When I saw the news report of the Orlando nightclub shooting massacre on June 12, 2016, I was devastated by the loss. Forty nine people lost their lives. Forty nine people who went out for a night to dance, laugh, enjoy their friends and have fun, completely unaware that it would be their last night on earth. I’m an empath by nature, which means I feel….everything. I connect to the energies around me, even those at a long distance or viewed on television. When I witnessed the horror at the Pulse nightclub, I was overcome with emotion over the heart-wrenching loss. Rather than let the emotions and loss totally overwhelm me, I chose to channel the emotion into creating a piece of art that would honor the victims and help heal all those who were suffering from this loss, or any loss. Sadly, there were many additional tragedies following the Orlando shooting.
I scoured the internet to find the photos of all 49 victims. I found them and printed them out.
I selected a 24 x 36 inch canvas for the piece, so it could be both intimate and large enough to honor all 49. It was important for me to select collage papers, words and statements that I felt resonated with the 49 individuals and would, again, honor them. This is what I started with:
The creation process was intuitive based and I simply created from what felt right. I did not have a vision of the outcome – it grew organically. It took nearly 5 months to finish the piece as I patiently waited for all the guidance in the unfolding.
There was one aspect to the piece of which I was clear – you had to be able to see each of the 49 faces. They could have paint on them or running through them, but you had to be able to recognize them to celebrate them and not forget them.
It was clear from the beginning that bold colors were necessary – colors of the rainbow. Bold, vibrant, intertwined, incorporated, yet separate, free standing and significant. Each was part of the other and yet one unto itself. I used my studio door as a guide for the collage colors and energy. My door is a vibrant, passionate red. I painted the boldly colorful artwork that hangs on the door and carries the mandate to “Celebrate Life.” It was the perfect role model for the tribute piece.
It was important that the painting wasn’t merely on the surface; I wanted the colors to spill over the edge of the canvas.
It took weeks for me to figure out what wanted to be revealed in the top center of the piece. I thought it might have a statement to share, actual words, but none were clear. Then, clarity rang true. I created a heart and I added words of healing, love and celebration in different fonts and colors and layout. The words included: acceptance, humanity, soulful, freedom, heaven, caring, compassion, forgiveness, peace, sacred, spirit, empower, memories, kindness, hearts and heal.
I covered the words and heart with a crystal medium to give it rich texture and shine before adding a rainbow that I painted using acrylic paints. I wanted to make sure some of the words showed through the texture so people could read these words as well as experience the energy of the additional words which they could not see.
A piece of this magnitude deserved a special, intricate border. So I used a fiber paste medium and stenciled a raised, beautiful edging for each of the corners.
Then, she was complete. My goal was to have her finished by November 1 because I was selected to be the Featured Artist at the Art Gallery Napa Valley from November 1 – 15 and I wanted this to be the featured piece.
In this time of strife and loss, pain and suffering, questionable politics, raging world battles and loss of any scale, we need healing forces. We need beauty and celebration. We need light and power. We need to be reminded to accept others as they are and stop judging or expect “them” to be like “us.” We need to take a stand for what we believe in, at all costs. We need to have the courage to forgive and experience the peace that follows. The forgiveness does not just extend to others, to those who have wronged us, but to ourselves.
Extend to the rest of humanity the same consideration. Hatred of the offender is the same energy that fed the offender and fueled him. True humanity, true compassion, true love is to find that modicum of forgiveness when your soul screams its desire to hate. We cannot overcome all the evil, all the hatred, all the violence, with our own hatred and anger over the loss. We must find a way within ourselves to rise above and and be a part of the healing; to access compassion and share love. This is the message of my tribute piece to the Orlando victims and my heartfelt desire that it can be heard.
Proceeds from the sale will be donated to LGBTQ Connection. LGBTQ Connection is the first community-based initiative developing a healthy, diverse and inclusive community driven by youth and emerging LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning) leaders in both Napa and Sonoma counties. If you are interested in the piece, please contact me.