This week, my Uncle Jeff died.
I suppose he had to do it sometime – we all do – but he was pretty young, and I wasn’t ready. Besides, he’s too close in age to my father to be going anywhere. He didn’t have permission. He didn’t call ahead.
As the initial shock started to fade, I searched around my living room for something to distract me amidst the painful phone calls and texts that inevitably follow such a loss. To my surprise, I started grabbing vintage bottle stoppers – some of them from my own collection, ones that I had never planned to touch or sell. Maybe I wanted to take things that were dear to me and give them new life. Maybe I just wanted to forget my grief, mash clay between my fingers, play with paint.
Either way, I knew within seconds that I needed to turn this vintage head into Shakespeare:
This couple, however, gave me pause. They’re pretty fantastic because a) they’re completely adorable; and b) they have a lever on the back that makes them smooch:
I considered making them into Henry & Anne, but I wanted a couple with slightly less violence, cruelty, and death in their relationship. It finally hit me: Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera. Yes, they cheated on each other, but they also loved each other deeply. After Frida died, Diego realized that “the most wonderful part of my life had been my love for Frida.” In honor of that love – and to remind us to honor love now to avoid regret at the end – I spent much of Thursday on these two.
In the days ahead, these two will be worked into a 3D mixed media piece featuring a segment of that quote: “the most wonderful part of my life had been my love.” Shakespeare will get a shrine, too, as will the others I’ve been smashing and painting.
There are still no details about a service for Uncle Jeff, but I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about him while I made these pieces, with the result that the people themselves will forever be associated with him in my mind. Uncle Jeff. William Shakespeare. Uncle Jeff. Frida & Diego. Uncle Jeff, mind you, would probably find that exceedingly strange, and not a little unwarranted. That’s okay, though. We grieve the way we live: In our own ways.