“Storms over Superstition” Acrylic on Panel, 30x30x2, $1300.
One of the things I miss most about our Santa Fe house, was watching the thunderstorms build over the mountains then move through the valley: Beauty, movement, power and light displayed against the seeming solid, solitude of the mountains. In my most recent painting, the gathering storm is set above Superstition Mountain near Phoenix. While we are fascinated by their beauty and mystery in the skies, we try to avoid “storms“ at all cost in our lives. We might be missing something according to Victor Frankl, holocaust survivor and renowned author of “Yes to Life, in spite of everything,” a book my wife and I are currently reading.
First, trying to avoid the unavoidable, is a fools errand, distracting us from embracing the mystery, beauty and meaning of actual life. Storms/ suffering are just as much a part of life as rainbows or birthday parties. In fact, our deepest commitments and values are often clarified in the stormy times. Frankl cites the example of the English boy scout awarding their annual achievement award to three terminally ill boys who "endured their burdensome fate with bravery and dignity (p.39)" Second, these "storms" actually form the rock solid foundation upon which such bravery or true beauty is built, much as these storms shape the magnificent cliffs and rock formations of the desert southwest. Third, and most importantly, the choices we make in the worst of times, affirm that all of life is indeed meaningful. Even a Nazi death camp could not destroy the ultimate majesty and mystery of the gift of life. Saying yes to all of life, in a thousand different ways in a thousand different days, gives us a reason to get up face the next day with freedom, dignity and purpose, no matter what it brings.
I often figure out why I paint something after it is done. The enormous suffering of the Ukrainian people in the face of unbelievable evil, is on full display daily and echos the horrors Europe endured in the last century. Yet the courage, defiance, commitment and love of the Ukrainian people is also on full display for all to see in their Yes to Life, in the face of death. Like a mighty mountain, they stand as an example of true love for of us who take these freedoms for granted in this century.