Benji Alexander Palus

Lost, June 2020
Oil on Canvas
14 x 18 x 1.50 in
This small work had been patiently waiting to be painted for roughly three years, part of a larger series exploring the effects of different colored light, and how to translate that light into paint. Its references, canvas size, colors, and the title, "Lost," were all planned out long ago. I knew what it meant to me, knew how I felt about it, and how I wanted to render my model, but then the world stopped, and this little painting became so much more.

I suddenly felt lost myself. I live alone, and aside from grocery runs every two or three weeks, I had seen no one for months. The future, everyone's future, was suddenly uncertain. And yet, I realized that this wasn't necessarily a bad thing. Despite the vague fear and anxiety, the restlessness, the loss of routine, the loneliness, there was freedom; there was space and time to grow, and to simply be.

Becoming lost in oneself is scary sometimes, but it is also exciting and illuminating in some moments. I poured all of that into this work. The model's expression changed from day to day, and even from one minute to the next - at times with the flick of my brush, and at times without touching her at all. I added light to match those flashes of self-realization. I darkened the shadows when the lack of a simple touch from another human being made me ache, which of course, made the light shine more clearly.

When I sat back and realized that this painting was finished, I was not surprised to find that the model's expression was still changing. I posted it on social media and asked whether she looked troubled, or if it seemed like a good kind of lost. The answers were as varied as I had hoped they would be.

My conclusion to this work, and its specific theme as it applies to my journey through the changes and upheavals that the entire world has experienced these last few months, is a single thought that popped into my head the day I finished it and has been echoing there since.

Some things that are lost should never have been.