Bill Oakes, my late husband, would have had a lot to say about the pandemic and the role of artists in helping people to process what COVID 19 has wrought on our collective psyche. Here are two examples of his work that are relevant to current times.
Bill painted “Ps 91:1” (the original 911 call) and the matching painting “Jerico” long before the pandemic and before September 11, 2001—the tragedy in New York City that many say these paintings remind them of. Both of these disasters could overwhelm us and make us feel hopeless and disconnected. Bill’s paintings, with their Biblical references, encourage us to ponder the possibility that there is a higher power at work. I envision the souls of those who were lost being drawn upward into the light of a life beyond this life. My hope is this concept will be a bit of comfort to those who have lost loved ones and those who fear death.
These paintings are part of a series of paintings Bill did that all have a central vortex, what I named a “gravitational pull.” In these surreal times, I’m seeing how so many of us are drawn together, through not only wanting freedom from fear and uncertainty, but also experiencing the need and desire for reconnection— from returning to a sense of normalcy to simply getting to be with others again. Until we are able to do that, at least we can connect through artistic expression and an acknowledgement of our shared human experience. We are all interconnected.
Copyright © 2020 Sharon Oakes
Bill Oakes was an innovative New England artist, illustrator, educator, inventor, children’s book author and publisher over the course of his 35-year career. He evolved from being an illustrator to an abstract artist. Bill was known for his incredible compassion, enthusiasm, resourcefullness, creativity and his openness to experimentation. As with much of his art Bill saw beauty in what was often overlooked or unusual – seeing and helping others see in new ways. Sadly, he passed away in October 2005; we trust he is doing and seeing glorious things elsewhere! His wife, Sharon, continues to make his art available online so others may benefit from his artistry and inspiring legacy.