Bridge Across Time

In 1988 I wrote: “I am attracted to petroglyphs in a deep way. They came from a time when art was an integral aspect of community, when the artist was a healer. Even though scientists are reluctant to give meaning to these symbols I think ancient artisans knew that the power of manifesting an image was to cross the bridge to spiritual nourishment.  “Bridge Across Time” was the first oil painting in a series of over 100 that depict petroglyphs. This art was created as a healing to honor our ancestor’s ability to live in an integrated way. Re-representing them in contemporary medium allows the energy continued exposure. On an intuitive level the meaning is resonant as human expression, even when mysterious. I hope to inspire recognition of the artist/healer.”

"Bridge Across Time", ©Kathleen O'Brien, 1989, oil, 36"x36". This image was cropped from a scan of a slide, my only digital reference.

“Bridge Across Time”, ©Kathleen O’Brien, 1989, oil, 36″x36″. This image was cropped from a scan of a slide, my only digital reference.

Recently I had a wonderful reply to my mid-summer studio update from the collector who purchased that painting in 1989. Here’s what she wrote when I asked her what the painting meant to her.

 “The story about how your painting (Bridge Across Time) came to me is a bit strange. Others seem to think the painting “hunted me down.”  For those that believe in fate or gods, perhaps “they” hunted me down. I believe that we are put in places where we are supposed to be for unknown reasons. It is then up to us to figure out what the reason or lesson is in that place.  Does that sound like something out of the movie The Matrix?

 

I was an adult-ed student at Metro State College in Denver. I went into the library to do some research one day and just as I entered, there was this painting. It knocked the breath out of me when I saw it!  I don’t recall how long I stood there trying to figure out why this painting would mean so much to me. I do remember almost being late for my next class. I also remember getting home that night and telling my husband about it and he could tell from my excitement that this painting meant a LOT to me!

 

Flyer of the show at Auraria Library Gallery, Denver CO, 1989

Flyer of the show at Auraria Library Gallery, Denver CO, 1989

Well, every time I happened by the library or between classes, I would just go stand and stare at the painting. Then, one day it was gone, and I was left wondering what I was supposed to do with the fact of seeing the painting, and trying to figure out what it meant, and wondering where the painting went.

 

A few months later–out of the blue–a postcard arrived in the mail from the Boulder Arts District that had the painting on the front of it!  I hadn’t taken part in any art walks before (especially any in Boulder) and do not know how they got my name and address. Anyway, the post card was in invitation to an art walk on the mall in Boulder and it cited a specific gallery to come see this painting. Showing it to my husband, he said “we have to go!”

 

Well, we did go. I was talking excitedly the whole way from Littleton to Boulder about this painting. We arrived at the gallery and saw other pieces of your work but I was completely drawn to that painting!

 

We spoke with you and you told me small things about the painting but we did not get to speak in depth about it since it was a public event.  We spoke to the gallery owner, and asked the price.  We said we would think about it. Then left. We started our drive back to Littleton with me gabbing about that painting again.

 

"Bridge Across Time", ©Kathleen O'Brien, 1989, oil, 36"x36". Detail of the earth before the bridge was painted. This image is from a scan of a slide, my only digital reference.

“Bridge Across Time”, ©Kathleen O’Brien, 1989, oil, 36″x36″. Detail of the earth before the bridge was painted. This image is from a scan of a slide, my only digital reference.

My husband said “if you are so drawn to that painting, you have to have it!”  So we turned around to go back to the gallery and bought it that night.  We did get to speak to you again that night. At that point, the only thing I was thinking about was that painting and having it hang in our house.

 

I still have the slides you gave me of the painting in process and during repairs to it from another gallery’s unfortunate handling.  I do not recall all of the translations you told me about in the painting. I am getting older and forgetful. But that painting has hung in our Littleton town home, our Littleton house and now our Hot Sulphur Springs (tire bale) house.

 

"Bridge Across Time", ©Kathleen O'Brien, 1989, oil, 36"x36", shown in the owners home.

“Bridge Across Time”, ©Kathleen O’Brien, 1989, oil, 36″x36″, shown in the owners home.

It has and still is the center focus. Our friends have heard me tell this tale about the painting and now our visitors have also heard it.  Everyone seems drawn to it!  I look at it every day. I enjoy looking at it in wonder and in gratitude. That painting fills something in me but keeps me in suspense. I see things in it that I have seen elsewhere in the world but do not understand the significance. Knowledge does not come to us at once. Everything in its own time. The painting shows me a bridge across time.

 

As I have rewritten my will a few times over the last 10+ years, I have often wondered where the painting should end up. I have not stipulated such as yet but I do need to. None of us knows how long we will live.

 

Well, that’s my story Kathleen. You brought something very special into my life through this painting. I look forward to seeing and knowing what else will come. I treasure the fact that we are still in touch and I get to see more of your work as you have progressed through many different mediums. I hope to one day see you again, have a cup of tea, and hear more of your stories as they come out in your work.”

I treasure this correspondence in friendship with a collector who truly cherishes my work. This is an artist’s dream come true because I believe that each artwork I create is intended for a certain person. Some times it takes a while for that to line up, the need for patience is great. To have discourse about a work done long ago is to traverse the bridge across time.

I still revisit the power of petroglyphs in my work. It’s fascinating to read statements and PR that I found in my archives: “to explore and awaken deeper collective memory of the inter-relatedness between human consciousness, the earthly, and the supernatural”.

Gallery statement of Kathleen O'Brien's show at Auraria Library Gallery, Denver CO, 1989

Gallery statement of Kathleen O’Brien’s show at Auraria Library Gallery, Denver CO, 1989

PR and news clip of Kathleen O'Brien's show at Auraria Library Gallery, Denver CO, 1989

PR and news clip of Kathleen O’Brien’s show at Auraria Library Gallery, Denver CO, 1989

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