Now and again I stumble over a box of things I haven't yet tossed out or sorted that my deceased husband, Neil, had collected, many of which were of paperwork or photos that had been part of his life before we met in 1984. He was an avid photographer, so there were (maybe literally) tons of prints I have already sorted and recycled or filed.
Earlier this year I found a box full of photos Neil had shot when he was working as a government contractor in Washington D.C., on one of his many trips to Europe during the '70s. What a treasure trove! They were in color, and he had shot scenes in a city in Spain (not sure which, it didn't say anything other than "Spain"), some children holding a puppy, and some gorgeous architectural shots in London. I've had them stacked on the corner of my drafting table since I found them, hoping they would spark the Muse.
A few weeks ago I was looking to play with a little collage, and began staining and tearing bits of thin Japanese paper and deli paper. I took out a sheet of Stonehenge Kraft toned paper as a background, and sorted through my stack of Neil's photos. There was one he had taken on a beach near ROTA Spain. Apparently there are (were?) bunkers from WWII scattered here and there along the shoreline, crumbling from the shifting sand, he was fascinated with.
My heart had been saddened that very evening after reading about the state of military affairs in the world lately, and our role as a country within that arena. I'd gotten myself pretty depressed. But interestingly, the beach scene in Neil's photo seemed soothing, calming. I could see clearly how the struggle of man through history to build fortresses and armaments against others of his kind (and I do use the gender pronoun purposefully) is gradually crumbled and disassembled by Nature gently, over the course of countless tides. Somehow, I felt this was a gentle message from Neil, who'd spent most of his career as a contractor in the Military Industrial Complex. "Don't worry," he seemed to say, "even at the time I photographed this, I knew this war stuff meant nothing, and the sands of time will crumble it away again."
In the photo, the footprints are of a single Human, which turn and come back on themselves (were they Neil's?). In the painting and collage I created (above), the prints are a pair, and go on toward the horizon. The scraps of Japanese paper and torn deli paper are the bunker, as well as the cliffs that meet the beach. Painted with gouache and love.