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Posts Tagged ‘Fine arts’

Afghani Girl, oil painting by Mary Chamie

A young Afghani girl, perhaps 10 years old, tries to see the group of foreigners who are traveling through her village. The walking paths between the rural homes are small which does not allow her to get close enough to see what is happening. Other curious onlookers, who also want to see, crowd around the team leaving the young girl on the periphery.

I was leading a United Nations team of international demographers and statisticians, visiting Afghanistan on a potential census assessment, when the frustrated and curious little girl caught my eye.

I noticed her as we were walking a very narrow path when she ran through a back alley and moments later appeared on the roof of a low building next to us. As our team moved forward to visit homes, she kept showing up on the next straw roof. I saw that she was jumping from roof to roof in order to keep up with us. The distance between homes was not far, but she was still brave to be doing so. I was amused by her persistence and quickly photographed her while she knelt down on the roof to watch us. She gave me a shy, satisfied smile, knowing that from her position she could see everything.

Here I am with Kabul, Afghanistan in the background. Photo from census mission, 2003

Since then, I have wondered many times what has happened to her. It was 2003 and she must have been about 10 years old. Now, if she has survived, she is close to 30. Time has marched on, but things are still not easy for the people of Afghanistan. I often wonder, where is she now and how has she fared? Women have recently been ordered by the Taliban, the current government, to cover their faces once again. She is likely wearing the burqa, or bright blue robe that is worn over a woman’s face and body when she is outside of the home, or in the presence of strangers.

When I paint such memories, I am not sure whether to call them paintings, or portraits, or illustrated short stories. But whatever they are, they are often about children whom I care about and wish that I had a better way to keep track of. These children, like the clouds that float by after a heavy rain, or like quick creek waters in the spring that noisily rush by, come and go so quickly, yet they leave lasting effects on the mind. Painting this Afghani girl portrait brings her back to life. I see her wonderful smile again. I remember the palette of her life colors.

Children at Work

Yes, there is artistic beauty in the faces of these rural Afghani children, in their soft beige clothing, adding interest to the modest brown environments in which they live, the mud huts, the clay homes, the straw roofs. The sky above shoots light streams through the nearby foothills of the mountains adding reflective color which further contributes interest to the even-toned homes and softness of people’s clothing and faces, especially at sunrise and sunset.

Below is a combination of photos taken during that 2003 United Nations mission showing the palette that I chose for my painting of this Afghani girl. It is a palette largely of soft browns composed from earth reds and marine blues, with the added bright blues of a woman’s robe.

Palette chosen for this painting

So, here she is, my little girl, this high achiever, who was curious, interested and ready to learn, and certainly very motivated to see what was going on in her unusually disrupted rural village by these teams of foreigners.

I exaggerated the color of the sky to juxtapose it more seriously against the girl’s soft earth reds and browns by mixing marine blue and bright cobalt, to highlight the feeling that one has when one sees the enormous contrast between the color of the sky above and the foothills, the mudded homes and the brown-toned clothing of many people walking the streets.

In this particular painting, I use this improbable blue color to suggest her possible future as a woman tucked under a blue robe, face covered, rather than as she is seen in the portrait, young and free and covered by the bright blue sky.

Photo from United Nations census mission, 2003

For the first part of this blog on painting some of the children I have seen, go to https://marysgardens.blog/2021/05/25/painting-children-on-the-edge/

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In the last six months, I have painted the same canvas numerous times, to reflect on my feelings during this Global Pandemic. It is an old, used canvas that I purchased at Goodwill for a couple of dollars. In the beginning, I painted the entire canvas white with Gesso and then began to use my oils to describe how I feel.

It all started with a celebratory painting filled with color and exploding with light, when things were looking good, the first major surge of COVID illness subsiding,  people standing in long lines to get vaccinated, distances softening and it looked as though the pandemic was coming to a conclusion….but

Early Sunrise

It followed with a shift in color and emphasis based on the fact that there was a significant portion of the population refusing to be vaccinated even when vaccines were offered for free. Ironically, there are numerous individuals in other places eager to be vaccinated, without any access to vaccinations at all. The blues began settling in.

The Blues

Pausing with bright colors to consider whether the fog will ever lift, whether we will ever make it to the other side of this global pandemic, whether it might be better to soften colors and expectations even further.

Fog Settles In

Gliding softly into sadness about what would happens next, darker blues, softer light, yet still appreciating the silence of ever shifting remoteness.

Night of Darkness

Stuck in gloom as reality hits hard, floating in dark waters, far away from realizing the end of the pandemic. Many more lives are unnecessarily lost, years of schooling missed, food sources cut short, distribution systems weakened, life expectancies shortened, quality of living amended again, even farther, bending to the severe isolation and rapid surge of hospitalizations and deaths, mostly of the unvaccinated, during the pandemic.

Doomed

Hope is lost, the painting reflects on shapeless darkness. In some ways, this particular painting was very satisfying, as I lost myself in the darkness covering the entire canvas in dark blacks, reds and blues.

Then, the painting returns to shape and form, but this time, without much sentimentality. This time, it is based on the assumption that life is short, and that today is all there is.

My conclusion? Any painting we may do about this pandemic is true to life, each varied color and mood may be augmented for differential emphasis on our interpretation as to how things are going.

Not a Chance, But Life is Short

These are my ups and downs of painting during a global pandemic.

I hope that you enjoyed this reading these short notes on painting my way through pandemic blues and may consider sharing your own experiences on this notably historical event as well.

We may no longer write long paper letters, but we do know how to blog our way through tough times.

What’s your story?

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