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Loss and Laughter

I’m drawn to sad songs. I call them Canteloupe dog songs. You know, melancholies or ‘Melon Collies.” I explain this on stage between songs and it usually gets a groan, but it’s still true. I love a sad song — and yet in my visual art I’m compelled to create whimsy and humor.

Why the dichotomy?

First I want to think about sadness and loss for a minute. I think since we’ve all suffered loss, there’s a feeling that people will understand and identify with ones expression of sadness. For one who is young, the losses may be minor but the feelings are stronger, possibly because that feeling is so new. The older one is, the greater the losses, but also the greater the understanding that life piles on the losses over time. So we sing to that–our voices rise in harmonic sadness, noble in the acceptance of what is now gone from us. I don’t welcome the losses. Yet we sing to the truth of what we’ve lost and how that feels.

In one of my new favorite songs, John Gorka writes, “It’s tough before the aftermath, waiting for the sky to rain.” To me this is so true — it’s when you realize that there will be an aftermath that shock sets in, and you may be waiting for rain – for the tears to come along and then the rain that washes the pain and sorrow away. While waiting for the rain, your chin curls down into your chest, drawing into itself like a pill bug, protecting the soft inner core with your spine – the only hard shell you have on your body besides fingernails. You live with the loss, and then time and acceptance come in and feel like sheep’s wool on a cold Northwest winter day. This is when life starts to open up again – it goes back and forth. Open a little, then close up. Smile then sadness, comfort and forgetting.

ThoughtfulAnd now let’s think about the whimsy and humor in the art I make. Well, I suppose that’s the yin/yang of life. I think the humor comes directly out of the sadness.

These actors. I know exactly where they come from, and I’m excited to see where they are going. More often funny than sad, they usually have names with some humor or word play. For example, there were the twins: Illuminaughty and Illuminice. I don’t have fully formed stories for each, but that’s OK, they are meant to carry meaning to the One who takes them home. Each person who claims an actor can cast them in a play of their own making. The meaning comes as the play unfolds.

Both art and music may be a way of working through some issue, and BOTH are good for that. Or it may simply be to make a smile in my day. A painting or a song are often a reminder of someone dear – someone who used to laugh with us, or someone who still laughs with us.

I have a friend who finds deep meaning in the most common of things. She finds spiritual solace or guidance in the simplest things. She also makes her cat speak as if she’s a human and she says the most ridiculous things. I don’t do this with my cats, but I think I do with my actors. And what could be more fun?

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