Finding Faith and Working Through Grief With Artistic Expression - 27 East

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Finding Faith and Working Through Grief With Artistic Expression

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Sag Harbor artist David Diskin with his work at Red Horse Market in January. COURTESY THE ARTIST

Sag Harbor artist David Diskin with his work at Red Horse Market in January. COURTESY THE ARTIST

Of his painting

Of his painting "Altar," 2023, David Diskin writes, "Reclining male and female figures illustrate the intimacy of being together, but also independent. One figure slipping into slumber, the other arising and awakening. In the mystery, unity." COURTESY THE ARTIST

David Diskin,

David Diskin, "Behind You," 2022. The artist says, "Soft figure gently stands as the structure of the world surrounds. We remain, despite the vortex of circumstances. With gentle illumination we are reassured that despite it all, we can stand, we can be present, even when only a shadow of ourselves is there." COURTESY THE ARTIST

David Diskin,

David Diskin, "Body of Learning," 2023. Of this piece, the artist writes, "Experience represented by the black background and balanced by the burnished gold. We journey through difficulty on an unknown pathway. What remains is the treasure of our souls. COURTESY THE ARTIST

David Diskin,

David Diskin, "Body of Love," 2023, foreground, and "Unspoken," 2022" background. In Body of Love, the artist says, "Each of us has two energies within us. When we connect to our soulmate the energy of love resonates within us." In "Unspoken," he adds, "The depth of communication found in embrace. The male holding and pulling with the physical, the female softly embracing, perhaps lifting. The silence between speaks of the profound nature of true connection." COURTESY THE ARTIST

authorAnnette Hinkle on Mar 25, 2024

A little over two years ago, on December 31, 2021, David Diskin’s wife, Faith, died after a long battle with a very rare form of kidney cancer. She was 57 years old.

“Faith and I were married for 29 years and together for 30 years. She was such a huge influence on my life and people in Sag Harbor through her work in the school,” said Diskin. “It was a deep bond and when you lose someone like that, it’s devastating.”

In the wake of Faith’s death, Diskin has gone through the many stages of grief, and now, two years on, is in the midst of a personal transformation, discovering a new path forward in his life by processing the complexity of his emotions through artwork.

“The process of her illness was very intense,” he explained. “You realize how important the physicality of the body is. We spent a lot of time at Memorial Sloan Kettering and I realized we’re very fluid and fragile. It’s a sacred vessel that carries us.”

While Diskin has always been in the business of creativity — in 2001, he founded Artivise, a company that reproduces high quality prints on archival canvas — he is now exploring his own original artistic impulses through sculptural pieces that explore the nature of both the body and the spirit. The notion of the body as a sacred vessel carries through all aspects of Diskin’s latest artistic endeavor.

“I didn’t think I could do anything creative again after her death. She was such a big supporter,” said Diskin of his wife’s influence. “When you lose a spouse, you lose a big piece of yourself. But with encouragement, in 2022 I started making art.”

To that end, late last year Diskin presented an exhibition of his work in a rented space in East Hampton’s Red Horse Plaza. Titled “Unqualified. *without reservation,” the show highlighted art pieces that Diskin created using mannequins, which he then painted and illuminated with LED lights. The sculptural pieces were displayed alongside his abstract figurative paintings.

“I did some other figures in wire, then I began painting the body forms,” he explained. “After that, I thought I needed to create canvases as well that explored the subject. In the paintings, I wanted to capture the intimacy and quietness of being together. Most of the paintings have two figures in them.

“It’s a very spiritual exhibition. We did the show at night and we shut the lights off to give people a sense of the illuminated experience,” he continued. “I’ve done thousands of images of more commercial things — it was always reproductions. But this is the first time I’ve done a collection of work with a narrative. This is all my collection.

“I really wanted to examine the physicality of the body from a spiritual aspect,” he noted. “How does the spirit carry in the body and how do we nurture that form? Or when it breaks apart, how does that impact us?”

For Diskin, the creation of the sculptural pieces has been an interesting and enlightening journey. Initially, he wanted to go back to the origins of Greek sculpture in his work, a subject he had studied in college as a philosophy and art history major. He eventually settled on the use of the plastic mannequins as his blank canvas, imbuing them with life through paint, illumination and other objects.

“I wanted to capture the sense of ever-changing emotion and soul, so these pieces change color all the time,” he explained. “Usually, as an artist you pick a color. I was interested in using these light forms that change. It’s also about letting go of things, just like in life you have to let go.”

Mirrors and reflective textures further define the mannequin pieces. Diskin explained that it’s an effect designed to reference the idea that, when we look at somebody else, our own views are reflected back in how we see them.

“People see us differently than we are internally. We’re not in touch with our internal life. We’re making a narrative of who we are,” Diskin said, adding, “It was that, and understanding how precious the body is in life.”

Diskin said that the paintings in the show are a nod to some of the extremely difficult periods he and Faith shared during her illness. These were times, both in and out of the hospital, when they didn’t speak much, but rather, connected through touch, relishing the remaining time they had together.

“It was a depth far beyond words,” Diskin said.

In his own recovery from grief in the wake of Faith’s death, he found that the physical act of creating artwork became an integral part of the healing process for him.

“There’s kind of a connection you get when creating work. It was one of the few places I could go to and do work and not be in pain,’ he said. “In loss, you experience this physical pain of loss as well. When I did the work, I would feel it subside.

“Victor Franco, who was in the Holocaust, wrote a book on man’s search for meaning. He said when you go through something tragic, you have to give meaning to it. Starting to do this work, for me, was a way to give context and meaning,” said Diskin. “I’m slowly getting connected and working again, giving context and purpose to the loss, and I’ve felt Faith’s spirit with me.

“Faith was not an artistic person, but she was a soulful, connected person,” he added. “Over the years, she would criticize my work. It was hard to take her criticism, but she was always right, because she was a sensitive soul. I feel she’s there.”

Now, in an effort to give his grief further meaning and to make a positive impact for others, Diskin is looking outward, hoping to partner with a gallery in New York City where his artwork can find a higher purpose.

“Since my work is related to the loss of a spouse and the journey as a cancer caregiver, I want to do a show to sell the pieces as a charity event for the benefit of the place where Faith was treated,” he said. “I want all the funds to go to Memorial Sloan Kettering. Now, it’s about finding the right space or right gallery to work with, hopefully this spring, for a show in the fall.

“These pieces are about rebirth and connection. If you can’t live life more deeply and profoundly and richly, you need to move on,” he said. “My life is changing, and I’m moving it forward, personally.”

David Diskin’s work remains on view at the space in Red Horse Market in East Hampton. To arrange a visit to see the show, email him at david@diskin.us or find him on Instagram at DavidDiskin_art.

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