Living in Both Worlds, acrylic on canvas 16′ x 20′, Cat Charissage (c) 2020

Hello dear Friends,

I know I’m not the only one who is weary of covid-19 and the restrictions needed to bring transmission rates lower, but at least I have time to paint! This is another donated old canvas that needed about 4 coats of gesso before I could paint my own painting over it. It had a lot of textured paint on it, with a very strongly textured line horizontal line almost 1/3 of the way from the top edge. I thought I would use the canvas as an experimental abstract painting, and I wish I had photographed the first few iterations of the painting. Nothing seemed to be working, though I did like the blue-green layers where the figure’s head is now. I had used a thin brush to draw a curving line over the colors I had laid down, and then realized that I had inadvertently drawn a profile of a face. I decided to go with it, and the painting became more figurative than abstract.

photographed on a slant to made the golden hair more visible.

The woman’s face seemed to be peering into our world from another world, and the roses painted themselves. I think I was thinking of the stories of Our Lady of Guadalupe and how in the midst of a gloomy winter, when Juan Diego brought the image of the Lady on his tilma (cloak) to the bishop, asking for a church to be built where the Lady had appeared to him, fresh roses fell out of the tilma onto the floor. It was the miracle, after three visits to the bishop, that convinced the bishop that Juan Diego actually had seen Our Lady.

That image appeals to me — the promise of roses in the middle of winter; the promise of blessings coming when so needed in the bleakest of times. With the division of the canvas into sections by the previous textured paint, I saw the red roses as coming from the other world, almost in potential, then being transformed as they take on full definition in this world. To me, this somehow portrays how we live in this everyday world at the same time as we live in a spiritual world, and sometimes the worlds leak into each other in surprising ways. My teacher and mentor, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, speaks often of those of us who endeavor to live consciously in both worlds at once, and I like to think that beauty and blessings and goodness can move back and forth between realities.

Living in Both Worlds hair detail, acrylic on canvas 16′ x 20′, Cat Charissage (c) 2020

Her hair is made up of DNA Strands of the “Living in Both Worlds” life, and is filled with stars, symbols, messages in code. When one lives in both worlds at the same time, life is blessed with golden light, though sometimes we don’t see the light as it flows behind us, benefiting those who are around us, even if we can’t see it ourselves.

Living in Both Worlds, white rose detail, Cat Charissage

This painting symbolizes much for me: making something new from a canvas meant for the garbage, starting out with one intention but going in another direction when seeing something new (seeing the face profile), DNA strands encoding instructions for life, blessings with elements from many stories (the roses). Even the White Rose has more symbolic reverberations, as it was the name of a student movement of young people in World War II Germany who protested the Nazi regime. Sophie Scholl, her brother, and several others were executed for their activities, but live on as examples of the courage to speak truth in oppressive times.

Sometimes, though, one just can’t explain it all in words. If I could have, I wouldn’t have needed to paint it.

Happy New Moon, this week before the Solstice when for those of us in the northern hemisphere the sun comes back. After Dec. 21, each day will have just a little bit more sunlight, bringing us out of the cold and snow into a new planting season. I hope you can take a few days between now and the new year to rest, hibernate, reflect.

Much love and many blessings to each of you,

Cat