A Message From A Long Lost Friend

When I first started out in Interior Design, I worked with a lovely woman named Odette. She loved everything French, excelled in the arts, and I considered her among my first ‘grown-up’ friends. We went to art shows at the Norton, visited French cafes in Delray, and got excited about color combinations and her new home decor selections. When I moved to Bolivia, she sent gorgeous French-made cards, and we visited whenever I made it back to the States. When the Great Recession hit, we emailed back and forth about how nervous we were about our beloved industry. Shortly after that, my sweet friend was involved in an automobile accident, and lost her life.

Five years ago, I moved back to South Florida, and I miss my friend often. She would have been the first to go to my art shows, and would have given me sound advice about my paintings. Over the summer, I came across an art book Odette had given me: a book about her favorite Fauvist artist, Raoul Dufy. In her inscription, she wrote:

I had recently started trying out mixed media, specifically ephemera and collage, so I decided to used the pages of the book Odette had given to me. Since then, I have completed several works, and I feel like she has inspired my art for the better. The use of ephemera adds an element of history and time to each piece, which is the underlying element behind most of my art.

I tend to paint mermaids or women floating underwater – and often there are symbolic elements such as masks, flowers, or pearls/jewelry floating around an ethereal woman. The only people we truly know in this life is ourselves – we all have insecurities and secrets we hide, and our physical bodies are just a glimpse of the person we are inside. Sometimes, we get to know other souls on a deeper level, and we are lucky when we find people we connect with.

Lately, I’ve found myself perusing used book stores for old texts, yellowed pages, and interesting illustrations. Old black and white photos now hold a deeper meaning, and I’d love to get my hands on old postcards with cursive writing. Little did I know how much a sweet gesture would mean to me all these years later. There are so many stories waiting to be told and mysteries to be solved about the past, and mixed media is a natural medium for my need to be an artistic storyteller. I just needed a little inspiration from a long lost friend.

Pandemic

Never could I have imagined what is going on now, and never could I have been more proud to call myself a nurse. In January 2018, after several years as an oncology nurse, my heart was broken. I came across a call to artists on the American Nurses Association Facebook page for artwork to shed light on the heavy burden healthcare workers face, and I felt this was my opportunity to make a difference. My piece, Isolation Mask, ended up being selected by the National Academy of Medicine.

This mixed-media piece, a self-portrait, encompasses all the emotions that go into being a nurse. 12 hour shifts turn into 15 hour shifts, fears of making a mistake, being short staffed, etc, etc. But nursing also held a treasure trove of life-altering moments. Holding someone’s hand as they passed from this life into the next, comforting a scared patient, using humor to make a miserable patient smile on the worst day of their life….so worth everything. Those patients inspired me to not waste time, and to finally follow my passion for art.

Today, as everyone takes a step back, I’ve been going into the chemotherapy infusion room every weekday. I worry about the canceled MRI’s and CT scans, as tumors don’t stop growing during pandemics. I worry about the scarcity of the blood supply, as my patients often need donated red blood cells and platelets to survive. I worry about my patients who have to go into the hospital for issues related to their cancer diagnosis, and cannot have any loved ones stay by their side. Some will die alone because of Covid-19, and they should also be recorded as victims when this is said and done.

I am overjoyed by the outpouring of love for healthcare workers, and I believe this is our chance to finally make needed changes in the healthcare system. Once this pandemic is relegated to the history books, we need to demand better working conditions for nurses. We need to demand reasonable nurse to patient ratios, and safer working environments. Now the world sees it is not missiles and armies who can save us, but rather science, empathy, and compassionate nurses. To my fellow brothers and sisters on the frontlines: my nurses’ cap is tipped to you.