Solitary Metamorphosis

December 17th, 2012

Along with many people across the U.S. and around the world, I’ve been having a really hard week in the wake of the Newtown, CT murders. News of war and atrocities is nothing new, but this particular event is so horrifying that it’s sticking with me no matter how hard I try to distract myself from it. As a parent of small children, I can hardly bear to even contemplate what the bereaved parents are feeling. Even while purposely avoiding the news, the past few days have felt heavy and dark to me. There’s a persistent pain in my heart.

So I’ve been seeking comfort, which leads me to my thoughts about the painting I just finished.

I recently started a critique group for painters that will meet monthly. We just had the first meeting last week in my home. It was lovely to share ideas with other artists and get several other sets of eyes. It gave me some things to think about as I move forward with this series. The other artists went away from it feeling the same boost in their creative purpose.

Anyway, during the critique session I showed the group my new Cosmic painting in progress. They said it evoked feelings both of loneliness and peace.

My interpretation: The loneliness comes from feeling tiny and insignificant in the vast empty universe. The peace comes from knowing that even though you’re tiny, you’re part of the whole and it’s part of you. (As Carl Sagan said, “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”)

Later, as I finished the painting, I was mulling over the concept of finding peace in loneliness. It occurred to me that all changes people make in the world always, without exception, begin as a stirring of change within themselves.

When the outside world is so ugly and I feel completely helpless, one of the best things I can do is to go inward and work on myself. I can try to be a slightly better person than I was yesterday, stopping negative thoughts before they take over and cultivating loving kindness in myself in this moment. It may not seem like much, but it’s something concrete that I can do right now, and its net gain is positive.

The painting is finished now. I titled it “Solitary Metamorphosis.”

Solitary Metamorphosis. 36" x 24", Oil on Canvas, © 2013 Cedar Lee

Solitary Metamorphosis. 36″ x 24″, Oil on Canvas, © 2013 Cedar Lee

This painting is full of movement. I find it comforting that an illustration of movement on a cosmic scale can be analogous to shifts within my own mind and spirit. The big picture, however humbling in its infinite void, can be comforting when you consider that you are not separate from everything else–you and the rest of the universe are one and the same. I’m not sure if that makes personal introspection and growth utterly pointless, or all the more important, but either way I feel comforted by the idea.

starstuff

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