It was 5,500 miles from mornings in my Mustang at the beach with the palm trees. It had been an 11-hour flight, a 105-degree subway for an hour through London, then a bus to Stoke Newington. I wasn’t sure what way up was by the time we started taking a walk, to “Zombieland” as our friends' 8-year-old daughter calls it.
The street up to the gate of Abney Park was my favorite street in London. Stoke Newington High Street. There was a Costa Coffee where the girl with a long auburn braid would blush at my American accent. She had my order memorized. I watch with amusement women reacting to my husband's British accent all of the time, I always tease him about it so I made him come to the coffee shop with me to see how it feels. We had such a laugh.
There was a small toy shop full of the best stuffed toys by Jellycat and the most amazing hand puppets, a drug store that only sold five kinds of nail polish, another coffee shop with the most amazing custard tarts - and the craft/ art supplies store. One of the single most inspiring shopping trips of my life that craft store. In America the art supply stores are warehouse-sized, everything is in its own large compartmented space. Here there were paintbrushes next to feathers, professional spray paint next to pipe cleaners, gold leaf next to hat boxes next to puffballs next to glitter. 48x48
But I wouldn’t have learned all of that yet. All I knew is that we just flew across the world and my husband wanted to take a walk in a giant cemetery which, given the amount of the living we had to encounter to get here, was fine with me. There was all sorts of construction walking up the entrance. We made our way through a narrow alley with a huge cartoon flamingo graffitied on the side of a building. As we entered the cemetery it looked like any forest with dusty hiking paths to me - at first.
The sun was just dropping in the sky, golden light shining down between the countless trees, most bigger than I have ever seen. Abney Park Cemetery is one of the “Magnificent Seven” cemeteries in London. These seven giant outdoor gothic greenscapes are overgrown, grand Victorian cemeteries from the 18th century and beyond. Many of the tombs are the size of small houses. We walked miles, farther and farther into the cemetery in the quiet of that golden sunlight. It felt like I could taste time. We read hundreds of tombs, standing with dozens of human-sized stone angel statues missing arms and ears, missing a wing. The clarity and peace of the space was the antithesis of sitting on a packed 777 with a screen in my face for the better portion of an entire day. A part of me will never leave Abney Park, and I hope the stillness of Abney Park never leaves me.
The next day we went back for most of the day. The silence and sunlight, walking in a space where 20,000 people have been buried, felt like meeting so many versions of myself that have fought and morphed, died and rested. At one point it started to pour rain. The sound of the rain hitting so many trees that it barely hit us was profound in a way that shimmers, the same goosebump-like shimmer I feel when I catch the outline of the Angel in the middle of this painting. Looking up at the sky all I could do was appreciate the flourishing beauty of the thousands of tiny and gigantic deaths I have died in this life and beyond, and the one tiny piece of each that remains to tell its tiny part of the experience.
In this painting, the edges are defined just like a busy city, a personality, a definition of time, identity and space. A story. There is a shape to them, a direction, a substance. The orbs dotted throughout also serve as an invitation to look, feel, be deeper. An invitation to notice what is also there with you just slightly beyond sight.
But just like losing track of time and weather and identity the deeper and longer I walked into that cemetery - the middle of the art just like the experience becomes abstract, more illuminated, free. The story of who I am and who I was blurs to where the story is no longer the point of reference of my spirit. This painting is a portrait of the beauty of that death, and the life of inspiration that followed and turning it all into what I never dared to dream anyway. Abney Park Cemetery was that magnificent section of everything in the craft store - except everything wasn’t feathers, spray paint, gold leaf and glitter. It was my experience of life as a soul, the space I take up, time, light, and the power of losing every story in the perfection of stillness and presence
With the identification and attraction of this art and her story, I hope you also experience the illumination of knowing. The outline and message will always first be supported by illumination - by recognizing yourself in the light, as the light, bending the light, and creating your own picture.