Rebirth: Death and Life through Art

Mary Woodul, Espíritu Ascendente, charcoal on Rives BFK, 13x19"
Mary Woodul, Espíritu Ascendente, charcoal on Rives BFK, 13×19″

Years ago a grandchild of a friend and student of mine died. The little girl wasn’t born right and was not destined to live past childhood. At that time Mary wanted to do a special project based on the little girl’s passing. I recall the concept started with a soft cloth with lace embroidery, and quickly a flower, an iris, was added. Mary drew 20 or so thumbnail sketches, tweaking each composition until she found the one that pleased her most.

The light was very important to the concept of the spirit ascending. The symbolism was that the beautiful yet fragile flower was seeking the light as flowers do and as do children. Unfortunately the iris wilts in about 30 minutes when it is laid under the light. And this project did not involve photography, it was to be drawn by direct perception of reality. The project took many hours. Mary created a kind of ritual, she would take a walk to the florist on her block and buy one iris, bring it home, continue the drawing until the iris wilted, and then go through the same process again, and again until the drawing was complete. I believe Mary shared the story with the florist.

Today is Easter, a symbol of death and rebirth. It is a beautiful thought that though the child passed away 14 or 15 years ago, she lives on in memory — and through a drawing that will always be alive.

Michael Newberry, Idyllwild, 4/12/2020

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