What is the The Gift?

I painted a 4×7″ painting on wood panel back in 2020. My son painted the background and didn’t see a way forward with it, so he asked if I wanted to work on it. I did. I wanted to do white outlines on a dark background, practice some spontaneity. My subject matter is often disability and mortality. The result was The Gift.

The Gift by Joy Murray and son, 2020, acrylic paint and ink on board

The most frequent question I got about it was “What is the gift?” I didn’t have a definite answer. The pandemic hit just as I was finishing it. We were all thinking about out mortality. But shifting my gaze from my disability, from Covid, from a narrow definition of life seemed like a gift. All my friends and loved ones, I realized, ease my journey. They are a gift. The beauty of nature, all that lives and transforms, is a gift.

The painting was purchased but I saw it a few months ago, in the midst of a dense depression, and I wished I still had it. I decided to do another one, bigger, and include it in the Look Closer series.

Two months later, I’ve finished it. The flower outlines photograph as blue but they are really purple.

The Gift by Joy Murray, 2022, acrylic paint and ink on canvas, 20×24″
The Gift, detail
The Gift, detail
The Gift, detail

Again, the question people ask me about it is What is the Gift? I still don’t have a solid answer. I give the same answer I did 2 years ago. But in painting this, I realized how much acceptance of the shape and struggles of my life is a gift. And if there is no way of getting “better” or no way of surviving in this rich and beautiful mortal world, acceptance and hope for an afterlife is a gift, even if it turns out to be an illusion (I love my illusions). A flower that dies really becomes a seed, and then a new plant. It’s a gift to have these thoughts. Whatever direction I go, the friends and loved ones I have, the new ones I meet, the memories of those who have already died — all of this is the gift. Life is the gift — not always an easy gift, and definitely not a permanent one. Perhaps I’m a seed.

When I paint, I glance into the changing and amazing nature of life, no matter where I am on my journey.

Is that the gift?

What do you think?


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3 thoughts on “What is the The Gift?

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