“Heavy Heart, Sweet Blossoms” by Lorna Ritz

Lorna Ritz studied under the instruction of painter James Gahagan, (a student of Hans Hofmann), who was a very important teacher for her in the 60’s. She received an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1971, in both painting and sculpture, (welding steel, and casting in bronze and iron).

“Heavy Heart, Sweet Blossoms”

I had an accident on an Amtrak train and was taken by ambulance to a CT. hospital just before the pandemic. Back home, my Dr. called to say I was at high risk. I told her I was strong as a horse, aside from the accident, but she reminded me of my previous medical issues and countless surgeries as a recurrent cancer patient. I thought she was talking about another person, especially when she reminded me of my age. In March my gallery closed. Everything closed (restaurants, movie theaters, colleges, concerts were cancelled).  Streets were empty.  This became a time to be still, to wonder, to create new experiences and support them with good expectation that brings one to new discoveries.  I cleaned the garden, planted peas, played with my neighbor’s goats and went for sunset walks.  I became immersed in paintings to reflect this new time, checking on elderly neighbors by email, and trying not to watch the news too much (I only believed the scientists).  How could I best express my most passionate realities I see in the landscape, (the story beneath ordinary everyday life things), producing on canvas much of what people feel when they get religious? As a painter, I am used to a life of solitude, suggesting to people who live alone to choose some one thing they have always wanted to do but have never prioritized, and become brilliant at it. No one came to visit, I did not go out, I could focus on moving these paintings further without interruption. Each night I would tell myself before sleep, “I think I am getting better.” That was why I still paint. By late March many more people were dying. I brought both sadness and the beauty of the season into a new body of paintings. Then the sun would come up and the buds open a little more each day, giving me another chance to do what I do even better.  Finally, after total seclusion, I needed to peek out into my community, to see for myself familiar roads and places, which were truly empty. It was the wide-open fields catching sunlight, and the blue mountains that were steadfast in their stubbornness ‘just to be’. I doubled my walks from 2 miles to a daily 4, doubled online yoga classes, painted with deep focus, ate well, put my hands in clay, (my hands that have ‘eyes’), wrote and read, all to counteract the terror of what this time had become.  The nonpolitical virus would teach us to become an even more compassionate people, kinder, more loving, uplifting each other, seeing the best in each other. I found friends online from Spain, Colombia, South Africa, France, etc., and left food for neighbors who needed connection. But little acts of kindness were not enough.  Leading an inspired, driven life kept me emotionally strong, (in pursuit of deeper visual expression), having compassion for others who find themselves suddenly isolated, especially when listening to a neighbor telling me she is afraid.