The Pulse of Life

Erik ReeL painting
Erik ReeL studio, canvas stretched on wall

After all the events of the last few weeks, it now feels like months ago when I was listening to the horrific events that unfolded at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, not able to get the images out of my mind.

Especially one young man’s description of his ordeal, hiding in a bathroom stall with 17 [seventeen!!] other people, all wounded, all slowly bleeding to death as they waited over two and a half hours for help [two and a half hours!].  The shooter came around and shot into the stall, but remarkably, never entered it.

The young man said he couldn’t get the smell of the blood out of his mind.  He shot video from inside the stall and sent to friends so that they would know that they were all alive and give some clues to any potential rescuers.  Why did they have to wait almost THREE HOURS for help? Only five made it out alive.  Just heart-rending. Horrible. Horrible.

The only way I could work through my feelings was to  remind myself why  everyone was there to begin with. They had no idea what was to come. They were there to celebrate who they were and each other. To affirm who they are and take pride in that. That is what we all must do.  Yes, there will be dark days and days memory will ambush, sights and smells will haunt. But if we give into the darkness, then the terrorists win. Evil wins by shutting down our lives.

No, we refuse to shut down!  We must remind ourselves of what we celebrate. We celebrate each other, who we are, give thanks for each other, and affirm our own identities, our differences that  make us the wonderful unique human beings we are. We affirm our identities and in this way overcome the darkness.  We affirm life, our and each other’s lives.

Even the name “Pulse” has to do with blood, but blood as life-giving force, the pulse of our hearts, the pulse of life, the pulse of our lives. This is what we must remind ourselves to remember. That is the message I want my painting to convey. To work as a reminder of the pulse of life.  Life force that overcomes fear.

The best way for me to work through something is to paint.  I came to these thoughts in my studio as I prepared a painting. First, I stretched a painting on my wall.

Erik ReeL painting
Stretching the canvas on the wall

I began the painting with drawings of bullets and the violence, working impulsively until the canvas was almost black.

Erik ReeL painting
Starting the painting


Then, in a fury,  I painted it all out with white/light [sorry no pics of these parts of the process, I was too possessed to remember to get pics …].

Then I covered the entire surface with a blood red matching a swatch of my own blood on paper, painting mostly with my hands, like the finger-painting we did in elementary school. But blood starts drying as brown. I wanted to affirm the life-giving force of blood, of life. So I brightened the red a bit to make it more life-giving-like.

Erik ReeL painting
Covering with Blood red

Then I added the top layers, affirming life and the energy  of the original meaning of pulse, the feelings I wanted to affirm  within my own personal process.

Erik ReeL painting
Painting complete
Erik ReeL painting
Erik ReeL, Pulse, acrylic on canvas, 50 x 70 inches, 2016

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