Art and Grief

Thanks to Kit for sharing this letter (January 18, 2011) from Robert Genn’s Twice-Weekly Letter.

Yesterday, Adrianne Moro of Curitiba, Brazil wrote, “I am very fond of your twice-a-week letter. But suddenly a new situation has taken me. It was the death of my grandfather. He was the most brilliant, loving, caring human being I’ve ever known. Since I lost him, I can’t work at my art and do not find a way to return to my daily routine in my studio. It’s been fourteen days now. Can you give me a word of advice in this situation?”

Thanks, Adrianne. During the time I’ve been writing these letters there have been thousands of emails from artists who have lost loved ones. Some went through a period of non-productive mourning for months or even years. Others, almost immediately, found an energetic return to work to be part of the healing process. Still others, I’m sorry to say, put down their tools forever. Noticing my actions when my own folks passed on a few years ago, I’ve given this matter some thought. I appreciate your question at this time. We’ve taken the liberty to put some of your collages at the top of the current clickback.

Just as life is a mystery, so is death. But there is one thing you need to think about, and that is to see your art from your grandfather’s point of view. He would not want you to delay your young life of creativity over the grief of his passing. He would want you to take continued joy in the universe while you have the breath and the energy. If he was a brilliant, loving, caring man, as you say, he would know that life has a purpose of enriching the lives of others. As an artist, you are uniquely positioned to do this. His passing is your gift; it is his breath you continue to breathe, and the brilliance that was within him is now passed on to you. It is a legacy not to be passed up.

We in the Brotherhood and Sisterhood of Artists need to be particularly aware of the continuum. Both alive and dead, we make our contribution. We, the living ones, are just the forward edge of the process. We have a responsibility not just to those who have gone before, but to those who will carry on after us. Do not drop your brush.

Best regards,


PS: “Life is a song… sing it. Life is a game… play it. Life is a challenge… meet it. Life is a dream… realize it. Life is a sacrifice… offer it. Life is love… enjoy it.” (Sai Baba)

Esoterica: My dad died three months after my mother. They were both in their nineties. About two months before my father died, he asked if I might bring him one of his half-finished paintings to work on. After a half hour of shaky stroking, he said, “Take it away, Bob, I’ve had it.” That was his last. It made me cry, but not him. After his death I gave myself a little show of his paintings. I examined them close up–his brushwork, his details, his odd choices of subject matter. We do indeed pick up where others leave off.


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