Please note that due to the subject matter of this project (death/grief) some of the images on this blog might be disturbing.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Susan Shulman - Gone Fishing II

My dad BEN SHULMAN was not a Hankie man! But, my amazing 93-year-old mom found a few for me to use. I thought about what I would do. I thought about making the shapes of fish out of them and photographing them. But, I do not do sculpture. I thought about making a collage with fish hooks but I do not do assemblage, I also thought about doing a collage, but that did not feel right either. So, I chose to treat it like a painting. It is mixed media: Oil sticks, conté, pastels, pens, pencils, markers and charcoal. A mix of those magical tools I love. Extensions of my soul, expressing my love for my dad

In this work you see my dad as a fish wearing his beloved fishing hat. He loved fishing and I loved to go fishing with him in the middle of the lakes and rivers. Fish are my creative alphabet. My mantra. So, it is only fitting that he be one with fish. And, in this sea of brilliant colour, he is surrounded by schools of loving and colourful creatures from all dimensions and universes. Below him is the ocean. And above him is the music to “MY YIDDISHE MOMMA”. My father loved music and all styles but thought this would be the perfect song for this voyages.

My father was not religious but a was a very spiritual man. He had visions throughout his life. He would dream and always saw his Father, his Mother and his brother Oliver He shared these experiences with me.

He was a man's man. A big strong warrior who was invincible named Dad.
He grew up at the age of 12 when his mother passed away. When his mother was brought home from the hospital after dying from childbirth, his father told him to grab his mother's feet. My grandfather told my father that by doing this he would never fear death or anything for that matter again. A story he was proud to tell me many times throughout the years. At the age of 14 he started to work to help support his father and two older sisters. A street smart tough guy who worked with his father in the plumbing business and later took it over. He was always there 24/7 for his customers.

His hobbies were wrestling, bowling, fishing, card playing, cooking and he loved to sing and dance.
He was the most powerful man I knew. My first memory of my father was he carrying me on his broad and muscular shoulders. His hands were so large that I thought he could carry the world like Atlas. We had a country place in Joliette when I was young. Not only would he unpack all the belongings from the city, connect the pipes for the water after the long winter, chop the wood for the stove because the nights were very cold but also prepare his rods to go fishing all in the first day. Then with enthusiasm run down the steep red sand cliffs to the river with all his equipment in hand, catch many fish, run back up the incline to then clean and prepare them. The best fried perch and rock bass one could ever eat.
He would climb mountains to pick blueberries with me on his shoulders to protect me from the poison ivy. This was a recurring theme and later on in my life he continued to shoulder me with his love, support and encouragement in all my endeavors especially my art.
He was a tough, independent and just man who always came to the rescue of all.

When his mind started to go in 2007 he was upset and angry. This was absolute torture to an independent man who drove a car, paid his bills on time, shopped and cooked the best gourmet meals for his wife and family. The pain he went through when he knew something was not going right in his head was heartbreaking.

I watched my father fight for 7 months at the hospital daily. He did not want to forget, he did not want to be drugged up, and he did not want to be manhandled. He did not want to be treated like a mixed up person. He did not want to be treated like a second rate citizen. And, he did not want to be treated without dignity and respect. He fought for that every day he was there. I fought for him as well. It was the only time in my life I had to shoulder him. All he wanted was to go home. It was not to be. My father tried to live life to its fullest until his body started to retire from a bacteria gifted to him.

When he passed away at 3:45 PM Sunday March 30 I was the only one left in the room. My mother and brother who had also spent seven months caring for my father every day had left. So did my aunt and for some odd reason even the evening sitter was out of the room at that time too. Even the nurses and doctors making rounds were at the other end of the hall. My father took three huge breaths like a newborn baby arriving to this world except my father was leaving to return to source.

And, yes the gift he gave me was that I was privileged to hold his feet as he had planned! And as his father had previously revealed to him, my father was now empowering me to never fear death or anything else again. That was his final legacy to shoulder me for my future. When I told the story about his how he held the feet of his mother to my family, they looked blankly at me. This tale he shared with me many times over the years, was only told to me! My destiny. .
And, now, he is finally reunited in the sea of peace and love with his YIDDISHE MOMMA!

I have his spirit and passion for life illuminated in my heart forever. I will always be able to talk to him because now he is part of the infinite universe and all its molecular structure.


  1. Auntie Susan this is absoloutely beautiful! Zaida was indeed all that you describe him to be, and more! I consider myself truly blessed to have been able to call myself his granddaughter, for from the moment Shawn brought me to bubby and Zaida's home, they became my grandparents.


  2. I love the paintings of your dad. They exude warmth. I miss my father. Last week, I actually drove by a place he used to fish and briefly wondered if our fathers have met on the other side and have 'gone fishing' together.

  3. The story you shared here is so poignant and beautiful you had me in tears. I am so glad for you to have had such a wonderful father and such special memories. And most of all that you are AWARE of how lucky you are and create lovely works in hommage. Once again your art is moving and perfect! I do not doubt that his spirit will continue to carry you through any bad patches your journey encounters. Always.