As a filmmaker I get an immense joy out of the simply act of observation. To explore another visual art form such as painting with my camera only adds to the pleasure, and there is an additional double up on the thrill factor when I’m looking at somebody else who is looking at something which is important to them; taking in life through the eyes, so to speak.
I’ve immersed myself in this scenario several times together with painter and storyteller Rebecca Hayward, who is based in Florence, Italy. In the spring of 2019 I embarked on my second video project together with Rebecca producing 6 short videos about her art work that entails a wide variety of genres and themes; from miniature artist books, to graphical works in black and white to surreal and symbolistic oil paintings on large canvas. Her world is vast and inhabited by colorful insects, women and animals, vulnerable astronauts and different people from her personal life – sometimes put together in one figure. They are staged in constructed and timeless landscapes in space or around the reality of a historical tragedy. At times she is contemplative and dark, other times temporamental, explosive and full of humor and playfullness.
Already in the fall of 2018 we had done the short film “Where to go…” together (se previous blog on this site) in which I tell the story of her quest to define the next step on her artistic path after loosing her husband and life partner. The film deals with her mourning process but also exhibits how her passion for the arts enables her to move towards the future with a new vision for herself. In what was essentially a short road movie we brought her paintings to exterior locations related to her personal life – as if the depicted figures had been a group of friends being introduced to these environments for the first time. They, on the other hand, brought something new and other worldly to these familiar places.
In the act of exposing her mourning and healing process I witnessed how Rebecca steadily started settling into a new life. 6 month later she was ready to take another big step. As can be seen in the videos she had lost an impressive amount of weight and was decisive to continue the unloading on all levels.
Her aim was now to review and reorganize the paintings she had created over a span of several decades to clarify and define even further her artistic project. This process entailed unpacking a visual testimony of the busy and productive life she had spent as a mother, a wife, an academic teacher and of course as an artist.
Together we unwrapped, organized and photographed painting after painting stored in both her studio and her private home. For her it was an immensely emotional journey to revisit the paintings and for me it was an incredible expedition into a rich and fruitful life as it had come to be expressed through her paintings.
I was especially taken by her Bestiary series in which she portrays women in close contact with their animal side by depicting them together with invented creatures in imaginary settings. Just as 3 artist books she did in honor of her mother, who suffered 13 years of dementia before she died, revealed a captivating background story of a strong and talented woman who despite her sad departure had managed to overcome and rise above great obstacles such as poverty and abandonment in her childhood. She manifested a successful career as a psychologist and lived an exciting life as the epicenter of a vibrant and creative family.
I took great pleasure in dwelling on the details of all these mirrors of life with my camera while asking and listening to an artist who clearly loved to talk and elaborate on what had initially been created through color and composition – in a language beyond words. Again and again I was reminded of the manifold power images have to both connect and liberate us from our past in order to keep reinventing ourselves and turn our inner vision, ourselves, into a shared reality.
Below I invite you to see three of the short videos about Rebecca Hayward’s work. The first one deals with the theme of Human Tragedy, such as the Holocaust and 11/9 in NY. The second shows part of her extensive Bestiary series with women and animals. Finally the third video presents the unpacking of the 3 artist books about her mother’s dementia and the process of doing repair work while telling her mother’s life story. Feel free to like and share the videos.
I encourage you to visit Hayward’s website to learn more about her art. Also go to the link below to see three more videos I did about Rebecca’s work for her website: