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Portrait of A Man I Never Knew

3′ x 3.5′ – Charcoal on Paper

 

Artist Statement:

McDONALD – Nick Temnick, 83, passed away Thursday evening, Nov. 3, 2011, at The Cleveland Clinic.

Nick was born Sept. 26, 1928, in Youngstown, Ohio.

He served in the U.S. Army after World War II. Nick was a sheet metal worker and retired in 1990. Mr. Temnick was an active member of Sts. Peter & Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Youngstown, where he was a past trustee and auditor. He also worked bingo and worked with the church on many projects.

Nick leaves two sons, a daughter, and five grandchildren.

This was a summary of my grandfather’s obituary. When he was my age, he served as a line cook in the Army. He raised his children in the same house where he was raised, in a tiny town that most Ohioans can’t find it on a map. When he’d fly to visit us he’d bring along Ukrainian treats handmade by the little old ladies who volunteered with him at the church. He was a quiet man. He used to sneak me donuts from the top shelf of our pantry when my parents weren’t looking. He taught me how to dance by holding my hands as I stood on his feet. He called me Lee Anne-y Banan-y until I was 15. He quit smoking cigarettes cold turkey the day my brother – his first grandchild – was born. He wore a hat, a t shirt, and the same wrangler jeans and work boots every day. He pronounced Wednesday, “Whens-dee”.

Some days I’ll catch a whiff of something that smells exactly like him. Other days I can’t remember his face. Just like an old photograph, memories degrade over time. They become blurred and scratched, faded and smudged. For this project I thought about who I wanted to immortalize on such a large scale and I couldn’t get my grandfather out of my head. He was the first major loss that I can remember. I became more and more interested in if we are truly able to ‘keep people’s memories alive’ as the saying goes.

Is it possible to be remembered for the impact that we have on the people around us, for the lessons we instill and the energy we leave behind?

Or does the degradation of memory eventually strip us down to the bare facts of our obituaries – the cold, scaffolding of our lives?

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