It’s lovely when an art piece returns. This encaustic to the left was one I created shortly after the death of my father and I sold it to some dear friends at an art show.
What I forgot to do was photograph this piece for my own records as I do with all my art. After months and months, my friend arrives at my door with my art. I polish it up (encaustics can create a “bloom” on the wax, so polishing with a lint-free cloth can shine the wax right up) and take a photo.
Now that I have this piece back — at least in its digital form — I am reminded of the moment that inspired the creation of this encaustic: a family of four at a dock at Lake Washington spreading the ashes of their beloved father and husband. And here I depict my brothers and I, my father’s three little birds, wondering what it means to let him go — let go of the ashes, let go of his physicality, let go of his presence and wisdom. How do you let go of “dad-ness”? What does it mean for a son to no longer have a father? What does it mean to a daughter to feel her father’s absence every day? Is there a way to cultivate “dad-ness” somehow, and in particular our dad’s essence?
The sun is breaking through the lake fog on this particular day in the art piece and Lake Washington turns very blue, as we watch his ashes float like clouded smoke and then disappear.
We watch everything change: the sky, the sun’s gentle angle on the water, the ashes’ slow descent, our bodies missing the touch of our father’ s hand on our shoulder to comfort us. I be sure to touch everyone–hand on shoulder, hand in hand, full-body hug–to replace what was missing: a father who would have known just what to do.