The violent events of the past few weeks echo those of recent months, years and decades. And with each one, people ask; what is the way out of this vicious cycle? How do we stop it? How do we cope? Robbie Harris has this story of how a Blacksburg artist and a mother who has suffered a terrible loss answer those questions.
The Painter, Jane Vance creates vibrant, intricate pieces that are beautiful to look at but what they a also do is speak to the viewer in a style she calls ‘visual journalism.”
“ If I were simply to paint like the old abstract expressionists, I would, for my heart, be doing something archaic, because pure beauty believes in an audience that is at leisure and this world is not at leisure. There is so much distress, corruption, prejudice, confusion in the world and I want to give my answer to those problems.”
Many artists won’t entertain the idea that their art has a message, Vance is clear; hers does. She calls it “global compassion art”.
“These are not just ‘reports,’ these paintings. These are suggested solutions for the problems you see in the world. So there has to be a way in to the suffering.”
With images that range from the literal to the abstract, and in many of them you will find depictions of human hands. One of her works is called Healing Hands, a trilogy on medicine, the natural world and the spiritual realm, from here in Virginia to Asia and Africa and beyond.
“I believe that the guard rail of our faith is that the universe is trying to emerge towards good but that requires our participation, our ‘hands on’ engagement. And to do that, you have to believe that compassion really is global because you have to believe that those black lives mattering are our black sons. Those policemen targeted are our police. Those Zambian children who are diseased or malnourished they are ours. Morgan Harrington was mine.”
The late Morgan Harrington was a student of Vance’s at Virginia Tech. She was murdered in 2009.Vance got to know her student’s parents after she asked permission to paint a picture of the farmer’s field where Morgan’s body was later found. It’s called “The Hunted” and it shows a deer embodies the natural world; it’s beauty and that of the painting’s subject. Her bracelet and earrings nestled in the heath, a feeling of peace and a sense of something that comes after. Vance asked for permission to paint the picture using Morgan Harrington’s ‘cremains’.
Gil Harrington is Morgan’s mother
“To see a means of healing, you know, from ash. We have created something of beauty that is healing for us spiritually and emotionally. “
Morgan Harrington’s killer is serving a life sentence without parole.
Harrington says, “ I pray for his mom. She prays for me. She’s lost a child also.”
Gil Harrington made a decision early on, not to hate her daughter’s killer; In fact to take that energy and transform it into love and healing. Out of the circumstances of their meeting, Vance and Harrington went on to found an organization aimed at preventing these horrendous crimes called, “Save the Next Girl.” And they also go to Africa every summer on health care mission trips, healing themselves by healing others.
Harrington adds, “You know, from ashes we took cinder blocks in Africa and built a school. So part of the belief and the lesson that I have is that, starting pretty much with nothing we have synthesized and created much. If we can do this with nothing, and you’ve got a little bit of something, there’s no end of the possibilities that you can do.”
The painter, Jane Vance says, “I’ll tell you the most archaic response in the world is retaliation. You will not aid healing by hating or firing back. It never works. So you have to find something positive to build and give instead. That’s what these paintings are about.”