Love abides despite barriers or physical distance
Words and images by Peter Bruun
What does “a squeal of pain” look like? Attempting to answer that question guided this drawing, unusually spontaneous and free-flowing for me. But I like the vibrations of the lines – the blue notes – a blues song. The source of this excerpt is a letter from Vita Sackville-West to Virginia Woolf, both writers, and involved in a passionate affair with one another. On January 21, 1926, while traveling on train from London to join her husband for four months in Persia where he served as a diplomat, Vita wrote the letter containing this fragment to Virginia. The love affair between the two inspired the novel Orlando by Virginia Woolf, and ended in 1929. As one might imagine with gifted writers, they left behind a trove of beautifully written missives, as they spent their loving years apart as much as together, all the while their forbidden love burning bright.
“Yana Galang’s life was changed forever on April 14, 2014. Her 17-year-old daughter, Rifkatu, was at boarding school in Chibok, Nigeria, for her final week of exams. Boko Haram extremists stormed the school and kidnapped her from her bed.” So begins the story of Yana, one of several shared in 2017 in a special report by CNN. Yana wrote a letter to her missing daughter (still missing), and from that letter I made several drawings. In this one, I feel I tap a drawing style not typically my own – more literally figurative than the vast majority of my love letter drawings, and done with an easy flow, without any edits to the lines. Not all drawings come out well, and rarely do I feel I actually achieve what I want in serving such a hallowed thing as love, but in this case, with both the written words and graphic image, I feel something is met. I do not take credit on this one: it felt like a channeling of something bigger.
Maureen and David spent much time apart in the early years of their relationship, penning a rich trove of love letters along the way. The words in this drawing – an excerpt from one of the many letters – convey a feeling so universal for lovers physically apart: a yearning for togetherness, and a demand for hard patience. As in many of my drawings, in this one I use different media to make visible two different truths: the ink-drawn abstracted figures represent Maureen and David, each away from the other; the colored lines (emanating from within each lover’s heart) signify the truth of their spiritual connectedness, made manifest in real life through their letters – letters bridging the space between them time and time again. This particular story is David’s and Maureen’s, but it is of course a human story, one perhaps we all can relate to in one way or another. I know I do.
“My fourteen-year-old son, Calvin, has suffered medically refractory epilepsy since the age of two. I publish a post to this blog every few days to promote epilepsy awareness on his behalf.” These words serve as the opening introduction to Calvin’s Story, a blog kept by Christy about her journey through motherhood. The words on this drawing come from Christy’s blog, each entry of which might be said to be a love letter. In this drawing, after a number of unsuccessful efforts (telegraphed by all the white paint covering up failed attempts), I arrive at what I feel to be apt imagery: surprising crystal-like or basalt-like shapes – shapes clear and solid… stripped down to essence. An essential love. For the unshakable rock-like essence between Christy and Calvin is this love (this love for a “handsome, impish, drooly, precious boy”) – shapes as surprising as the bright aliveness of Christy’s and Calvin’s loving journey amidst so much challenge.