February 16, 2006
Death of an Artist
I haven't been writing because a friend of ours has been dying of pancreatic cancer. She has been a friend and fellow professor with my wife, Rickey, at Vermont College, Union Institute and University. I was lucky to know her.
She passed last night at home with family and friends. Only a little while before she died, Hannah, her ten year old daughter, who has been struggling as only a child can with this kind of unreal thing, came to her and sang.
Charlotte Hastings was a woman of great strength, independence, and generosity. She was an artist of amazing breadth, a professor and mentor, and a woman of big laughs and unbridled humor. She started and was involved with artist cooperatives in New York City and Vermont, and has had shows all over the country. But her humility never allowed her to brag about such things.
Inquisitive to the end, wondering how she could beat these vicious cells that she could only imagine inside her, metastasized, it was not until five days before she died that she accepted the inevitable, stopped eating, and let go.
So many people were around her through these last days -- family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, fellow artists -- but it wasn't really until this last week that she fully understood how many people would be there to give support and comfort to her husband Brad, and, especially, her beautiful daughter, Hannah. I think that is what finally gave her peace and concession.
As I was looking through some of Charlotte's works of art, I was captured by the one above, her husband and daughter, pointing, reaching out to a beautiful, fanciful bird flying off in the opposite direction. It is such a stark picture of them in this last week, a poignant and prophetic work she completed in 2003, perhaps the year that deep inside her the cancer was laying its seed.
Here is a link to her work and here is a link and here also to some of her words about herself and her art.
Here is Charlotte, in her own words, summing it all up:
Art isn't about talent. It's about loving yourself enough to cultivate your inner sensibilities, your intellectual and political awareness, your visual acumen, until process takes over and begins to make the kind of decisions that determine what will happen in your life.