“Life in Pieces” – a story of artful self-expression

Segment of “Life in Pieces” an original art piece

We talk late into the night about all the changes that have happened in our lives.

“I feel like I’m swimming upstream, and the current keeps pushing me back,” she says. “I have no idea what I’m doing, the direction I’m taking. I’m not floating – I just feel that I’m drowning.”

We take a breath and our tears come. We cry together for the brokenness in our lives – the endless starts and stops of rebuilding. We shed tears for the pieces of our lives that are not yet whole.

Segment of “Life in Pieces” an original art piece

“How do I tell my story?” is the question I’ve wrestled with the past few months.

“My life is in pieces.”

I’ve wanted to blog. I’ve wanted to find my voice again in writing and sharing deep contemplative reflections on life, art, and spiritual matters. Yet the truth is – whenever I start to write – my brain freezes. How can I write about the months of loneliness and quarantine? the pain of losing my dear community and the people with whom I served and loved? the endless outpouring of resumes and applications into the void? the ups and downs of finding small pockets of work that don’t work out? the fear and humiliation of updating my Linkedin page for the 12th time in 7 months?

How do I write about not knowing what my purpose is? of turning 50 in a world of isolation and strife? of learning my dearest and life-long friend has Covid? of my fear to leave my house? of all the plot twists and mistaken trust that I’ve made? the jobs I felt hopeful about that didn’t come through?

Will giving voice to my struggles to maintain my emotional and mental health feel trivial and off-putting in times when so many are hurting and suffering?

Segment of “Life in Pieces” an original art piece

Whereas I can’t bear to pick up a pen and write, I do however grab my paints and begin to color all over a 30×30 primed gesso board. I pour my paint directly onto the canvas. I scrape, draw, tear, create and re-create texture upon texture. I let loose.

My life may be in pieces, but I can create with abandon in this little corner of my home. It is in this spirit that I begin to let loose all my fears, anxiety, distrust, sadness, grief and tears.

And as I create, I realize that what I’m building is an art expression of a “Life in Pieces.” Some suggest that the images are puzzle pieces. Yet, the pieces do not fit – there’s no logical way to bring the elements together and make a unified whole. And yet, standing back, and looking at the entire piece as a whole, it works.

“Life in Pieces”, 30×30 acrylic on gesso board, October 2020

And at this moment, looking at the whole piece of art, I feel hopeful that my own “life in pieces” will find some hope and healing in spite of the struggle. I realize that I am creating and re-creating the textures of my life. I am scraping away the heartache. I’m drawing from a deep-well of experience, growing and changing in ways yet not revealed. I am tearing away from my own grief to bring more into my world.

I am creating and re-creating the textures of my own life in pieces.

I’m letting loose…



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Author: Rinnie Orr
Greetings! Welcome to XOXOX Art Studio. I believe everyone has a spark of creativity that will lead them to find their greatest passions. Through individualized art classes and creative coaching, I help people overcome creative block, break through self-doubt and build confidence. How can I help you find your greatest passion?

4 thoughts on ““Life in Pieces” – a story of artful self-expression

  1. This is a work balanced with meaning and beauty. Reminiscent of the work of 1940s Arshile Gorky [link below] (and of his own struggles). The meditation on shapes as direct bearers of meaning (not relying on overt symbolism) is similar in both artist’s work. Xoxox has begun with a jagged-stroke splash canvas and overlaid it with soft shapes in pastels. Typical of her visual strategy, it’s unclear how to read the shapes: are they negative spaces (receding) or plastic and emerging? How to explain the selective contrast between and rough-stroke dark interiors of the shapes and the gentle curve-linear piece exteriors? Is this a statement of inner turmoil balanced by a placid exterior? And if so is this about the artist or the times in which she works?

    The painting is titled “Life in Pieces.” Almost immediately the viewer realizes that the puzzle pieces can never fit together. They are disparate shapes, sherds without a solution. Better said, they are fragments that require a new way of combining themselves to make a different whole. They float on the canvas, challenging the viewer for his/her personal solution. It is this notion of floating, objects unpinned to a horizon line (another of this artist’s frequent themes) that suggests suspension. A suspended puzzle is an unsolved one. I read the shape to the lower right as a fish. If so the other shapes recall biomorphic creatures in mid-water. Is this how nature perceives herself? Is this how we perceive the anonymity of nature? The marred nature we have created? Is the “Life in Pieces” an ecological statement? Is the “Life” suggested here life in the broadest sense, vague creatures we treat as species rather than a single ecology?

    ‘Life in Pieces’ is nothing short of brilliant. Lyrically conceived, poignantly executed and despite any implicit angst, lovely to look at. Summary: I agree with Ben.


    1. . . . and Amy. PS: This was written on 11/11 at 7:30 pm and not 11/12 after midnight. I’m not sure why the post indicates that.

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