OMG, WATER. Or, Nothing lasts forever.

MaryChenMary Chen, Life of2 Comments

So, you know, from the “better safe than sorry” files, juuuuuust in case this Irene storm gets through my windows, I’m going through my house and bringing any treasured art into the upstairs windowless hallway to hang out for a few days.

I just pulled Becky’s portrait of Mars off the wall above the mantel downstairs. It’s nice to get up close to it, get physical with it, especially since I so rarely do so. By the way, I never told you that Becky was posthumously in an exhibit at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. It was super, super exciting to see her paintings up there and very easy to picture and feel her presence, standing in a corner, holding a glass of white wine and blushing/laughing.

It was also not too shabby to see Mars’ face hanging at the Smithsonian, and Chi’s and Jim’s and Rose’s and Andrew’s and Kathryn’s and Tanya’s and Isaac’s.

It was such a thrill when it happened, and the exhibit was so long, it felt like those paintings would be on display, reaching all those brand new audiences forever. But the months passed like months do and then it was over.

Anyway, as I’m putting this painting in my upstairs hallway, I start thinking about what exactly I’m trying to protect it from, and my thought process goes something like: I guess the worst-case scenario is that winds might blow my windows out? So this seems like decent protection. But then, isn’t the worst-case scenario flooding? OK, upstairs, still cool. But wait, in a flood, isn’t the problem that someone’s dryer floats away and breaks a gas line and then someone’s house explodes? I can’t really protect her from fire up here… maybe I should take her in my car. But no, the car is the LEAST safe place for her in flood conditions…

Basically, short of a bank vault, there’s nowhere to keep this painting and my attachment to it safe. In a bank vault, perhaps this painting could outlive me. Alone, silent, and unseen.

I hope not to ruin it. Lots of paintings survive a long long time without being locked up in vaults, and I want this one to. But if, in the worst-case scenario, it disappeared from my life in an explosion of sadness… what else would be new. You know? It would go away as things do.

It’s so funny how impermanence continues to smack me in the face, even though it’s constantly everywhere all the time surrounding us and inside our very material. It’s like if I were a fish in the ocean, going, “OMG, WATER!” all the time.

I feel like this happens not infrequently. And every time I have one of those moments of “wait, this isn’t foolproof, and neither is this, oh wait, nothing is” and I have no choice but to surrender to that possibility, I experience this tiny spark of letting go. And it doesn’t feel bad or despairing, it feels… relaxing. I wonder if the tiny relaxing sparks will ever catch and ignite.

And I hope this painting is far away if they ever do.

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