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  • Jennifer Gillen

The Romeo and Juliet Series


"Under Love's Heavy Burden"

It's officially a series! I'm finishing the third painting in a series of traditional botanical paintings based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. What's so great about this drama? There have been so many movies and spin-off stories that it might seem too pedestrian, too overworked. Well, I really love some things about it that are deep.


Mostly I love the idea of unaffected love. The characters were not persuaded by anything or anyone outside of their love for one another. It's an amazing example of pure passion. Maybe because I'm older, with so many priorities in life to balance, this kind of passion is really attractive. Not so much the romantic aspect as the obsessive aspect. When life gets complicated, passions fall aside for priorities. Important things like family, health and money tend to take precedence.


Romeo and Juliet had a passion produced in a vacuum. It was secretive (until it wasn't) and secluded from the opinions of others. That's exactly how young love feels. It's as though nothing else matters. Even the meddling of family and the law did not affect their love. These two kids were obsessed with each other.


What an attractive concept, to live so passionately. Although this is a story of romantic love, it can be applied to any passion. Such a passion might apply to such things as a meaningful cause, a love of one's children or friends, a love of an activity. It may even be a spiritual, transcendent sort of passion. The only constraint is that the obsession is protected, guarded and prioritized.


Attention to a passion need not take over one's entire life. It is possible to zone into a love like Romeo and Juliet's and reemerge to carry on with regular life. This is something that all artists must learn to balance. We love our work, often to the point of obsession. The challenge is to create the protective bubble that allows the passion to thrive while also stepping in and out of the bubble. It is this lesson of these young lover's blind passion that anchors my new series of camellia paintings.


By the way, camellias are never mentioned by Shakespeare. In fact, they are native to Asia. Nevertheless, they are the flower that symbolizes pure and passionate love.



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