The Land of Lost Names

” The place I was found is where I remain; a scar on the ground in The Land of Lost Names”

I paint intuitively, I guess you could say. I do have some “book learnin'” as far as laying out a proper painting; sketch it first…wait. I don’t do that. EVER. I’m sure it’s a great idea, and I’ve kicked myself many times for not doing that very thing. But that won’t make me do it the next time. Does this limit me? I have no clue, because my imagination is endless, and part of my process is digging myself out of whatever little jams I get myself into. It’s the Thing that makes one of my paintings MINE.

I am sorry sometimes that I paint over certain elements, but I usually have a photo of the previous version for posterity, and if anyone ever wanted, I could print it. I’ve thought about doing just that at times. I think the whole “paint over it” thing stems from not being able to afford canvas. But also, perhaps developing simultaneously, I feel a need to change what I just painted to something new. Not because of a mistake, although I will admit I’ve made one. ONE. No, not that…I love to morph people into new faces, new poses, new emotions. Life is very fluid. My thoughts are fluid.

These are the first thoughts that lived on this canvas. Starting 2 years ago

Then I put the piece away. It just hurt too much to keep remembering ‘the event’, and I moved on to better projects. Every now and then I would look at the piece, in the corner of “The Cat Box Room” which was to be my studio in some “before reality set in” lifetime. It bothered me. The yellow duck was grinning foolishly at me, the strange red lady still watched the activities in the green Skylark with sad resignation, and my “self” still looked on in anger and loathing…

The Day My Focus Shifted…

I was scrolling aimlessly through my Facebook feed, tired and disgusted with my couch-potato-ing lifestyle, when I came across a sad post on a friends feed. She likes to re-post searches for lost animals, found animals, missing purses etc… This was different. It was a photo of a fresh faced seventeen year old, grinning at his sister who held the camera. I knew that look, I grew up with one older brother who I adored, and followed around constantly, snapping photos.

But my brother did not leave the house one sunny day in 1987 to go down to the Seven-Eleven, only to vanish forever. Poof. Gone. No packed bag, no argument with the folks, no history of drug use, gang affiliation, criminal past…nothing. He was not upset over a break-up or being treated for any mental illness. He had no history of depression, there was just no reason for him to leave home. But he was gone, and has not been heard from by his family since that day.

His sister was still grieving thirty four years later, as if it happened yesterday. A fresh bleeding gash to her heart, all these years later. As this sunk in , I felt it keenly. I scrolled thru the comments, ready to send a sympathetic emoji , then reconsidering. It seemed petty, trite, in the face of such profound grief. Then I saw a comment that just said, “Have you checked namus.com?” Namus? I never heard of it, and thought it was awful that someone was trying to promote a Counseling firm or therapy place. So I went to the site myself.

Wow. Oh.

So, I scrolled thru that site for two hours, crying. I tear up now. Just a shoe sometimes. Or a picture of a section of a deceased persons body with a grey-looking tattoo. Maybe a Lakers cap and a dirty pair of blue jeans. Or the phrase “Location not mapped” and, instead, a set of GPS coordinates. Often, these were all that remained of somebody’s brother, mother, sister, father, son or daughter. Or their wife, their best friend, their twin, their beloved cousin.

No ID, nothing. Even if an ID was found, perhaps the unidentified had no face left to match it to. Oh my, the scenarios are endless…and the locations were just as enigmatic in many cases. East River, park bench in Central Park, found in front of hospital, in a tent by the roadside, a culvert, a ditch.

But for me the saddest were in Brooks County, Texas. Seventy miles north of the Rio Grande, on American soil, owned by incredibly rich rancher corporations. Dusty, dry brushland, miles of it, where remains are often found. Scattered remains, usually.

The one that still is burned into my brain is the little hair barrettes…lovely little beaded things that probable graced the braid of a beautiful girl with bright eyes who had dreams of being on American Idol one day, or of being a veterinarian, a doctor, a mother.

These are the people who came to inhabit my painting. And the reason I titled it the way I did…

” The place I was found is where I remain, a scar on the ground in The Land of Lost Names”.

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