Thursday, June 20, 2013

Thank You, Karma and The Universe

Jared Maddox Hall

Jared Hall 24x20 / collage on panel

This is the perfect follow up post to my NY State with George and Anna Marie Story. Why? Because last year when I was at the cottage on Keuka Lake, after George and Anna Marie dropped me off from visiting them in Utica, I got an unexpected phone call. 

"Hello" I said. "Oh! I didn't expect you to answer the phone" a woman with a Southern drawl from Mississippi exclaimed on the other end of my cell. "Well, this IS my phone," I said with a smile in my voice. "And, I'm not THAT famous..." "Oh, she said.... well I have been following you on Facebook and I have a question...."

That's how it started. I was sitting at the table, looking out over the lake, one day last June. Nancy Hall called me to ask me if I would create a collage portrait of her son Jared. "He passed away in a tragic accident," she exclaimed as her voice grew strained "I'm sorry, I'm going to cry," she said apologetically. "This is still very difficult for me." Oh how I know that feeling, all too well.

Nancy told me that when she saw my portrait of Suzanne Miazga online, she KNEW I could create the portrait of Jared that she wanted to have. I was honored that she trusted me with such an incredible responsibility. I felt as if Suzanne had put us together, and how could I say "no" to her?

Jared and a good friend

Nancy and I talked for a while, we talked about Jared's love for Colorado and the red rocks, his favorite band "Widespread Panic" and his dogs. She took my address to send me photos from his childhood right up to his last visit home. She sent me a t-shirt from the party they had in his honor that year, and a set of blue (as close to purple as she could get) rosary beads which I hung on my easel as I worked on Jared's portrait. I slept in the t-shirt and I read all about Nancy's son in her letter. 

Tears welled up in my eyes, I am a mother and I have been though tragedy, yet I still cannot imagine her pain. My husband asked "how are you going to do this? won't it be too difficult?" I wondered, and then I answered "no." Because I knew it was an honor, and I am glad that Nancy trusted me with this project. If I can create a piece of artwork that gives a mother happiness and a sense of peace when she sees it, that ultimately makes me happy, not sad. 

I hand painted many papers from Nancy, memorial service papers, Jared's own writings from college, a letter from his best friend, and other bits of personal ephemera. I looked through tons of photos of Jared which ranged from thin faced, to fuller faced (even one of him at about age 2 holding a fish and looking incredibly surprised!). Ultimately I decided on a face from one photo, and a jacket from another.

Jared loved the mountains and his dogs

I incorporated the red rocks of Colorado that he loved so much, as well as all his personal ephemera that Nancy provided, into a portrait of a man I had never met, this is always a challenge. I used most of the text in the background, but I did bring it gradually into the sides of his face before transitioning into a more smooth textured set of colors for the main area of his likeness.

Jared loved the outdoors, hiking, hunting and fishing. He was very proud of his turkey

This June at the annual party that Nancy and her husband hold at their house in honor of Jared, she finally revealed this very emotional portrait. I could not reveal it before she did. Jared's friends and family all joined to celebrate his life, almost 60 people. Wow. 

the photo I used for the face

the photo I used for the hunting jacket

the sketch on wood panel

I am happy to say that Nancy and I, although we have never met in person, have become very good friends. We have been texting and emailing, Facebooking and calling each other quite often over the past year. I feel as though I have gained a wonderful friend out of the project, how awesome is that? Nancy says that I have inspired her in fitness, she's walking and looking for a personal trainer. She's also the proud owner of a new tattoo this year! She showed me several designs which we discussed before she chose the art that adorns her body and the back of this year's party t-shirt -- yes, I sleep in this one too.

The Universe brought us together, 24 years after the Pan Am tragedy. Nancy saw my portrait of Suzanne and reached out to me. She endured the same kind of pain, from loosing a child, that I had seen Anna Marie go through in 1988. 

Life is an amazing journey and along the way you gain the skills you need for future situations. I believe that in this Universe that all things happen for a reason. I know that it's no coincidence Nancy called me that one day in Upstate NY just one day after Anna Marie and George left me to the lake, the cabin, and my art.

If you believe in Karma and the Universe like I do, here's another really interesting tidbit:
Nancy Hall lives on Scotland Road in Benton, MI
Suzanne's rosebush and her fate were met in Scotland
She grew up on Benton Rd.

Oh! And one more thing
13 days after Nancy's mother died, Jared died, and 13 months (nearly to the day) Jared's nephew Maddox (his namesake) was born. AND Your's Truly has a birthday every year on the 13th of July.

Thank you for being a part of my art journey.


  1. What a wonderful story...thank you so much for sharing! You appear to have captured Jared's likeness and spirit as perfectly as possible. As a reflection of the joy that he brought to life, may it be a gift of comfort for his mother and loved ones.

  2. What an amazing story and your portrait is spot on. His Mother must have been delighted, I know I would be. Beautiful work, Elizabeth!

  3. thank you Mary, for reading. And you are right, it is a reflection of the joy he brought to life.

  4. Beckielboo, thank you so much, it means a lot to me

  5. A lovely story with so many connections..and ohh,how I believe in those connections...just amazing Elizabeth.
    Love and hugs to you, and Nancy as well


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