It's been over a year now since my dad passed away. Wow, the vibe of our property has really changed. Even after his first mild strokes, he continued to putter around the yard, fixing, patching, stacking, raking and mowing. There's no place he'd rather be than here, on this 5 acres of land at the end of a long country road. He was here with my mom as long as I knew him. In fact, he is still here in the drywall, every little piece of steel, the shop, every outbuilding, trail blazed and patch of grass.
We haven't planned a funeral. He died during covid, and gathering isn't a thing. Friends visit, but there's no ceremony yet, no closure. His ashes sit on our bookshelf in a plastic bag in a cardboard urn, hugged by a cedar box my husband pieced together.
I have been working through grief since the beginning. The way I process thoughts and emotions is through making art. It was the start of Inktober when dad died, so I kept painting. Art isn't really about the finished product, the money, or the likes. Don't get me wrong, I want people to see my work, but not only for those things. Sharing art is about community, understanding, empathy, giving, speaking to and inspiring others. My success is measured in how well I feel I have expressed myself, and how my work moves the people around me. I will roll along creating, regardless if it ends up in public; however, I've decided there's no better time to ask for an exhibit in this small town I call home. Vulnerability, authenticity, love and truth are needed now more than ever.
The following is an art proposal I have submitted to a local gallery:
Tangible Stories – Leslie Love
Foraged from 5 acres of land dubbed Song Farm, there’s endless flora and fragments to assemble a life story. My dad Ken, a machinist by trade, played drums in a band, hosted band practice in his humble recording studio, and gathered friends for annual music festivals on this property. Walking along the perimeter of the land, inspiration comes alive. There’s art wherever my father has rested his hands, his axe, and his drumsticks. Inks are made from rosehips boiled in the fire pit, along with rusty mordant remnants. Copper is salvaged from his shop and repurposed into a brilliant teal-blue paint. Hydraulic manuals are torn, and hand crafted into papers. His metal sculptures, poetry, and encouraging words are present here too, all fodder for more art.
On October 2nd, 2020, my father was having a stroke as I sat by his side. I knew, but I didn't know. We watched the Steller's Jays hanging from the sunflowers at my door, and he slurred his words. He looked proudly and out of breath, at the wood he had stacked for winter, for the last time. The next day he was gone.
I ask him for ideas now. He leads me to places to see art, and he brings opportunities my way.
Slides from the 1960’s and 70’s are projected and painted onto sheets of door skin salvaged from broken down trailers. Old photos are painted on 4’ x 3’ screen-printing screens, that his best friend left here for me to use. Eight broken shovels, a copper ring, and a Ford hubcap he saved, are used to construct a 4’ x 4’ sunflower. An old plastic bass drum skin covers a painting of an old family photo, just slightly blurring the image like a memory. Dad’s welding mask hangs on the wall and opens to reveal another nostalgic image from our past.
This exhibition is a collaboration put together by me and my late father, made tangible as I process my grief and the gifts he has passed down to me. This is a tribute to him.
Thank you for reading! And special thanks to Sarah Hill David for the encouragement, proofreading, and help putting this art proposal together. I couldn't have hit "send" without you!