Wednesday, June 13, 2018

My Art... Is my Armor

My life... like everyone's has had its fair share of challenges... disappointments and losses. I would offer that in each case, I have always felt able to "right my ship" and recover through involving myself in my art. I have always felt that the process of creating art was therapeutic... even healing on many levels for me. There is unquestionably a deeply spiritual and meditative connection within me that permits me to "slip the surly bonds of earth"... and to rise up.

Just this week our family were invited to be part of an unveiling of one of my larger Venetian oil paintings by the Art History Department at Queen's University. I had previously gifted the painting to be unveiled on this occasion to my now deceased daughter Allison. It had hung in her office at the university until shortly before her passing.

Shortly after her death, the Art History Department had inquired about the possibility of their acquiring it. Their intent was to have it hung in the graduates' lounge where it could remain as a constant reminder of Allison's presence in the very place where she had spent most of her academic life.

At the end of her academic career at Queen's she was acting chairman/counsellor for new graduate students in Art History coming to pursue their studies at Queen's. As well, she organized and taught at the Venice Summer School Program conducted in Venice, Italy. So it seemed to me appropriate that it should be returned to that space permanently.

The event was such an appropriate and moving tribute and honor hosted by the University. The fact that it was held in the lounge immediately following the convocation of her final Phd students made it all the more special. The gathering drew together several of these students along with several of Allison's teaching mentors and peers... our family members and a few selected close friends.

Several of us were invited to speak after the actual unveiling. Following the ceremony refreshments and  more conversations and fellowship followed. The day recognized and spoke of the power of Allison's generous gifts... and her continuing presence in our lives. I truly felt her presence...

The use of one of my paintings in such a setting and in such a fashion where it would continue to serve as a reminder of Allison's presence and accomplishments offered me the greatest feeling of satisfaction and pure Joy. This is an example of how such an instance and involvement of my art cloaks my spirit in a sort of of armor. I departed from this occasion uplifted and deeply proud that my art and Allison's gift became one... that it was entwined with her love of Venice.

                              "La Serenissima (The Serene) at the Molo, Venice" - oil on canvas 36x36 inches

Joan and I along with the painting and plaque dedicated to Allison's Memory and contributions

                               Allie's Family... her loving Brother Andrew and Mom and Dad

Armor... and Allies

I wish to conclude this late posting by dedicating this post to an artist friend in recognition of her generously unbelievable "Heart" gifts to our family. Though I have yet to actually meet her face-to-face, my blogging friend Suzanne Berry and I have shared  a rare friendship and spiritual connection.

Shortly after I completed my portrait of Allison and from out of nowhere...  Suz reached out to me and asked if she might "have the honor of painting a portrait of Allison as a child or young girl. " I conferred with Joan and we selected five pictures of Allison that we particularly loved.

A short three weeks later, a parcel landed on my doorstep from Suzanne which contained... TWO equally magnificent and touching portraits of Allison... one for each of us. What she was able to capture twice over... was the very essence of what Allison was throughout her life - inquisitive... searching... reflective and ever in touch with the world that she loved and lived in so fully.

                                               "Allison's Garden" - canvas 18x24 inches

                                                        "Little Dancer" - 24x18 inches

I will leave you to arrive at your own conclusions to enjoy as we do... the gift with which Suzanne was able to produce in each of these two painting portrait masterpieces. The nuances of tone... and the reality of each as she designed it... flawless and intuitively brilliant!

Joan fell in love with "Little Dancer"... and I was more than happy and satisfied to have Allison in her Garden to live with me...

I salute the magnificence of your painting skills and gifts Suz. But even more... I reach out respectfully and with love to you for the generosity and caring that you have offered our family. Rich blessings... to you always! Our deepest thanks!!!

Love and Hugs,


  1. A gift from the heart! Such a touching gift and how thoughtful that she would create two paintings.... I have had the privilege of meeting Suz through her blog. She is a warm and talented soul....much like yourself!

    Your painting is beautiful. How wonderful that Allison’s painting...and memory...will live on at Queen’s

    All the very best, Bruce!

  2. Hi again Wendy Allison!.... Yes... all true! Suz is indeed as special as a person... as her art gift that she shares so generously ... clearly demonstrates.

    Having such a caring circle of blogging friends (yourself included) has been such a blessing and a healing force for me.

    Thank you for your presence Wendy!

    Warmest regards,

  3. Oh my I am sure you were more than grateful to have such lovely portraits of your daughter Allison. What a wonderful gift from such a talented artist. Also your painting of Venice is stunning Bruce. Thanks for such a beautiful post. Hugs!

    1. Hello again Debbie!... Thank you for your continued uplifting presence and compliments! Suzanne's gifts reach so far beyond what one could ever imagine possible... from a Friend... that I have yet to meet face-to-face.

      Our relationship hers... and yours... and mine demonstrate ever so clearly the power that Art has to bring people together in the greatest example of humanity and generosity.

      I am deeply blessed to have you ... Suz and others as part of my "Family" circle!

      Rich blessings... and warmest regards back to you and yours!

  4. How wonderful to give this reminder to the school where Allison made such an impression + to receive these gifts from a fellow artist! Amazing how art holds us together in times when everything else tries to push us apart. Have a wonderful summer and remember to see the muses all around you :)

    1. Hi Rhonda... As each day passes... I discover more and more rich examples and more meaning in Allison's brief life and work. She and I were drawn spiritually together in many areas... but none stronger than our love for Art and teaching.

      Strangely... our family has been more tightly and mightily drawn together by her tragic passing. Though physically missing... her spiritual presence seems even stronger to me.

      Thank you for being one of those Muses Rhonda - the power of your presence and gift of friendship means so much to me. Thank you!

      Rich Blessings! Have a great summer!

  5. Good Evening Bruce,

    What wonderful gifts from Suzanne, and how brave of her I think: to create something so personal and for it to reflect so well your memories of Allison, shows real talent. These pieces, and your painting at the University, show the true 'value' of art.

    All the best,

    1. Hi Keith!... Thank you for your astute evaluation of the value of Art ... as a mortar to mend cracks and to fill gaping holes!

      Suz and I have an interesting art/spiritual "connection" that stretches a ways back, but that's a story for another day... and perhaps for her to reveal... should she wish to.

      I will treasure her gifts... and our friendship forever... as I do yours my Friend!

      Warmest regards,

  6. I love the paintings of your daughter! What a wonderful gift and what a good friend Suzanne is! Hanging your beautiful painting at the university is the perfect tribute to Allison.
    Kindest regards,

    1. Hi Candy!... Welcome to my blog! Suz and her gifts are magnificent and generous samples of her character and her artistry. She is very special ... in so many ways!

      We have both suffered catastrophic losses... and are each of us working our way through acceptance and working through our separate and different losses.

      However... we have been fortunate to discover each other along the way through our common love and passion for people and art. And those things have made all of the difference for us in learning to trust and believe in something larger than ourselves.

      She has been a great blessing in my life!

      Wishing you all of the best. Thanks for visiting and for your helpful comments! Do visit again!

      Warmest regards,

  7. My dear wonderful friend,

    Thank you so much for you very kind words, but it is I who wish to thank you, again, for allowing me the honor of painting your beloved Allison.

    When your incredibly kind, generous and totally unexpected gift of the amazing portrait of my Tim arrived, not too long after his sudden and unexpected passing in 2012 at the age of 44–I was completely surprised and so so incredibly grateful for your thoughtfulness and kindness. I was overwhelmed and so grateful.

    When I look at that painting today I'm taken back to the moment I opened the package and how it made me feel to not only see his image so beautifully and tenderly painted but the fullness of the support and love from someone I had never even met!

    Little did we know that there would come an opportunity for me to be able to return the gift of love and comfort. I just hope that my paintings of Allison provided some comfort, the comfort that your painting of Tim has helped me cope with his loss.

    I look at it every single day.

    We are united in creativity and loss. We are not alone. The one thing I've learned over the last 6 years is that Tim hasn't gone anywhere. Love is content–not form. The form may not be there to see but the content is forever.

    Thank you Bruce and much love to you and your family,

    1. Dear Fiend Suz... Your words here are as comforting and so well crafted that they defy adequate comparison or further description. Every word is much like a single, but precisely and carefully placed brushstroke. And the "painting" is simply complete.

      Being suddenly alone due to unexpected loss leaves one with any ability to act... or worse... to hope that tomorrow will ever bring change.

      You are so very right Suz. I feel the same way about Allison. She walks beside me each and every day... encouraging me to be the best I can be... and to paint!

      "Love is content - not form."... so beautifully expressed.

      I would like to leave you with some thoughts for today Suzanne. They are not my words. They are the words of a hero that Allison I adored... right back to the time that you captured in your portraits.

      Mr. Fred Rogers offers this thought in his wonderful collection of wisdom and friendship:

      When I say that "It's you I like," I'm talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything that you can see nor hear or touch... that deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which mankind cannot survive: love that conquers hate , peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.

      So in all that you doin all of your life, I wish you the strength and grace to make those choices which allow you and your neighbour to become the best of whoever you are.

      Suz...I believe that you and I walk that very same pathway together... and never alone because we practise that same ministry on a daily basis.

      I am honored to share your camino with Tim and Allie!

      Rich blessings, love and gratitude,

    2. Thank you dear Bruce. Beautifully put! We may stumble at times on our shared path, but we keep moving forward with them and as you said, we honor Tim and Allison.

      I had no idea Mr. Rogers was so incredibly cool! Thank you for this, I'll be saving it!

      Much Love,

    3. Dear Suz... Exactly the right words to describe our common pilgrimage. Human existence like art... cannot exist except through experiencing our passage through the darker and lighter sides of life.

      It is only through the stumbling that we discover "Others" sharing the same path... whose courage and generous spirit encourage us to move forward with renewed vigor and Faith.

      Some of these like spirits... though we may never actually meet them... rekindle our resolve to continue... in tha full knowledge that we are not alone... ever... in the darkest of moments!

      We are "Dreamers"... for certain... but "we are not the only ones!" HA HA!

      Here is such an example passed to me yesterday by a young woman customer on a carefully created laminated strip in her own handwriting.

      During our conversation we discussed our common hurts. She came back today to present these two strips of wisdom and asked me if I would keep them. I assured her that I would do better than that for her.

      I was so moved by her spirit... and the words that I wish to share them here with you... and anyone else who might care to understand.

      "in the midst of winter... i finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."
      -Albert Camus

      I have another strip to share Suz... but that is a story for another day... or separate email connection!

      Rich blessings, much love and good painting,

  8. In my absence from blogging i have missed the connections and sharing of our lives. It saddened me deeply to hear of your daughter, Allie. A loss such as this does shatter our worlds. Children are not supposed to go before us. But we weather the storm and once the sting of grief departs beauty arrises from the ashes. Friendships, gifts of portraits, a painting to remain in the university honouring your daughters presence there and a reminder of the amazing person she was, the influences she had. Art then is so much more than just a painting sometimes. I agree with Suzanne. Love is "content" and not "form". Our departed loved ones enter into our days, their love embracing, touching and comforting.

    My sister died from cancer a month ago and my surviving sister is struggling greatly. I always struggle in times like this to find the right words. I said, "imagine if we all lived forever", what then would be special or worthy? Because we know at some distant time there will be an end, we savour our days, face difficulties with strength and cherish special memories. There cannot be life without death. Be well my friend. Thank you for your art and your presence here in blogger land. :)
    Oh, and my thoughts for my surviving sister didn't help her. That is okay too. Each one grieves differently. She will be okay.

  9. Hi Ross... Thank you for visiting and for sharing your supportive words and your own journey through grief. There are no words to take away the deep sense of loss and bewilderment that floods one's being when we lose someone close to us.

    There is no "getting over grief"... only getting through it with the support of family and friends who understand and care for us. Offering our presence so that those grieving do not feel isolated or alone is the greatest gift we can offer.

    Thank your for your always reassuring and positive presence... and your wonderfully lyrical art.

    I offer my sincere condolences to you and all members of your family.

    Rich blessings of peace,strength and courage.