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A Portrait Project at the Zen Hospice

My project is awesome because it uses art to provide hospice residents with a meaningful experience as they face the end of their lives. I have partnered with the Zen Hospice Project to create a series of painted portraits of residents. I will also record informal interviews focused on their life stories, memories, lessons and reflections. The final portraits will be created on-site at the hospital so that the residents and staff can observe the creative process. The work will be exhibited at the hospice's two SF locations and at a venue for the public -- all profits from sold paintings will go towards the Zen Hospice Project.

The purpose of the project is twofold: (1) to engage hospice residents in the contemplative and poignant process of telling their story and sitting for a portrait; (2) to offer the public insight into the inner worlds of people confronting the end of life: what really matters in life when you know it's almost over?

Even though death may be the only certainty of life, our cultural norms prescribe a high level of avoidance towards confronting this reality. Consequently, open and honest communication between those at the end of their life and those who have it all ahead of them is uncommon. Nonetheless, the transmission of this kind of “life knowledge” and wisdom between generations is fundamental to our psychological and spiritual health. My 85 year old grandmother has always been my muse. Through my portraits of her and our endless conversations about life and death, she has helped me to understand what is really important.

Combining visual art and storytelling, this project aims to offer participants and viewers a meditation on the meaning of life. Please help me to utilize my artistic practice to give inspiration to the living and a legacy to the dying.

Funded by San Francisco, CA (February 2014)