David Beynon Pena, my husband, was a professional artist, who sold his first painting at the age of 11. When we went to Maine, to Leadbetter Island or North Haven, David would paint from early morning into the night, 3 to 4 paintings a day, so after 10 days, we came home with 30-40 paintings. He never threw any paintings out, even the unfinished ones.
By the time he died, there were approximately 1000 paintings in his studio – oils, watercolors, charcoal, pen-and-ink, pastel. By 2016, David occupied the biggest and best studio in the same building he had painted in for over 30 years. There was a LOT of stuff. Besides paintings, he had 8 bookshelves, 500 books, 50 frames, 4 standing easels and 5 portable easels plus 17 tennis racquets and 2 squash racquets, paper, canvas, paints, watercolors and tools. Eleven months after David passed away in 2016, I closed up his 500-square-foot Union Square studio and brought everything home to our 750-foot-square apartment.Letting go of stuff is hard. Letting go of a person is harder. Letting go of art, when it’s a lifetime legacy of a person who has died, is brutal. I walked easels, bookshelves, flat files, books and paintings the 30 blocks home. It was a strange way to grieve and move on. I still don’t know why I needed to do it that way. People stopped me in the street, asked about the stuff, the work, David.
Once everything was home, there were so many of his paintings, books and supplies in the apartment that I had a 12-inch passage to walk through my home. Then I had to confront the idea of space. He left a vast legacy of art for me to sell, place in museums and keep. David was excited about the financial stability his work would provide me but I couldn’t let go of it without weeping or anger for a couple of years. I went from a ‘we’, as a wife, to an ‘I’, as a widow, on David’s last four breaths. Making space is both physical and emotional.
How do you make space for yourself after a transition or loss?
I had a choice, to curate his legacy of art for the rest of my life or choose me first. Devastated as I was, I knew I had my own consulting and tutoring work to contribute to the world. I was unwilling to have my life be eaten by David’s after he was gone.
I took back my space by destroying close to 200 pieces of artwork which didn’t represent him, even though I was not sure if he would want me to. I stored boxes and bags of magazines, sketchbooks and some clothes in Mom and Wayne’s garage. The paintings are tucked away everywhere, on the walls, under the bookshelves, in the racks will oil paintings laid over and watercolors in the flat files. I am finally ready to let David’s beautiful work go and be appreciated by other people. I had to be willing to take the time I needed before honoring my promises to David.
So I built up my consulting and tutoring practices, once I was able to reconnect with my clients. I leveraged the Affluence Code and Bad Widow lessons I learned in my consulting practice to deepen the value I provide to my clients. I created an online gallery to sell David’s work at bit.ly/DBPenaArt. Personally, I set up a dating profile on Bumble and found love again. Bit by bit, I am coming back to myself and the scope of my life has expanded exponentially.
What three essential steps did I have to take to reclaim space for myself?
• Decide that my life and legacy come first, before honoring David’s legacy of art
• Align my priorities with that decision and dig into what matters now
• Re-engage, reinvent and rebuild my life, as a widow
Is there any place where you need to claim more space for yourself? Book a complimentary call with me if I can support you to take up the space you desire and deserve at bit.ly/BookwithAlison.
Or buy David Beynon Pena original oils, watercolors and other artworks (Landscapes, Cityscapes, Figures, Still Lives) for your home or office at bit.ly/DBPenaArt