2020 Reflections is a conceptual painting that begins a new series of conceptual artwork for me.
Last January, as 2021 started, I was prompted to put words to my experience of 2020 through a series of reflection questions that I heard in an online church service. We can all agree 2020 was an intense and bizarre year on a global scale. The events that occurred affected all of us in one way or another on top of the regular individual, personally impactful events each year holds. Most of us grow reflective at the end of one year and beginning of the next. My practice is to do this in the context of prayer and relationship with God.
These are the three questions that guided my reflection:
1. What was the biggest loss of 2020?
2. What did you have to trust God for in 2020?
3. What are you hopeful for in 2021?
The challenge was to condense my response to each question down to a single word.
First, I looked back and asked myself about loss. My biggest loss in 2020 was summed up in one word: China. I lived there for several years and while I moved back to the U.S. in 2019, I had thought I would go back to China in the near future. As the world changed in 2020 it became clear to me that I was in Utah to stay. A new season was starting in my life. And while new seasons are good, if you have ever left a place you loved (one you knew you wouldn’t return to), you know that it is a loss; there is so much that is grieved and missed.
Second, I looked back and discovered that even in the loss and change I saw God do positive things in my life. 2020 was a year of healing for me, and that was my word for question two. I trusted God for healing, and he gave it to me. He provided an opportunity for me to rest and gave me safe spaces and the people I needed to help walk me through a time of mental and emotional healing. It was not easy! I had to pursue it and receive it, but it was a gift.
Finally, as I looked out at the new year, my hope for 2021 was for MORE. I had lived with scarcity and developed a small mindset as I tried to meet my needs with scraps. But the changes that took place in 2020 (as hard as that year was) were teaching me to believe in abundance – to believe in more: more healing, more growth, more opportunity. I went into 2021 believing that the God who had been good even amid loss and transition in 2020 would be even more in the coming year.
This concept and these words – China, Healing, More – came together with the numbers 2020 to make the abstract image you see in my painting 2020 Reflections. I have decided that each year would benefit from similar reflections and I’m looking forward to creating a 2021 Reflections painting soon.
However, the words are only part of the work. The colors for 2020 were intuitively selected as I created my color palette; but they began to take on meaning as I painted. If you follow me, you know I often connect colors with emotions. From my Grief 160 series dark blue was already connected to sorrow, purple to suffering, and red to pain. Those colors were present in this piece, too; and I thought, as I painted, about the ways in which we experienced sorrow, suffering, and pain in 2020. There was also an turquoise color which represents compassion in my work. And there was a lot of compassion in 2020: I learned to have compassion towards myself throughout the year; and I saw God’s compassion towards me in unexpected and previously unseen ways.
Metallic colors carry the meaning of the metal they represent and how those metals are used. And so for me, bronze is strength, something forged in great heat and pressure but strong and useful in the end. 2020 was a year of revealing and shaping things in the fire. Gold is made pure in the heat. It is rich and valuable. For me, it speaks of healing (like with kintsugi) as gold makes broken things beautiful, mirroring the kingdom of God.
Making this work was an act of piecing together and reflecting on all that had gone into 2020. I usually worked on one color at a time as it was easy to keep one paint tube open and move around the canvas. And I started to realize, as I looked across the canvas, that whatever color was in my hand was the one that stood out to me the most among all the colors. Isn’t that true in life?
If compassion is in our hands we see compassion, if pain is our focus, then it is what we see and feel the most. If we pick up strength, then strength is what we see and identify with. Each color needed its turn, but the longer I worked with one the harder it was to see the others. Our feelings need attention and expression, but we are so much more than just anyone emotion or experience.
And after all the painting, color after color, layer after layer, to stand back and see a beautiful picture full of the redemption of the hardship, and the honoring of the growth – it’s powerful. 2020 Reflections is an act of memorializing the year that has passed seeded with the hope of the year to come.
What has your 2021 been like?