6/10 Countdown (but you can get it now): Art for all our “sakes”

As I was thinking about this post, which is about art related to the loss of our son, the phrase “art for art’s sake” kept tapping at my brain. I do believe in the intrinsic value of art, but maybe not so much that it should be judged by its politics, which is (I think) what it meant when it came into being in the early 19th century. (Okay, I did google that, my art history being rusty.) But it wasn’t really that art movement that got my attention, but rather the word “sake,” which I assumed meant something like “side.” Here’s the easy-to-find definition:

Old English sacu ‘contention, crime’, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch zaak and German Sache, from a base meaning ‘affair, legal action, thing’. The phrase for the sake of may be from Old Norse.

Given yesterday’s post on the often bizarre experience of sitting in a courtroom (where all manner of “crime” gets its dime), I was struck by the serendipitous connection. I love the art that emerged out of the crime, that was created for Casey’s sake and for our sake… I have three artists I want to focus on, our friend Julie-Anna from Hopkinsville, our artist son Galen, and Casey’s dad Ken.

Julie-Anna’s Ginkgo Heart

Julie-Anna, photographer, painter, sculptor, gave us this heart made of ginkgo leaves—which themselves resemble hearts. Julie-Anna has at least one large ginkgo tree in their yard, and we have one in ours. Every fall, the trees’ leaves all turn yellow at the same time and fall soon after in a blizzard of gold. The leaves are associated with memory, so the symbolism is perfect—furthermore, she safety-pinned the leaves together, suggesting that memory is fragile, sometimes hanging by a thread, and yet also bound together with other memories. The gift was bound by love, just as loss is.

Memory is also the theme of three pieces that Galen created. The Black Hole of Memory was about 6’x4’x4′ and covered with images of Casey and his two brothers and us parents. The second is his sketch of Casey, from a photo taken for his senior prom. The third is a tower, again of pieces of photos repeated over and over. The tower is hollowed out inside and cut out on the edges to reflect the carved up nature of memory.

There are other examples of art—his father Ken’s watercolors, the poems the two of us wrote, sometimes together with writing prompts we made up—and the song Ken wrote. I love how all these expressions dwell on memory, the way we keep alive the people we love.

Here’s a link to Ken’s wonderful song, “Up on My Shoulders.”

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