All the Water Leads to the Sea - The Forgiving Sea Project

The Forgiving Sea Project began in March 2016, coinciding with an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, a period of prayer held every fifty years in the Roman Catholic Church. I hung the massive 6’ x 6’ canvas in the studio at the Harrison Center for the Arts of Indianapolis, Indiana, The painting, with its calming shades of blue, feels like being underwater with rays of light shining from above and invites people to interact with the painting. The Forgiving Sea asks people to forgive themselves and each other. The current process encourages viewers to write names of those they wish to forgive on an oil painting of waves of the sea with soft pastel. Once the piece is full of names, a new layer covers the names as if washing them away. Back and forth the layers continue to transform the painting into a beautiful, soulful work of art made by the collective community. As individuals unburden themselves by forgiving those who have hurt or betrayed them, they may feel a sense of relief from the burden of grief released. 

The Forgiving Sea - Layer Four

One of the most memorable signatures was from a friend and artist, Rodney Walker, who visited the studio often to talk about art and life. Like others, he wrote his message on the painting for all of us.

“We need as artists to paint more social issues to educate others” – R. Walker.

He died unexpectedly from an illness soon after writing on the Forgiving Sea. Rodney’s passing demonstrated to me that we shouldn’t wait to let things go and to live with a sense of urgency. The legacy of his message is preserved in one of the many layers of Forgiving Sea I.

In the years following, the painting had over 25 layers of names built up between them. If the work was x-rayed, thousands of names would be revealed as individual artifacts captured in a moment in time. In 2019, I painted a layer on the sea that looked finished, and it felt as if the idea for the painting had reached its end.