Friday, November 7, 2008

New Oil Painting, "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?"

This is what you might call a biographical painting. Although it is not actually my brother in the painting, it is dedicated to him and his struggle for survival.

My brother suffers from schizophrenia and has had an extremely difficult time throughout his adult life. He has sporadic contact with my family, usually when he could use some support (financial, that is). After years of trying to set up housing, counselling, and a myriad of social services for him, we've come to terms with the fact that this is how he plans to live his life. We welcome opportunities to maintain any contact we can with him and continue to think of him and pray for him.

The graffiti on the bench are messages I would send him if I could. The figures in the background are from childhood photos. The man's expression is so similar to the many homeless men and woman that I have observed over the years, like someone trapped inside an alternative existence, something other than this world.


Manon Doyle said...

It's so very hard to have a family member that suffers from mental illness. I think all you can do is pray and hope that in his own world he is happy.
My daughter feeds the homeless every Thursday with a youth group and comes home with much compassion and love for those disadvantaged.
Thank you for sharing your beautiful painting and story.

Robin Maria Pedrero said...


Your story is heart wrenching for all the sadness and suffering. You have produced an enthralling piece of work from the pain and love in this relationship. I often fear homeless people having grown up in an area where the mental facility closed and they released many into the population. Whether to help or not is often a safety issue. I feel compassion and helplessness as I view your painting. I thank you for bringing awareness and helping me to remember when I do help it is probably someone's beloved family member.

Peggi Habets said...

Thanks, Manon. It has been a lot of ups and downs with my brother, mostly downs, but I must say he is the most optimistic person I've ever met. He once said one of the hospitals he was in was like a country club! (It's all releative I guess!)

You're right to exercise caution if a situation feels unsafe. Sometimes I think it's a matter of getting out of our comfort zones to see the homeless as a person in pain or need, all we often see is danger. Thanks for your kind comment.

Odd Chick said...

WOWWW, you are so talented and this beautiful oil speaks to me as my son has been severely mentally ill at times in his life and they gave him many diagnosises(for now we are seeing complete mental health and believe we're seeing a miracle)You made something so beautiful out of the wrenching pain you've been through - to let go and accept and let all but love remain.

Marian Fortunati said...

So many families (mine included) share your story and I think we all love those that seem to be lost to us and what we consider the "normal" world.
I wish you peace ... I'm sure painting this was both painful and a kind of a releasing process as well....

redchair said...

This heart wrenching Peggi. I’m so sorry. I have a similar situation in my family. The real unfortunate truth is that emotional illness claims more causalities than just the victim of the disease. It makes people that love them suffer right along with them.

I’m so sorry that you’ve lost someone you obviously love to this disease. My heart goes out to you.

Karine said...

What a powerful painting, Peggi. Thank you for sharing the very personal story behind it. I have another friend who also has a family member with mental illness, and my heart aches for those of you with afflicted family members. You are brave to reveal your story.

Anonymous said...

I like that painting a lot, Peggi. I'm sorry for your brother and your family.
The figures behind him seem to show that he is withdrawn from others and not simply posing. They remind me of the background people in Goya paintings. And his hands and the way he looks at them are just right.
Is that my imagination or has the picture darkened since you put it in?

Peggi Habets said...

Karine, Vikki, Odd Chick and Marian,
I've found many people have their own personal stories to share. It's amazing how many people have been affected by a mental illness.

100 swallows,
Thanks so much for your insight. Hmm, I'm not sure what you mean about the painting darkening. Do you mean did I replace the image with a darker one? (If so, no. You've just been drinking again.)

You're right about the figures. I wanted to show how distant and faded we've become to him.

Anonymous said...

I guess it was my imagination, after all. I meant that it looked literally darker than when I had first seen it (I remembered making out details of the graffiti and seeing the blue better). You must have noticed that that happens to JPEGs. Many of the paintings at Wikipedia have gotten very dark and I always have to brighten them up at Photo Editor before putting them in my blog.

Peggi Habets said...

100 swallows,
I wonder, could it be the computer monitor? I did notice that images look different at different times but never gave it much thought. Again, thanks for the feedback. I do appreciate it.

Abby Creek Art said...

Very powerful post, Peggi. I'm so sorry you've had the heartbreak of a brother with schizophrenia.

Your painting is amazing...it shows the pain and sorrow of homelessness but also a certain grace. Beautiful work.

Owen said...

Beautiful work, not just this painting but all of what I see here. Congrats on the gallery. I'm a ways-away from that as I am, mid-life, starting my career over - this time back in the arts. I've subscribed to the rss. Thanks for your kind comments on my own site.

Paula Villanova said...

Peggi, This is a beautiful, touching painting, and I hope he gets to see it someday; it may mean alot to him. I see homeless folks alot in Boston and I often wonder how they survive our winters, but they seem to, often with the assistance of caring organizations for food and shelter. Thanks for a reminder that we have to take care of and respect each other.