Death is one aspect of life that everyone, regardless of where you come from or what you look like, will have to experience. When we lose someone near and dear to us, what we want most is to have them back, to somehow give them more hours, minutes, even seconds of time to be here with us. It’s impossible to do this though, and no matter what we do, we can’t reverse time.
I believe something far greater than us comprehends the emotional impact of loss and grief that consume our bodies and hearts when we suffer a loss. I think that nature has its way of comforting us in these times, and sometimes it happens to come in the form of butterflies and numbers.
My idea for this painting was to highlight death in a manner that strayed far from a morbid sense and focused on understanding and humanism. I chose hands to paint as they’re a way that we naturally choose to express ourselves. We use our hands for intimacy, to hug someone for comfort, to caress one’s face to show love, to hold another person’s hand when we feel scared, and to catch someone when they fall.
The dull hand in the bottom right corner represents a living person while the illuminated hand in the upper left corner represents someone deceased. The bottom hand is throwing a pocket watch at the upper hand as a literal attempt to give the deceased person time back. That’s what we want the most when we lose someone close to our hearts, we desire to reverse time, to give them more time with us.
On top of the deceased hand sits a blue morpho butterfly surrounded by two other butterflies. Butterflies are often connected to spirituality and death because they go through a life cycle called metamorphosis, similarly, metaphorically speaking, the same way we humans do. Butterflies are important for this painting because there's often references to them appearing when someone passes away. It’s believed that it’s a sign from a deceased person, making their presence known to show the living they’re okay where they’re at.
Lastly and most importantly, time and numbers are essential in this painting. I purposely detailed the pocket watch to symbolize how precious and important the time is. It’s something we can’t change, we can’t go back, and we can’t cheat and go forward. We move at the same rate that time does, while we’re alive. Even the canvas is a direct symbol of time, it has an aged look with cracks and markings, a homage to how long we’ve struggled and will continue to struggle with grasping what is and how to deal with death emotionally.
If you notice, the time is set to 3:33. You’ll find plenty of indications to three in this painting. There’s constant references to three in history and spiritualism. In Christianity 3 represents the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). In Buddhism there are three Jewels, Buddha (teacher), Dharma (teachings), and Sangha (community). There’s also a beginning, middle and end to a story. Birth, life, and death in living creatures, and the saying that “things come in threes.”
My hope is that this painting brings solace and comfort, allowing you to reframe your mind in a different state when you think about the concept of death.