Today my city lost a well known and well loved visual artist by the name of Carlleena Person. I had, unfortunately only gotten to know her briefly. I was planning a show that incorporated various art forms that centered around hip hop. Carlleena contacted me on Facebook to let know that she was quite interested. Her enthusiasm and willingness to jump in on my random ass project without even knowing me and without any solid guarantee of payment let me know that she created out of the pure joy of doing it which, in turn, instantly endeared me to her.
We communicated via Facebook and email in the days leading up to the show. The piece she created entitled Have U.N.E. More Pull was a retelling of a Black Sheep song by the a similar name. It is beautiful (see below). I was in communication with her the day of the show, and she said she’d be dropping the piece off. As fate would have it, she had a car accident that day and gotten banged up pretty badly. When I contacted her to check on her, the first thing she did was apologize for not making the show. Amazing. I immediately hushed her, and shared with her the story of my broken ankle encouraging her to rest. She told me how truly grateful for my concern she was and said that we would meet in person soon. We never did.
Hearing of her passing today was like a blow to the gut, and I barely knew her. For me, the pang of grief comes from knowing we have lost someone that was such a light of optimism during these cynic riddled times. I cannot fathom the grief being felt by artists who knew her and worked with her directly. What I do know is that this process, this grief process that we’ll move through as a community of artists can only make us stronger.
We artists are such emotional beings. We can’t be anything else because it is that which allows us to create work that touches the emotions of other people. Some of us run from our emotional side. Some block. Some hide, but it’s always there waiting for us, and it sometimes takes the nuclear blast of death to force us to feel. Grief deconstructs and reconstructs simultaneously. It excavates all the shit we no longer need (resentment, doubt, anger, and fear) and sets it out for us to face. Then wrestle with. Then accept. Then we rebuild (hopefully) on a new foundation with a renewed respect about the frailty of life.
Carlleena will be sorely missed, not only by her family and arts community that she left, but by the planet that she help to light with her art work and tremendous spirit.