As I write each week's introduction, I'm discovering that many of the artists I have invited to join the three series currently running on my blog are people I have known since very early on in my own career. Bridgette is one of those artists. I used to faithfully read each one of her blog posts and drool over the work she posted there. I was ecstatic to find that she lived in the city and even more ecstatic when she came to meet me at a show where I was vending. Since that time, our paths have continued to cross and to my delight she also became one of the instructors at EncaustiCamp the first year I taught there. (She has a chapter in the upcoming book about the camp!). Read on to hear one of Bridgette's childhood memories. . .
|"Where it Begins" Encaustic Collage by Bridgette Guerzon Mills|
Boom, boom! Thunder shook our home and I covered my ears with my 6 year old hands.A big crack split and lit up the sky. Then darkness. I screamed. My older sister put her hand on me and asked, “What happened?”“I don’t know,” I answered, trying not to cry. “But the lights went out. I’m scared.”“Don’t be scared,” she replied. “Darkness isn’t scary. You just need to know where you are. I’ll take care of you.”
“But I can’t see!”
“Don’t worry. I’ll be your eyes.”
And with that my blind sister took my hand and led me confidently through our shared bedroom, through the hallway, and to the top of the stairs. I felt her other arm move ahead and grab the railing. She said to me, “Hold on to my hand. Now, hold on to the railing with your other hand. Ok? We’re going to go down the stairs now. There are 15 steps, let’s count together. Ready? One. Two. Three...”
We made our way down the stairs, then through the living room, down another hallway and then into the pantry. The whole time my sister spoke softly but confidently, explaining where we were and to “just follow her.” We finally stopped in front of the drawer that held the flashlights. Her hand reached out and felt around until she found what she was looking for. “Here, here are the flashlights.” She took the flashlight in her hand and handed it to me. I fumbled in the darkness to find the button. And just with the push of the button, my world was mine again and I shone the light up and into my sister’s smiling face. She reached out and patted my head.
|"Moirai" Encaustic painting by Bridgette Guerzon Mills|
Because of her condition, I grew up understanding death and the fragility of life at a very early age. We were told that she was an angel that God had sent down for us to take care of and that He would be sending back for at any moment. I didn’t feel fearful about that, but rather I learned that life is a precious gift. It is a gift that is painful and sad often,but at the same time it is a gift that is filled with beauty and joy and above all, compassion. My sister taught me to see all the varied hues and shades. She taught me to feel the wondrous textures of everyday objects, the warmth of the sun, and that so much can be learned through one’s fingertips. She taught me the power in the simple actof being present and holding one’s hand.
I believe that she was an angel sent down to take care of my family. She taught us and guided us. In the studio, she still guides me. As her baby sister, I was often her eyes, explaining the world to her.
She taught me to see.
|"Gathered and Pieced Together" Encaustic Collage by Bridgette Guerzon Mills|
Bridgette Guerzon Mills is a mixed media artist whose work primarily focuses on paintings, but at times delves into book art. Her work incorporates a variety of materials including photography, oil paint, acrylic paint and encaustic (wax-based pigments). Her artwork, artist books, and journals have been published in magazines and books and her work has been collected in the United States and internationally. She has exhibited nationally and abroad. She currently resides outside of Baltimore in Maryland with her husband, two children, and dog.