Timeout for Art: Subverting the Calendar



The grid and themes involving the calendar work well together.

Whether monthly, weekly or even moon-phase, the calendar brings time into order.

I use the calendar to bring order to my life: there is the daily “to-do” list; appointments and obligations; lists of short-term and long-term goals; books I’ve read; books I want to read; birthdays and special days; meal plans; Christmas gift list…and on and on.

It’s all mostly make-believe.

I can’t really “order” time.

Sometimes things happen that make that crystal clear.

Three years ago, when my mother received her diagnosis – terminal pancreatic cancer – time took on a whole other dimension.

There was the time I had wasted, when I could have been listening better, loving more, extending more kindness and genuine gratitude.

There was the time we had left…not enough, by a mile, but more precious for its scarcity.

There was the time we would never have.

Always, there was the clock, ticking down.

In the middle of all that, my little sister Sheila died in her sleep, without warning.


And yet, there we were, my brothers and sisters, together in the house we had all grown up in, together mourning our sister and helping our Mom to her good passing. There were children and grandchildren, assorted nieces and nephews and friends from far away. We were linked by our family ties, our history, our love and our loss.

It wasn’t all bad.

If I were to consider the traditional calendar, I would have to say it was a very dark time.

That, however, would be denying the joy, the sharing, the moments of honest hilarity that also filled that time.

That is why, in this series, I started subverting the calendar. It seemed too much, to look at a whole day, too painful, sometimes to deal with even an hour. I fractured the calendar so that each moment could be considered, for the feelings that came with it.

The first paintings in this series dealt specifically with two weeks: the time period from my sister’s death, the next ten days with my mother until her death, and then the days of arrangements and final good-byes. The paintings were mostly black and white: old drawings cut up and collaged onto large panels. There were elements of texture, though, and pops of unexpected color. Paint was added last: thin, dark washes were allowed to drip over the fractured grid, linking one element to another. Completed last Spring, they are some of my strongest work.

I’m revisiting the idea, with a brighter outlook this year.

It’s still a good idea: the moments are what count, in a whole life, and moments don’t fit a set pattern.

These images are details of the large (32″ x 48″) panel I’m working on. It still has quite a way to go, but I like some of the things that are happening.

Title: “Spring Marches In”








About cindyricksgers

I am an artist. I live on an island in northern Lake Michigan, USA. I have two grown daughters, four strong, smart and handsome grandsons and one beautiful, intelligent and charming granddaughter. I live with two spoiled dogs. I love walking in the woods around my home, reading, writing and playing in my studio.

16 responses »

    • Sometimes it’s intuitive, and I’m in the middle of something before I realize what I’m working out or working through. My daily habit of putting together a quick collage as a reflection of my mood helps to keep my work in alignment with my emotions, which I like. It’s not always good art, but it’s always true to my feelings. Thank you, Claire

  1. As you know my mom has Alzheimer’s, that gives you a whole new perspective of time. She still knows who all of us are, but she forgets we were there five minutes after we leave. You learn “living in the moment” in the truest sense. You have to teach yourself to be happy with the joy and happiness your are giving as to her there is no such thing the joy and happiness given.

    • That is certainly a perspective I hadn’t considered as another painful consequence of your mother’s condition. I often think of all that your family is going through, and I admire the strength and love you’ve all shown through this difficult process. Take care, Bob, and thanks for the thoughtful comment!

  2. cindy this is so beautiful, yet it pulls at my heartstrings. you endured a lot of pain in a very short time, and you found a very constructive way to cope. i thought of the solar calendar that i consult when the sun shines its end-of-day torch on the balcony wall. maybe it’s a very right-brain approach to view the days and weeks in a different visual manner, and we make a conscious choice to record what has happened during those periods as a visual memories.


  3. Cindy, I really liked this. And how true! Even in the midst of dark times there are moments of sunshine and laughter. And in the midst of good times, there are those moments of despair. To view it as sacred time and to create art to express this. Thank you.

    • Oh, Kathy, thank you for these kind comments. The older I get, the more it seems art is a part of me, not just something I do. It becomes impossible to separate it from the rest of my life. The result of that is that not all results are pretty, or easy, and sometimes aren’t even good art….but they are always an honest reflection of me.

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