Exhibits › Lamentations and Beyond: Healing Through Art

Introduction read by Mimi Rice, veteran Tampa Bay actress and radio theater producer.

Lamentations are expressions of deep grief—a nearly inconsolable amalgam of loss, suffering, pain and sorrow.

By historical standards, most Americans nowadays experience unparalleled material wealth. This includes access to ample food, safe tap water, sanitary indoor plumbing, heating and air conditioning, a modicum of modern medical and dental care, opportunities for entertainment and travel, a car, a personal computer, antibiotics, antihistamines, aspirin, and other readily available over-the-counter anodynes.

Yet Americans spend over $11 billion dollars on doctor-prescribed antidepressants and an additional $4 billion or more on anti-anxiety drugs. If one adds in annual alcohol and sales in illegal drug purchases, this totals at least $165 billion dollars spent on trying to feel a little better about life and one’s situation.

Unfortunately, liquor acts as a depressant on the brain and nervous system, and most “happy pills” mitigate all deep feelings—like love and sexual desire.

The well-respected Consumers Report organization notes that:

“1 in 5 adults—about 50 million Americans—reported hurting every day or almost every day in the previous six months. Nearly 20 million reported pain so severe it limited their ability to work, socialize, and even take care of themselves and their family.”

The real inconvenient truth is that there is an inherent and unavoidable sadness to the human condition. Everyone we love and everything we cherish perishes in a relatively short period of time. Including ourselves.

Consumer culture has tried with great vigor and ingenuity to distract us from this stark reality with various transient pleasures, potions, and a plethora of psychotherapies—all claiming to have “the answer” to what ails you.

When Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 BC, the Jews were dragged off to slavery in Babylon. The most profound communal response to this tragedy was the creation of the Book of Lamentations. It is the text that still is held as sacred by both religious Jews and Christians. Even as a modern secular Jew, these ancient words resonate with me.

Other related texts in the Old Testament, like the Psalms and the books of Job and Ecclesiastes, can also console our spirits in these increasingly precarious and bewildering times. One does not need to believe in an all-powerful deity to be moved by religiously inspired poetry and symbolism.

Like virtually all people who have managed to live into their 60s, I have known my share of grief. My response to these difficult moments has always been art.

The words of the philosopher John Armstrong seem especially apt: “Art reminds us of the legitimate place of sorrow in a good life, so that we recognize our difficulties as elements of any noble existence…To say that art is therapeutic is not to suggest that it shares therapy’s methods but rather its underlying ambition: to help us to cope better with existence.”

I hope that the following poems and mixed media drawings catch your eye, stimulate your ear, and touch your heart.

Poetry

Read by Mimi Rice. All audio recorded at Pro Star Studio in St Petersburg, Florida, June 5, 2019.

Deep in the belly
Of night stirs the embryo
Of another day

Each breath fingers an
Abacus bead that counts out
Our days in this world.

The sun is playing
A child’s game of hide and seek—
I am happy and sad.

The world was torn up
So I made collages from
Mindless scattered scraps.

Each of our stories
Is written on a small scrap
Of windblown paper.

Words don’t get lonely
Ink doesn’t suffer night sweats—
Life is not haiku.

I am not enlightened—
but frightened of the world
and how it all will end.
I am not a doctor who can set
a broken bone to quickly mend.

I am not a lyricist whose rhymes
sing sweetly from the page.
I am not a sage spouting wisdom
and the pithy adage.

I am not a label or brand name—
But someone more anonymous
Who knows not from where he came.

Fear murmurs in my left ear—
You are in immanent danger.
Angst whispers in my right ear—
You are alone and sinking.

A still small voice mumbles something
that I cannot quite hear….
but it fills my head with the fragrant smell
of flowering night jasmine from long ago.

The magic is that there is no magic:
The Sun rises without an Aztec priest
ripping a living heart from a dying breast.
The sun sets without sacred chants or flicking a light switch

The magic is that there is no magic:
Salmon return home to spawn in the rivers of their birth
and eagles swoop down and swipe a bewildered field mouse
without studying metaphysics or physics.

The magic is there is no magic.
Not in Jesus Christ’s wrists,
Buddha’s navel,
Krishan’s flute,
Rabbi Akiba’s beard,
or a Zen master’s koan.

The magic is that there is no magic…
Just an eternal flow with no name.

My friend’s pain is mine
It’s too much to bear alone.
We share the burden.
What does our suffering mean?
Perhaps that we are alive.

I’m cheerful when well
and cross when arthritis flares—
my joints make my mood.

Awake or asleep
my heart pumps blood through my veins—
It is not in vain.
My brain demands sweet glucose
and a steady thump, thump, thump…

On a fool’s errand
with a mind full of fool’s gold—
I chase shiny things.
But the allure of the lure
hooks me like a hungry perch.

Happy thoughts are no
more expensive than sad thoughts—
everyone knows that.
But we pay a king’s ransom
to shrinks to zap bad feelings.

Not walking toward you
not walking away from you
just walking with you.

A small sharp pebble
found its way into my shoe
and into my life.

Ambulance siren
is a jarring wake up call—
life is alarming.

Even if I came from nothing
and go back to nothing
I was something for a while…
and that makes me smile.

Count 1,2,3,4…
birth, old age, sickness, and death—
dare we count much more?

Without a trace our
faces disappear from view—
but something remains

Laconic faces
with much to say but tight lips
choke emerging words.

There are optimists
and pessimists but they both
suffer from blue days.

Without a trace our
faces disappear from view
but something remains.

Prints

More Prints

View the permanent art installation at the Maine Medical Center, showcasing six prints that feature Maine’s rugged coast, tranquil farmlands, and deeply forested mountain ranges.

View the Exhibit

PDF

Lamentations and Beyond:
Healing Through Art

View spreads in PDF format.

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Video

Buy the Book

Lamentations and Beyond:
Healing Through Art

A Print Series by Bob Barancik

Softcover: $28.94

Available on Blurb.com

Hanging Textile Scrolls

View related textile scrolls

 

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