Sometimes You Get To Do One Worthwhile Thing
A friend from back in the BBS days recently posted a photo of the Names Quilt panel of his very dear and still very deeply missed friend. It reminded me of something I need to keep close to my heart whenever I wonder if my art work matters much at all in the grand scheme of things, and why should I even bother. I was given the task of designing that panel, after the passing away of the one it was to be in tribute to. His name was Chip.
I was not as close to Chip as the friend who brought me the work, and I was deeply honored he even thought I would be up to the task. His friend made a few suggestions as to how to proceed, gave me some needed pieces to start with. I thought about it, about the person it was for, and about all his friends, and their love. What I was being asked to create was a pretty simple design, but I was afraid of getting it all wrong. Chip was much beloved in his circle of family and friends and I wanted more then anything to give them something that let them remember and heal.
There is an utterly non-verbal place inside where there are only feelings, and images that are feelings. I have no words to describe it…it’s just how that most creative part of the work happens. There are no words. I don’t even try to find words in there anymore. But there are images.
I drew a rough sketch and presented it for approval and the friend was so taken with it he insisted that was it and no more needed doing. He organized a gathering of Chip’s friends and the sketch was projected onto a canvas sheet and we all worked on it. I’d included a spot organic to the design where friends could sign their names, and perhaps leave their own memories, thereby completing it…making it the perfect tribute I alone never could. Basically all I did was create the setting. But it had to be something that put them instantly in mind of their friend, so all those feelings would come out of them, and they could do the rest, and make it their own. It worked. They put their own hands on it, and made it their tribute to their friend.
It’s part of the larger Names Project Quilt now. Time passes, the universe expands, and decades later that panel is still very much a place of remembrance and healing for Chip’s friends. It was a small enough task, but I will never feel as though I’ve ever done anything more worthwhile with my talents, such as they are. All artists want recognition. But even more what we want is to touch hearts, and maybe, if we’re good enough, lift them up a little. I can go to my own grave knowing my art was able to do it that one time when it was needed. Just a little sketch, but it did its work.
“All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being not just with my hands but with my heart.”
-Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me