Last year, for many people, the holidays looked different. Most of us couldn’t gather with friends and family, maybe we ate in an unfamiliar place or were alone. The mood and the day felt different because the familiar sights, sounds, and smells of the traditional holiday were interrupted. It was still the same day, but it felt strange and unfamiliar. It was an abstract holiday.
Like abstract art, holidays are about feelings: expressing our joy, gratitude, happiness, and sometimes, sadness, grief, and loss. For most of us, the pandemic changed how we could celebrate together. But it’s not always a bad thing to be forced into a situation where we gain a new perspective. What are the holidays without their familiar forms? Isn’t that what the story of the Grinch is all about?
As an adult, my Christmas looks nothing like it did when I was a child. And I am happier for it. I relinquished the stress of the holidays when I left home. I didn’t want to carry the tension and sadness into adulthood, so I no longer wait for a specific time of year to give thanks, feel humbled, or express love. I give when I can, not because I feel an obligation to, but because I want the people I love and who are important to me to know how much I appreciate them. Maybe I do this during the year, the holidays or for their birthday.
As an abstract artist, I express my feelings towards others, events, surroundings, and objects through my painting. I ask myself, how does it feel when I look at a Christmas tree, a church, a crucifix? What memories arise? Then I take those feelings, choose the colors that best express my thoughts and mood, and paint. Sometimes it leads me to a dark place, a forgotten experience or moment, and sometimes it is a joyful journey into my memories and imagination.
Try and imagine your best holiday ever. Is it a memory or something you wish for in the future? Are you with your family and friends, or are you spending the day hiking with your dog and sharing a ham sandwich? What would it feel like, and how could you express it with just colors? What colors would you choose?
This year, I hope you create a holiday that expresses your best imagined day. Pick the music and the food, plan the decorations. Can you imagine celebrating in a new and unique way? How would it look? Would others recognize it?
Just because something is unrecognizable or represented in a way that is different from the usual doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hold the same reverence or quality that tradition dictates. As an artist, would you show your creation to the world and stand beside your work, knowing that maybe you and your creative force are the only ones who understand it? What a wonderful, spirit-filled gift to give yourself. Happy Abstract Holidays!