The Presence of Absence
This week I spent time in my studio making mono-prints. And while I made a few prints of other images I kept coming back to the empty chair. I love the empty chair as subject and have been drawn to it in painting, print, drawing and collage time and time again. The empty chair can mean so many things; it is both invitation and invocation. An invitation to sit and be still to be aware of the moment, and an invocation, a prayer an acknowledgement of loss and emptiness, a presence of absence that is part of the fullness of life. I first heard this turn of phase was at the memorial of a family friend. Pat Moore, the chaplain at The Bishop’s Ranch, summoned this image to express the deep and heavy weight of the empty space left by loss. A presence of absence so strong and so bold it weighs down the breath like a stubborn cat sleeping on your chest and shocks the heart like a sharp, sudden, shot in the night. In these great moments of loss there is an emptiness so deep and wide that one must stop and bow to its power there is no ignoring it. There are smaller examples of the presence of absence; like a love let go, a job lost, an empty nest, impaired health. I think too there is a presence of absence that brings great relief and joy. Just think back to the feeling on the last day of school, or your last final before college break, or when you sit down on an airplane finally on vacation not getting ready for vacation but on vacation. The presence of absence here is a lifting of stress, filling the lungs with a long deep, warm breath. All these absences are there for us to greet, embrace, behold and learn from. Keep a comfy chair ready for the presence of absence because it will come and when it does, in all it’s forms, it’s best to have a place set and a cup of tea ready to sit down with it a learn what you can from the powerful emptiness that comes with the joys and bereavements inherent in the human experience.
Read Pat Moore’s blog about the presence of absence “Leaving Spaces Empty”.