The past two days I’ve been working on a set of paintings by pushing four panels of paper tightly together and painting as one painting, then separating them so they may stand alone compositionally. In the end, I put them together again to make sure they work together or separately.
I awoke this morning with the realization that this latest set of paintings is about more than I originally intended. It’s reminiscent of David Eagleman’s short story, Search, in his book, Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives. I highly recommend you get the book but I’ll condense here. The story begins:
In the moment of transition between life and death, only one thing changes: you lose the momentum of the biochemical cycles that keep the machinery running […] At that moment, the atoms begin to drift apart, no longer enslaved to the goals of keeping up a human form […] As you degrade, your atoms become incorporated into new constellations: the leaf of a staghorn fern, a speckled snail shell, a kernel of maize, a beetle’s mandible, a waxen bloodroot, a ptarmigan’s tail feather. But as it turns out your thousand trillion trillion atoms were not an accidental collection: each was labeled as composing you and continues to be so wherever it goes. So you’re not gone, you’re simply taking on different forms.
Eagleman goes on to state how wonderful this new state is; you are everywhere at once, “ruffling your grasses and bending your pine branch and flexing an egret’s wings while pushing a crab toward the surface through coruscating shafts of light.” But once every few millennia, all your atoms grow tired of being in constant flux and pull together again out of nostalgia in search of something they once knew. "The Reunion is warm and heartening for a while, but it isn’t long before they begin to miss their freedom," start to suffer a claustrophobia while in their human form, and disperse yet again to “ascend mountains, wander the seas, and conquer the air, seeking to recapture the limitlessness they once knew.”