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  • Writer's pictureMaurice Rubio-McMillon


The Vault Gallery, Paradox Exhibition

I haven't painted anything in a long while, not since before my great-grandmother died in July of 2022. The loss of her and the fact that I'm not exactly a great painter fuels my procrastination in the artform, but a call for art from the St. Lucie Cultural Alliance kicked me into a motivated state.

The call coincided with the 3rd family death within the last year, the loss of my cousin, Bobbie Bright. She and I weren't particularly close throughout her lifetime, but for the last decade, she lived for stretches of time with us on the family estate. Her absence is felt.

Loss Makes Everyone A Saint

A funny thing happens when people die – at least for most of us – they become sanctified. While they live, we tend to focus on the negative aspects of our interactions, hold their past mistakes against them, and continue to judge them despite whatever challenges or difficulties they face that continue to keep them bound to their cycles. Then, they die, and suddenly people replace the negative interactions with good memories, forgive the deceased's past mistakes, and recognize the circumstances of their battles with understanding and empathy.

It's such an interesting phenomenon to me.

Only in their absence do we see the things that they needed us to see all along. The things that, if we had kept our focus on just long enough, maybe it would have made some difference and changed the outcome of whatever challenges they faced while alive.

It's a paradox.

The Paradox of Loss

The good, the positive, and the beautiful all exist there, within a person, but our own feelings and judgment barricade us from finding them. Then, in death, it seems as if we were seeking it all that time and finally round that final corner to see it there, knowing it was there the whole time.

In my novel, Damn Boy George & Thanks for the Heartbreak! I use an empty room as a metaphor for loss, shared through the character, Sid:

Loss is like an unused room in a house, if you’re lucky enough to live in one with that many rooms. It's there, you visit it sometimes to clean and prepare it for visitors, but you rarely have a use for it. It just exists for those short visits. In my case it's more like a flex room. I create my art there, I write there, and sometimes I just stand there in the doorway and imagine the visitors that once graced it.

Antimony Of The Soul

In that room is where we find the good in people as they exit this plane. But, imagine that you never leave it and as you meet new people, knowing their day will come, you meet them there, in that room and you never leave it.

When we tame grief, it becomes something radically different; gratitude. We find an appreciation for the chance and opportunity to meet other souls, that overcome and succumb to the challenges of life. We are grateful for the lessons we learn from both and teach them in our turn. We are thankful to spend time with the lost and broken as much as we are with the found and whole because we recognize that depending on the moment and the circumstances, we're all a little of both.

A Call To Forgive

With each loss, we ought to remember nothing here is permanent, so why do we permanently hold those grudges? People make poor, selfish choices. They hurt us with their words, actions, and neglect. But most of them aren't doing it intentionally, As my friend Madison Allen once told me, "They're just doing the best they can the only way they know how."

I don't think I've ever heard any truer words spoken on the matter.

Through Absence, I illustrate the ever-growing barriers that prevent us from seeking the good in an individual, despite it never being completely closed off to the world. I invite you to this room, where loss finds us all, to stand with me in the doorway, never leaving, and always finding the good in each other.

Death shouldn't be our only way to redemption.

Abstraction Art

Absence is an abstraction of the concept. That is, it isn't completely abstract art, because some shapes, lines, and colors give a clear impression of an idea, but the idea is loosely assembled to allow the viewer a greater range of interpretation and meaning. I wish I could be an abstract artist, but, at least right now, I'm not free enough to find satisfaction in abstract form.

If you enjoy this piece and can make it to the opening night reception, please join me and many other artists at The Vault Gallery, 111 Orange Avenue, Fort Pierce, FL 34950.

Absence is priced at $120, available for sale at the exhibition.

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