The tragedy associated with addiction leaves its mark on those who are left living. But what kind of life is it when grief snowballs into melancholy because of addiction’s unforgiving hold and the ensuing senseless death? The following visual art series details the melancholy created by opioid addiction. The images detail a mourner weeping due to the loss of a friend.
Loss can present itself in a variety of ways: death of a friend or loved one, a relationship breakup, leaving home or moving to a new place, loss of physical ability, loss of financial security, etc. Sudden loss (like crimes, accidents, or suicide) leaves no room to prepare, while predictable loss creates grief related to the anticipation of the loss, as well as the loss itself. The experience of loss is profoundly human, yet it is often something we suffer alone, in solitude. How do we build resilience against future losses? Can we ever replace that which we grieve?
These watercolors aim to capture the prevalence of death and decay in our daily lives, but also show how even now, we blend it into the background, not wanting to look. Halloween and fantasy help us come to terms with death being all around us by letting us engage with the frightening and alien on our own terms, giving us a sense of control over our loss of control. Additionally, Halloween’s creative side reminds us that death and decay provide opportunities for new growth and life.
Dia de los Muertos blurs the boundaries between the realms of Life and Death. Altars bearing the photos of lost loved ones keep them close to the heart. Families picnic on the graves of ancestors, dressing as vibrant skeletons festooned with flowers. Death need be neither hated nor feared. Indeed, welcoming Death with joy banishes fear and heals grief.
We will all eventually die, and although that seems an unhappy fate, fiction, fantasy, and celebrations can help us cope with that inevitable end. “Drowned Dreams” is about abuse, fear, and death. Halloween is a celebration where such topics are permissible in circles they would normally not be spoken of, creating an environment where necessary topics are briefly considered non-taboo. My story is in part a reminder that all time is borrowed time, and we will all eventually give our bodies back to the earth it came from, decay being a form of freedom and rebirth.
In this living state of existence, we are constantly faced with the inevitability of death, although our self-preservation instincts may try to avoid the topic until its inevitability becomes unavoidable. Memories fade and evolve, and we must ponder that which is lost or forgotten as much as that which is remembered.
How does celebrating Halloween allow us to transform reality? In what way does the tradition of wearing costumes, and thus, taking on new personas help us grapple with fears or changes in reality? The magic of Halloween brightens reality, making it possible to confront fears, or change itself, to ultimately appreciate mystery and the inner spirit.
The following poems reflect on the ideas of identity and legacy. Regardless of how humankind evolves, a seminal question remains: what have we left for the world after we’ve gone? Though many of us prefer to assume that we have a special assigned significance in this world, the truth is that none of us are inherently superior to another. As COVID-19 raises our fear of mortality, these poems remind us that the most invisible existence can leave something of value in its wake, but that we must pay attention in order to notice that legacy.
As a condition of being human, has our own mortality prepared us for the reality of a global pandemic? Under normal conditions, dealing with death is difficult enough, but how do we grapple with being in a state of uncertainty where our safety and health is constantly in question? How much autonomy, free will, and control do we have? Can religion save us? Can science?
DISCLAIMER: The following artworks feature sexual content.
What does the continued relevance of vampire stories say about humans’ natural inclination to ostracize the ‘other?’ How have modern vampire tales changed this narrative? Could this evolution of thought be representative of an evolved human condition? What do vampire tales say about our fear of the dead, or mass hysteria associated with things we do not understand?