This line from Shakespeare’s “King Henry VI” has become an internal reference point for Nazim Artist as he navigates life after the loss of his wife and muse, Celeste Yarnall, a 1960s starlet, 19 years his senior.
He first saw her in an episode of “Star Trek: The Original Series” and was stunned by her beauty and stage presence. Something about this young actress remained with him the way a first crush might, “Our meeting was miraculous and magical. I had first seen her on the TV series “Star Trek” when I was a boy around the age of 10.
She stayed in the back of my mind. That I should end up marrying her more than 40 years later is seemingly impossible to comprehend.”. In the episode called “The Apple”, Celeste’s character brings humanity back to a planet where intimacy and love are forbidden by the inhabitants’ deity. “In a prophetic way this became her lifetime mantra. Love was the way to help people live long and prosper.” Nazim reflects. On what love meant for Celeste, he details the many ways in which she embodied love through her philanthropic ventures. “As a public figure her attitude was one of being of service to humanity & animals. She used her platform adopting an interpersonal attitude to highlight women’s empowerment and animal welfare. This carried over into her personal life. She illuminated the lives of those around her in a very nurturing, connected way.”
“Butterfly Nebula (Apotheosis)” by Nazim Artist
Nazim further highlights the importance of connection, something he learned growing up in London. “I was fortunate to have been born in a world capital, making me an instant global citizen. Being exposed to this rich tapestry informed my sensory perception by being connected to the multicultural society that flowed through the city, ultimately developing my deep sense of the human condition.” This sense of interconnection is embedded in all of Nazim’s paintings, albeit in a deeply metaphorical way. Imbued with Eastern Mysticism, his art has been integral in helping him understand and express the value of connection. “Art is a form of collective salvation. All expressive forms that one can tap into whether visual, spoken, written or performed, offer an alchemy of healing transformation at the cellular level and we are all connected at the cellular level.” If Nazim is indeed correct in his inference that connection is the most fundamental expression of love, this gives profound insight into what makes grief so difficult to process as grief is having to come to terms with what feels like a complete break in connection, at least on a tactile level. When asked about his grieving process he emphasizes the paradox of love and loss.
Journeying through grief is a paradoxical feeling. I have found myself caught within an energy vortex vibrating between states of rapture and rupture, which is actually the inspiration for the first drawing I have begun working on since Celeste’s passing. The wound of separation is a throbbing ache, an emotional tidal wave where one is left surfing the existential ebb and flow of a new reality and I am reminded of a beautiful Japanese aesthetic practice called kintsugi which is the art of repairing broken ceramics. When an object is broken, the pieces are gathered and reassembled with a gold, silver or platinum-resin mix. This ritual gives the broken object a rebirth and stunning illumination it did not have prior. This is how I perceive the transformation that comes with sacred grief. I have no doubt that the love I shared with my beloved Celeste is the resin mix that illuminates my essence.
“Heart 2 Heart- The Ruptured Rapture” initial sketch by Nazim Artist
When asked whether he thinks the grieving process is different for men than it is for women he acknowledges that there is a global social climate that makes it harder for men to express their grief but makes it clear that he doesn’t buy into the view that there is gender separation when it comes to grieving. “Grief, like cancer, does not discriminate.”
It is unsurprising that Nazim holds such a view on men’s grief as much of his art revolves around the theme of union with the sacred feminine. His most noted painting, “Femme- Women Healing the World” depicts women of all ethnicities forming a global healing circle. Infused with spiritual symbolism, Nazim makes it a point to incorporate the yin-yang symbol at the location of the women’s sacral chakras (associated with reproduction and creativity) to highlight how all of humanity is created of the same source. “This painting was actually inspired by an Emmanuel Itier documentary of the same name which Celeste and I helped produce. In the documentary, Celeste offers profound wisdom on the role of the metaphorical “mother” serving as the core-power that facilitates transformative paradigm shifts by transferring global balance from patriarchal dominance to a co-creative partnership between all gendering.” This balance of dualities was a theme often inspired by Celeste and was the foundation of their partnership via a mutual passion for tango. “We actually came to know each other intimately through tango and there is something deeply symbolic in that. Tango is very much about union and very much about merging of dualities and we had a deep, shared respect for the value of what duality teaches and now I see the lessons it is teaching me throughout the grieving process.”
“Femme- Women Healing the World” by Nazim Artist
When asked what advice he has for other grieving men Nazim spoke on the equal importance of solitude and connection. “For me it has been important to acknowledge the agony, knowing that by embracing the aching overwhelm and allowing myself to weep, there is a cathartic release of stress energy. I am currently in the process of moving out of our marital home and as I sort through the cascade of shared material, the memory recollections can make it a daunting process. What I find is that like with tears that need to flow, the only way through is through and the best medicine for this process is allowance of the grief and finding connection through poetry, music, painting and film because there is something powerful about witnessing other people’s grief and the art they created to get through it and for those moments that are beyond what art can heal I practice breath work like Qi Gong which can really help stabilize the body’s chemistry when stress hormones are wreaking havoc.
If one is totally alone, it might be worth seeking a grief group just to find empathy, support and social interaction. Simply showing up is a transference of human love, which we all need. One broken heart can heal another simply by being present and mindful of the oneness that connects us all through these universal emotions.
In loving memory of Celeste Yarnall
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Images courtesy of Nazim Artist