Artworks by Melissa Lubke

Artworks by Melissa Lubke

Photo credit: Pamela Horsely

Welcome

 

Thank you and welcome to the virtual tour of my first solo art exhibition. It is an honour to have visitors and share this with you.

It is my hope that you will be touched by something here and that you will interact with the art in a way that is healing for you. Vulnerability is very powerful and character building. Let it heal you. If you feel you need to work through anything further please take advantage of the expressive writing workshop 'Grieving Your Way' with Karen Mace or call LifeLine on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4326.

This exhibition is part therapy, part outreach as I explored and expressed complex emotions after my wonderful husband, Andrew tragically died in a road accident in 2016. I was 11.5 weeks pregnant with our third child at the time.

I've used images, materials, tools, and objects dear to us to journey through my grief of what was lost and how to embrace this changed life with hope.

In 2015 I gave up my 20-year career as a graphic designer to focus on a better life balance at our evolving family farm in Underwood, Northern Tasmania with my dedicated husband and sons (then aged 4 and 6).  With the hope to grow our young family (the eldest child with ADHD and Autism), Andrew spent countless hours outside of his day job preparing the property for a productive agricultural lifestyle for our children.  After two miscarriages we finally became pregnant again before Christmas but decided to delay the announcement in case of another disappointment.

Traveling to our church’s first gathering of the year, Andrew came off his motorbike into an oncoming vehicle on Lilydale road just minutes from our home and his destination. In the skillful hands of the Launceston General Hospital staff and cocooned with many loving friends, I waited, trusting God with our family’s future.  On the 16th hour of surgery and numerous bags of blood, they could do no more and I received the call to come in and farewell my husband.

It is this tragedy though that has awoken me into my renewed purpose – to help and show others the hope that Andrew had and the help that I have to continue on.

After relocating and rebuilding a now urban life, the most calm and healthy birth of our third son six months later proved the permanence of this peace.

But while the light of this hope gave clarity I was well aware, for practical reasons, that I was avoiding tackling the hurt, anger, pain and grief - the negative that comes with loss and tragedy.

I serendipitously met Karen Mace, Counsellor and Grief Therapist, at her home whilst buying second-hand doors from her and her husband Ross. They shared their own tragic story of losing two of their three daughters which opened metaphorical doors for a beautiful relationship.

Combining art-making with one of Karen’s online writing workshops (Your Brain on Paper), I have amazingly found pockets of time and vision, conceiving and creating the collection of works.

I hope to travel with my three sons to other parts of Australia including where Andrew spent parts of his life. If you know community groups or places who would benefit from hearing a little of my story, experiencing parts of this exhibition, attend art or writing workshops and watch some performance art and please contact me.

It is my hope to encourage people to feel safe to open even more doors and respond to their own grief through reflection, art or writing.

This first exhibition was at  The Poatina Tree Art Gallery, Poatina, Tasmania. 
5
th August - 9 September 2018

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Melissa Lubke on 0415 650 498 or on the contact form below.

 

Lachrymatory

Aluminium, hospital curtain, timber, glass, LED lighting, IV tubing, fabric pillow

2018
Very special thanks to my father and mother Robert and Patricia Williams for construction,  guidance and unconditional help.

 

“When you have a shower tomorrow can you not cry”  - our son Archer (4 at the time) 
But I had to reply “No honey, but I will be OK”.

 

The bathroom was my sanctuary, my confessional, my Holy of Holies.  I could weep, pray, sing, slurp, wipe, praise, groan and yearn just as I was - weak, vulnerable and naked.

 

There was so much built up sadness, tension and anxiety I seemed to dismiss in order to keep myself and family fed, dressed and positive about the birth of our baby ahead and moving from our family farm.

 

When the tears couldn’t come because the practical of the days seemed to replace the memories, I induced them by washing my hair with Andrew’s shampoo. The familiar and comforting aroma filled the steamy air and my nostrils, remembering the feeling of his hair against my cheeks and how he was so consistent and never changed brands!

 

I learnt our bodies are designed to cry. Emotional tears shed hormones and other toxins which accumulate during stress. A natural pain relief and when doing so it helps us to sleep. I learnt to cry when I had time to sleep, but sometimes there isn’t that luxury and needed to find ways around this.

 

 

As I entered the birthing suite to deliver Jonathan with groans and deep breathing and one look at the curtains and the hospital bed and my last memory of Andrew lying in the ICU room up the corridor flooded. This is it. I wailed and wailed and the healing, pain relieving oxytocins flooded my system to deliver our wonderful, healthy ‘Gift of God’ within the hour.

 

Legends of tear bottles or lachrymatories abound in stories of Egypt and middle eastern societies. Tear bottles were prevalent in ancient Roman times, when mourners filled small glass vials with tears and placed them in burial tombs as symbols of love and respect. 

 

 

So please, enter. 
Enter into the rest here in this sanctury as confronting as it might be. 
Take your time. Sit. Reflect on any hurt you or other people you know have (or even people you don’t know). It may be old and deep but wait. Expect. Cry if you need to.

 

Write on the scroll what’s in your heart. Let it out. Take advantage of this precious time knowing although you are in private you are actually not alone. You are heard by the one who created you.


When you are ready and would like to, please tear off your message, roll it up tight and add it into one of the glass tears knowing it’s safe.

 

Thank you for your vulnerability.

 

Thankyou Dad for always being there for me and making this installation a reality (and showing me we are quite alike!)

 

Psalm 56:8 Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll - are they not in your record?

 

 

 

Photo credit Kelsey-Rose Targett

Now you see me

2017
Enamel paint on MDF board

 

It was apparent that I needed to face the pain of my husband’s death which I had been dismissing for almost a year. My spiritual self had been so positive knowing he was with Jesus in paradise but my physical self needed to have another release of emotion. I needed to ‘confront the negative’

 

I was led to a 2 week course at Worldview College for Multicultural Studies’ Finding Meaning in the Making course run by artist and missionary Sheila Whittam. The course aims to let go of preconceived ideas about our ability to create and let Holy Spirit lead and break the dam walls to reach the ‘Edge of Flooding’.

 

Determined to come face to face with my grief in a safe, loving environment Holy Spirit led me to a caress Andrews tools and materials and look into his eyes in photos. In a meditative state the dribbling of house paint formed an image of his friendly face... and I saw him once again.

 

Surprised and pleased at the likeness, I felt Holy Spirit tell me to continue the rhythmic chaos of dribbled paint. Knowing full well this would mean the portrait I was pleased with would be ruined, I obeyed and continued - sad but expectant. His face disappeared, the board obliterated with white texture. Was that it? Was that the piece finished?

 

“No. Give it time to dry and then I will show you what to do next”, Holy Spirit gently instructed me.

 

And then more magic happened. Andrew’s tools were somewhat sacred. These are what provided an income for our family. They were what enabled Andrew to be so skilful in so many ways. They were what he would pass onto our boys along with his skills and knowledge of how to use them.

I dare not misuse them, but yet they were to help me reveal him again. Drilling away at the negative space as if each hole was a memory bored into the board.

 

The pain of knowing we will not create more memories yet the joy and anticipation of seeing him again, clothed in a different body - a spiritual heavenly body. Just as he mysteriously appeared in my life in the physical, he vanished but took on a heavenly form. I can be sure of this.

 

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

 

 

 

Crying over spilt milk

2018

Acrylic paint, PVC, plastic cup, plastic high chair, (milk, cereal, vegemite and toy car for live performance) 

 

Mess. It feels like there is lots of it. But being still and seeing through it is what matters. To smile at the whimsical and be in the moment.

 

Deep regrets and broken dreams

2017
Concrete


Knowing how helpful ‘Finding  Meaning in the Making Course’ www.worldview.edu.au/portfolio/project-11/ was the previous year (2017) I re-attended a second time. A new concept that was implanted into my heart was pushing to be birthed. I needed to express the ‘hard nothingness’ that replaced the presence of who was reserved for me to share my bed ‘till death do us part’.

 

The feelings of guilt with the luxury of having the large bed all to myself along with the heaviness of memories of selfishness I cannot redeem with him.

 

A night’s sleep is now colder, harder and more broken with the grinding of gritted teeth through subconscious thought and warped dreams, waking with stiff jaws and aching neck.

 

Some nights though I do still share my pillow, still waking to a handsome face (or three!) but with the added ‘blessing’ of several little knees in my back and a soundtrack of bickering and thumb sucking. These nights will not last forever and one day will be broken again... when it is very uncool to snuggle with your Mum.

 

This artwork was made with the help of our 5 year old trades-boy Archer who was keen to pour cement and mimic his Daddy, reflecting on precious memories of hanging out with him in the tractor shed.

 

Matthew 11:28
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and i will give you rest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remnant

Video 7 mins (loop)
Filmed by Daniel Townsend 2008 and Chris Lee 2018
Sound Composition and Video Editing by Callum Watson 2018

 

On what would have been our 10th Wedding anniversary I braved up and revisited our wedding place to reflect the most wonderful day of my life. 

 

The cement pillow sculpture was more or less one piece before we took it for a ‘walk down the aisle’ of trees at Hollybank Forest where Andrew and I were married.  The process was indeed a heavy but healing one as the children and I stumbled, persuaded and chuckled the journey, pushing the symbolic weight in his dirty work wheelbarrow.

 

Archer (6) wanting to process his own grief, he gathered fallen autumn leaves and covered the cement pillow, patting them with reflective sincerity as if it was Andrew himself.

 

The cement symbol eventually broke into two as it accidentally dropped and we all fell on top of it under the huge oak tree where we exchanged wedding vows.  I could have been angry it broke, but as I lay there cuddling and giggling with our three cherubs on the forest floor, I knew this ‘happening’ was also choreographed by Holy Spirit, the eternal Comforter and ‘revelator’. What once was two (water and concrete) become one and then became two once again.

 

Like the vision of the cement pillow I felt prompted to ‘share the load’ of the editing of the video to reduce the load I had in front of me. I knew the perfect person to edit it.

 

I first met Callum Watson at the making of ‘Positive Graffiti’ (the first year anniversary gathering) when he was 16. When he approached he remarked he didn’t know Andrew but felt some of the pain I was going through. His beloved father died only weeks earlier. It’s interesting how shared storylines of grief create an instant bond, beyond words could ever do.


What struck me was the strength and maturity this young man had. I could see how he stood, clenched firm onto his saving bridge of faith while his young world may have seemed crumbling underneath him.

 

Recently I discovered he was also a very talented cinematographer and visual communicator. 

He has exceeded my expectations and communicated my memories beautifully in this film.

 

Thankyou dearly Callum.

 

 

Positive Graffiti

2017
Acrylic on cement sheeting
Collective 'happening' by loved ones

 

On the first anniversary of his death, friends, children and adults gathered once again for our annual church barbecue at Andrew’s best mate’s family home.

 

The first Sunday of the year welcoming in the year ahead and reflecting on the year gone by. The bitter-sweet celebration brought us to a point of remembrance. In their own time and in their own hand, loved ones brought a word each they felt described Andrew.

 

The collective brush strokes finally formed a beautiful mess, revealing traits that will be painfully missed but impressed on us as a legacy.

 

Perception

2018
Slow cooker pot, Grinding disc, Tissues

 

“When you see each other in each other’s eyes,
you’ve got to throw away all disguise”

These are words from our song written for us and performed by our talented friend, Fiona Veith at our wedding.

I loved staring into Andrew’s eyes. It was like time stood still. Such a freedom and trust that transcended any worldly lust. 
Lesson one, kids: be careful where this leads to...


Childbirth is painful (thanks Eve!). But as I embraced our tiny, slimy, soft newborn and locked eyes, engaging for the first time the truth of God’s forgiveness and grace became alive.  This is undeniably a most intimate, powerful and privileged gift.

My husband never got to stare into his third baby’s eyes. He didn’t even got to see the ultrasound.

 

No longer will I see my reflection in my husband’s eyes. No longer will I see him toil with the daily grind to provide for our family and then work even more into the night, red-eyed over paperwork. No longer will I longingly peer down the driveway rehearsing my “Why so late?” speech and glare impatiently waiting to hand over the children for a moment’s peace to myself.

 

All such complex, contradictory emotions while I now gaze into my sink, circling my Enjo over the dirty kitchen pots.

 

“Why did Daddy have to die?
“How did the baby get in your tummy Mummy?
“Where is heaven Mummy?

 

It made me wonder, we cannot fathom God’s mysteries. It is beyond our comprehension. The deep, profound, intense and intimate connection in extreme close-up eye contact is what God yearns from us as He watches over us. Perhaps then we might see ourselves in the Creators eyes. Perhaps, just perhaps this is where heaven is?

 

Matthew 6:22
“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.

 

 

Photo credit Kelsey Rose Targett

You were meant to be here for this

2018
X-ray film, digital transparency, polymer clay, ink

 

Anger – a very normal part of grief raises its ugly head at the strangest of times. For me it coincided with the loss of our eldest son’s first baby tooth. Why was this such a significant event for me to be angry at the loss of Andrew for? Perhaps it represented an age where young boys ween off their mother and gravitate towards their father?

 

Perhaps it reminded me of my recurring dreams – caught out in unknown places with mouthfuls of loose teeth, often spilling out into my hands, searching for help. I wake tired and cranky with aching jaws and chronic neck pain from gritted, clenched teeth.

 

Dream interpretation folklore says these dreams signify loss of control, powerlessness and represent anxieties.
Are we ever really in control of our situations? Are we the ones that make the wind move, the sun rise, teeth to grow and life to form?


I will the mourn loss of three babies in utero. I will mourn my husband not seeing his three children on this earth grow.
But I will rejoice in the mystery of life.


What other mysteries will I discover when I release more of the clench of control I think I have. What will be, will be.     

 

 

Thank God for Brian

Painted plastic tray, steel paper spike, preserved autumn leaves
2018

 

Paperwork is not my forte. Late night memories of Andrew hunched over piles of paper sprawled over his oversized office desk. Folders lined up with numerous categories of our lives, many papers yet to be categorised. Many I had no idea what they meant. Where would I start without him? Where was the money going to come from now?


I did enjoy the satisfying feeling of piercing a bill from the in-tray on the spike when it was ‘done’ though, as if a little more weight was taken off me and the guilt of being in debt eased.
It reminds me of a man some 2000 years ago...

 

Please interact with this piece and ‘spike’ one yourself.


Are there people in your life that have fallen you can reflect on?


Perhaps there are things you would like to ‘spike’?


What feelings arose?  If you would like to share please write them in the guest book.

 

Oh and if you want to know a good accountant and a bloody top bloke ask me about Brian.

 

 

The Gardens

2016
Acrylic on Ply, reclaimed timber, reclaimed painted tin, kiln formed glass

 

In his last week on this earth it was hot enough to go for my first proper swim in the chilly Tasmanian surf (in 10 years!). We took a quick family trip to The Bay of Fires on the East Coast in his one week off from work.   

 

I remember wading out with him in the deep crystal waters, walking towards the endless horizon. I watched him duck dive through the waves with the rough above him, the rusted rocks framing him.  

 

Our last project together was renovating an old orange tin workmans hut to welcome guests that might be help on the farm. It lay unfinished. I needed to create in that first week of being a widow. I needed to express what I was missing. Still in shock, I couldn’t fathom what was in front of me, I just had to trust and walk atop the waves, towards the light, following Andrew to our final horizon.   

 

I asked my father to teach me how to use Andrew’s angle grinder, sensing an urgency to learn as much as I could from the man who gave me over to my husband. Using tin that was skinned from the hut and timber I had previously painted with the children the image emerged just as if we were back in The Gardens again.  

 

Matthew 14:22-33
But Jesus immediately said to them: 
“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.

 

 

 

Fragile/Psalm 57:1

2018
Kiln Formed glass, Perspex, Skeleton Oak leaf

Like this leaf from the oak tree we were married under and this glass acorn we begin and end so fragile. 

 

I wonder what would happen if I actually treated each day like it’s the last?

 

Psalm 57:1
Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.

 

 

New Growth in Unexpected Places

2017
Bronze, Terracotta pot
Special thanks to artists Keith Chidzey for teaching and assisting bronze casting and Kate Case for soldering.

 

A week long creative artist retreat held in Poatina each January called ‘Faith in the Arts’ (FATA) is a great opportunity to set aside time in a caring, community environment to express bottled up emotions and reconnect with the creator in us.

 

I was meant to help run the kids workshop at FATA but instead I was weeping at home in the shower and preparing for Andrew’s funeral while the wonderful community of artists gathered and covered my family and I in prayer.

 

A year later, amazed at the new skill sets offered at FATA I intended to finally design and cast his grave plaque in the bronze casting workshop with talented artist Keith Chidzey. I was also excited at the idea tinkering alongside my father again (after some 25 years) as he decided to join me in the workshop as well.

 

Guidance, trial and error proved that the technique was too rudimentary for the detail I wanted. I had another concept heating up and bubbling away though.

 

In the weeks after Andrew’s death our friend Helen shared with me a vision from the Lord that was for our family. She was shown old stumps with new growth on her walks, in her travels, it seemed everywhere she looked.  With a confirmed smile I told her “One day I will make an artwork of that”.

 

A year on and I had experienced God’s blessings abundantly. This story of death and life had made a ripple effect to people far and wide. With a wonderful, healthy baby boy and a new family home renovated into a hub of fellowship, I watched as people connected. I grew new friendships and trust in people as I shared my home and family.  I bonded with other widows and families with tragedy. I saw others step up and grow in unexpected areas. Relationships were flourishing and my faith at its strongest.

 

I drove past the crash site on the 1 year anniversary of his death and what is at the site of his crash now?...

 

A huge, strong tree stump of a felled tree…

 

Waiting…

 

for new growth.

 


John 12:24 
Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.

 

 

 

Full exhibition of works in one video

I would love to hear from you. Your story matters.

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