for me to channel my erratic grief energy. I meditate and then paint mizuko jizo. They have become an expression of my deep love, my compassion, and the shared experience of grief. Today, in honor of Faces of Loss and International Creativity Month, I am giving away one of my mizuko jizo meditation paintings. This is a 4″x 6″ watercolor painting on 140 lb. cold-pressed paper.

To enter, please leave a comment to tell me how art has played a role in your grief, whether it is looking at or doing art.

Entries will be accepted until Tuesday, January 31st and a winner will be announced on the Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope Facebook page on Wednesday February 1st.

–Angie M. Yingst

 

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Comments

  1. I’ve never been very creative. After iI met a number of you in this community it has really challenge me to see if I have an inner creative self. Im nervous to explore something that I’ve never been very good at before but I feel like I have so much to say….I think I might be more nervous to open up that box inside me where I keep all the raw emotion of max’s death…..maybe if it comes out on a canvas I can find a way to make it beautiful <3 maybe getting it out of my body is will help me heal……

  2. curlsofred says:

    You were a huge inspiration to me after Lyra died. I’m glad you share this aspect of grieving and creating and loving with others. It’s encouraging and your work is beautiful.

  3. Sarah says:

    I shop for art on the 21st of every month. Art that expresses my feelings overall that month. Almost 2 years worth of feelings are scattered on the walls of our first floor staircase. The peices I chose the first few months following Parkers death are the darkest, mostly blacks an greys. Now they have much more yellows and greens.
    I love your works, and your writings!

  4. Sara says:

    I can’t really say how art has had a role in my grief; I simply don’t have much interest in creating art without words. But I wanted to say that mizuko jizou played a huge role in helping me gain some closure. My daughter was stillborn in Japan, where I met and married my American husband. She was given a traditional Japanese cremation. One week later, on her due date, we went to Hasedera, a temple in the city of Kamakura, which has an area set aside for memorial mizuko jizou statues. We purchased one for our Lauren; her statue will remain with the others – hundreds of others – for two years, and her name will be read in the sutras dedicated to Kannon-sama, the main deity of the temple. It was a beautiful and very meaningful act for my husband and myself.

    • Michelle White says:

      Art, Art, Art. I LOVE it. I always have. I wanted to go to art school as much as I wanted to go into the beauty industry but I chose the later. I am STILL suffering from perfectionitis and terminal self- consciousness, ( I LOVE YOUR CHOICE OF WORDS!) probably more now than before I lost my daughter. I have visions in my head of what I want to paint and sculpt but something stops me. No, I am afraid to even start. When I have painted, oh I feel so free. I feel so connected to her and the greif in ways I cannot put into words. I love reading what you write, and I love your watercolors! You are such an inspiration to me!

  5. Beth says:

    You said this: “Lucy’s death gave me the permission to just be myself through art, writing and craft. She gave me a confidence in the authenticity of my feelings. It is her gift to me, and my way of mothering her, which is truly mothering myself too.”

    and this: “My daughter died. I need to paint.”

    Yes and yes and yes.

    For me, art has been a safe way to express my many ugly feelings since Eve died. But I, too, get tangled up in perfectionism, so it’s been interesting to see both that AND my art changing since her death. I feel more open to creating something that isn’t perfect or pretty. As long as it’s real and true to my feelings, then I can see it as good, no matter what it actually looks like. And, interestingly, the art I’ve made since Eve died has resounded with more people than the more carefully calculated pieces I made before her death.

  6. Art and music get me through life. Both have major parts in my life. Even more since Calypso died. Some days I need to create something, somehow. Be it painting, clay, music. Somehow I need to get emotions out and I do it through art and music

  7. Stephanie says:

    How is it that every time I read your words, I feel like I could have written them myself! I swear, we would be best buddies and friends if we lived close enough for me to just pop in and hang out.

    I love your words, the chains of imagery that you form with each beautiful line. You have so much talent and such a gift for expression in so many forms! And I would love your work to hang in my studio! In fact, I am just gonna PM you in a sec. with an idea of mine:)

  8. Anne says:

    After the loss of my two sons 7 weeks ago, I began a journal documenting the days spent in shock, the tremendous grief and the experience of what had happened. I had never in my life written in a journal, thinking what I wrote had to be perfect and jufding myself too harshly. In my grief, the need to write was overwhelming. The words poured out of me and I wrote without thinking about it. Looking back, those words have brought so much comfort to me. It is part of my journey through this new life. But more than that, it is part of the life of my sons Wren and Noah. They are not with us on earth but we celebrate their lives every day and remember they joy they. brought us. A dear friend gave us a beautiful painting she had done. It is a winter scene of a path through the woods. In it are two bright spots, the spirits of my sons…it is hanging in our bedroom, where I see it first thing in the morning and last thing at night. It is a beautiful and constant remembrance of our sons.

  9. Anne says:

    The day after the loss of my twin boys, Wren and Noah, I began writing in a journal. I felt an overwhelming need to release what was inside of me, to try to make some sense of the tragedy. I had never before written in a journal, thinking what I wrote had to be perfect and judging myself to harshly. I wrote about the pain, confusion and tremendous sadness I was experiencing. I also wrote about the joy that these two boys had brought us and the love we felt for them. The words poured out of me and I wrote without thinking, no second guessing or judging the words as not perfect. They were perfect because of their honesty. Over the last seven weeks, the journal has brought me comfort, both in continuing to write in it as well as rereading what I have written. The loss of my sons has become a part of who I am and who I will always be. The journal is also part of the lives of my sons, a way to remember their short lives and a way to celebrate who they were and will always be in our family. A dear friend gave us a painting following our loss. It is a beautiful winter scene of a path through the woods. In it are two bright spots…the spirits of our sons. It hangs in our bedroom, a beautiful remembrance of two very special boys.

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