For many months, my friend Miranda Field and I visited Saskia and her mother, Elise, at Saskia’s beautiful apartment near the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. After one of our last visits, when we knew we might not ever see Saskia again, I felt panicky not knowing where she was going. That’s the impossible thing life asks us to accept, that a beloved person will eventually be emphatically gone. The mind balks. I felt speechless at this grotesque prospect and writing was out of the question; I had nothing to say. So, I decided to paint a place for her to go, which sounds very sentimental, but that’s what I was thinking. I had some watercolor paints in the house that I didn’t know how to use; I’ve never made visual art before. Painting is not my bailiwick. The first painting felt very urgent, and since I did not know how to use the paints, I worked by intuition and feeling. The result is a mess, really. But whatever I know about poetry helped me finish it, and I knew that I would give the image to Elise, to help her locate Saskia when she needed to. The day Saskia died, the sky was yellow and orange from wildfires in Canada and it felt like the world was ending. I remember it so well. I “painted” all day that day, and then for weeks and weeks afterward, I couldn’t sleep at all. I was pretty manic; I made things I didn’t know how to make and that helped the worst days pass. Saskia was in pods, underwater, on boats, on rivers, in green glades, on strange shores; it was a way of keeping her close to earth, I think, inside it, not spun off into Nothingness. I tried to imagine the stages of her supposed “transformation.” We make-up Heaven and places like that for the dead; sometimes they reside above our heads, sometimes underground, we locate them behind the veil, in an incorporeal world, a world without matter. The paintings gave her death some materiality, some visual metaphors, because her not existing broke my brain. She gave me this gift, this interest in painting, and I feel she’s near when I am working. I still don’t know what I am doing, but I prefer this state to knowing, because that keeps me in poetry, and that means I’m with Saskia. I really hope this doesn’t sound pretentious; I have no misconceptions about the quality of these images, but they have helped me incorporate her death into my psyche some, the death of this truly special person who I loved very much.
The paintings and drawings are made from watercolor, charcoal, pencil, gouache, cold wax, and oil paint.