Stories have power! Nothing is lost if someone remembers. Tell their stories in words, in music, in paint.
They connect us to the past, the now, and the future.
With so many friends and family in Texas, Hurricane Harvey has filled my thoughts for the last several days. Remembered news pictures of Katerina, my own experience of Agnes as a child, my grandmother’s stories of the great hurricane of Miami 1926. Her house was the only one left standing for blocks, she said because it was made of stone. She was a new wife 20 years old. She and my grandfather had come to Miami for work. After the hurricane she turned her house into a big kitchen and cooked for her entire community while everyone pitched tents and rebuilt around her. She was an amazing woman, already a seasoned survivor. An orphan, who at six, came to live with a family who had lost their only child. She recalled to her grandchildren that she had nothing by the clothes on her back and a hand written note our family still has. It had her name, her age at last birthday and that she had had measles, whooping cough and small pox. She had no birth certificate, no pictures, no one, just hope for a better future. She continues to be the standard I weigh my life against. She had so much love for people, for life, for every new day and every opportunity.
People amaze me in how we have the ability to continue to move forward in terrible times.
The earth has such power to create and to destroy. I have problems with finding balance. Balance between living joyously and losing myself to despair of all the hate, death, sadness, and cruelty that is this world.
But always in the darkest of times it is all of the people like my grandmother that inspire and give me hope. I stand amazed at the power of stories - how they matter, how they change you.
It is my greatest hope that my paintings can touch people, ignite their stories. It’s why I paint, to engage, to be able to have a conversation soul to soul. My painting Ravens Flight is about freeing my mother’s soul from the tethers of life, Alzheimer’s had imprisoned her, at her death she was at last free again but I held her so tightly, mourned her so deeply I also had to let go so she could fly. It was purchased by a gentleman who was battling cancer. He and his wife were facing their own letting go and anticipated flight. I asked them where they planned to hang it? “By the bed” was their response. Such a private place. We shared that moment. He has since made his journey. And when I think of that painting now is more than just my mother’s story, it is his story too.
Nothing is lost it someone remembers.
We are all a part of the spiral
YaeL Kelley lives and works at her studio in the Artist Enclave of historic Kenwood in St. Petersburg, Florida. Petersburg, Florida.