“Because faith, belief, forever are only words, no matter. Because matter disappears, always and eventually.” Excerpt from After Words, by Kimberly Blaeser
After over a decade, I met a friend who was just starting out on an IVF journey while I had just come out on the other side with a new baby. We are friends in faith from a long time ago with paths so intertwined that it seemed apt that I find her again. Her journey turned out to be long and tumultuous- filled with love, laughter, loss and longing- like most such journeys are. I know she is stronger for it and I know her faith is going to make the world a better place.
After her baby boy passed away, she was gifted a rainbow child and she asked me make her a artwork to commemorate her story- a story with heartbeats and daimoku, a story with angels and lotuses, a story with one chapter that ended too briefly and another song that came shortly after.
Dear Smish, Alex, Anik and Avi- May this visual depiction of color, line and memories bring you joy in the everyday!
It is always frightening to embark upon a commissioned piece, especially with first time collectors. The expectations are high, the boundaries unclear and the guidelines not always well defined. But this is a success story- for all those artists out there who hate commissions- this one was fantastic and it makes me realize that there are reasons it worked and I want to document both the journey and these reasons.
My representative introduced me to the Talanki’s- a couple with three lovely girls in their gorgeous home in Lincoln Park, Chicago. It was clear upfront that they were drawn to my work and they wanted a centerpiece for their amazing living room. Talking to more made me realize what they were about, get a sense of their home and come up with some initial ideas. The next meeting to firm up the details was in my home-studio. Bonding over my beautiful hydrangeas and the joy of working with our hands- we sealed the deal- set approximate timelines (After all I am an artist- I can only give a range of when I can get it done by- not a date!!) and I promised to start work on it while I went to India for 1 month for a solo show- but before that we set a photo shoot date, where I would take some shots of the girls. The work had to integrate the center of their universe into it.
Photo day- an incredible afternoon, spent singing, dancing, playing sketching games- amidst smiles and tears, eating home-made granola and cookies and admiring snowglobes- I got acquainted with the three evolving personalities. I ended up with over 200 shots and a lot of ideas that I had about a month to ruminate over. Several ideas and sketches later, I knew what I wanted the work to be about. A lot of the ideas were being developed while I was in India getting ready for a solo show and struggling with the concept of maternity.
Coming back to Chicago- we finalized the details over email and I shared some sketches with them and started on the piece a few weeks later. It was amazing how quickly the ideas and forms took shape. There were some corrections, deletions, changes that happened along the way but a visit from an artist friend helped point out the problem areas that I was ‘stuck’ in and why the piece wasn’t working. Fresh creative perspective that came in at the right time- the benefits of a wonderful creative community.
Delivery day was full of trepidation and anticipation. We had a friend drive us over in his van- the unveiling was sweet, the tears genuine and the words spoken- I will cherish forever. The oldest daughter read out the poem from my sketchbook titled “Roots and Wings” and the girls exclaimed how much they loved it. I gave her a pen drive with the pictures from the photoshoot, the images of me at work on the piece and a sketchbook with ideas and drawings to accompany the history of the work.
It was a day that validated my choice of career in a myriad of ways and left me with a memory of an experience that I will cherish for a long time to come.