Exploring The Leaving and the Left
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see in truth that you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
–Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
Soft and light in my hand, a letter written on handmade paper ripped so that it was unusable under the dull blade of my X-acto knife. Changing blades, I set down the knife and began gently sifting through the pile of letters before me. Already I had employed what I had found to be the most efficient process to distill the letters thus far, and I entrusted the next selection to the same process. I pick up a letter and read it as fast as I can. looking for a word or phrase that jumps out at me. And I find it. Let yourself be fooled by love. I read the surrounding words and immediately know that I have found the hand that fits the piece. Carefully, I lay over it the glass under which it will be displayed and begin cutting.
Initially, when I conceived of The Leaving and the Left, I thought that I had all of the love letters that had been given to me over the years. What’s more, I believed I had all of the breakup letters as well. Breakup letters isn’t the correct terminology, I guess. It’s the post-breakup letters. All of the breakups were done in person. All began amicably. Hurt and anger, bitterness and sadness, these emotions sullied the memory of something that was once beautiful. And not always my sadness or anger, sometimes it was theirs. As I began pawing through the box of letters, I was surprised to find none of the good-bye and good riddance letters at all. None. So I turned to my computer. And there they were. All of that post-processing. Done via email.
How interesting! When we are in love and life is wonderful and everything is beautiful, we spend lots of time trying to express those feelings of closeness and joy to the other person in delicately handwritten letters on special paper, with carefully chosen pens. The act of writing the letter itself is an expression of love, of intimacy. Yet once that love has shifted, the expression becomes cold and utilitarian. Distant and guarded. This, I decided, is a perfect illustration of the disconnect that occurs when love shifts.
My intention in embarking on this project almost a year ago was to honor those feelings of love, not in a nostalgic way, but in a way that says, Yeah, this was pretty amazing, this thing we shared. At the same time, I did not want to ignore the ugly and often difficult sentiments that were expressed once the love shifted away from romance and togetherness. And I say “shifted” because even in the most acrimonious breakup, one in which nasty words are exchanged, the intimacy that was once shared is infused into one’s life, and becomes a part of one that cannot be cut away, even with the most delicate and sharpest of scalpels. It becomes a part of us.
The feelings of intense love may fade, but they have been expressed and still exist somewhere out there in the ether. Also floating out there in the Universe are these bitter, rancorous feelings. Feelings that are just as valid and important as the I love yous and You mean the world to mes. Both feelings deserve to be honored, and the best way to do this is to honor them in the same space in time.
As things progress, expect to find more explorations of the project here. In the meantime, you can view some of the completed pieces and details of them over at my Flickr site [link]. If you are in the Missoula area, please be sure to stop by The Art Hang Up [link], where I have four of the pieces displaying (and for sale).