Monday, April 2, 2012

The Red Thread of Destiny

This is a commissioned painting that I recently finished. 
Terry Strickland, The Red Thread of Destiny - A Wedding Portrait, 28x40 and oil on canvas over panel, 2012
I am honored to have been asked to do this wedding portrait. At a time when same-sex marriage is still being debated I can't help but feel that I am documenting and celebrating with my paint an important event.

The painting says to the world,  "Why are we even having this discussion?  Of course it should be legal, love is love and marriage is about that and commitment."

The couple flew to Birmingham last October and we spent a fun day getting to know each other. We discussed our lives, their past and interests and the upcoming wedding.
They wanted a non-traditional portrait and are drawn to my work because of my use of symbolic imagery. They wanted me to incorporate my interpretation of their relationship into the work. Here a few close-ups of their faces.

Besides being very loving to each other they are accepting of other people. They are consummate travelers and have a respect for other cultures and religions. They are Presbyterians but will include the following religions in the wedding ceremony:

Buddhist (in Chinese and English)
Calvinist Christian (Presbyterian)
Coptic (in Coptic and English)
Hindu (in Sanskrit and English)
Humanist (in English)
Jewish (in Hebrew and English)

How cool is that?

The Red Thread of Destiny also called The Red String of Fate. It is a belief originating in East Asia. According to this myth, the gods tie an invisible red string around the ankles or, in Japan, the little fingers of those that are destined to be soul mates and will one day marry each other.

The two people connected by the red thread are destined lovers, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. This magical cord may stretch or tangle, but never break (I love this part). This myth is similar to the Western concept of soul mates or a twin flame. This concept became the focal point conceptually.
I wanted to include a live plant that would be symbolic of growing together and it turns out that one of the models great-grandparents brought an Easter cactus with them when they immigrated from the Netherlands. Each member of the family has a cutting from the plant.  I added bees to the painting, since bees are symbolic of a harmonious home. Turns out one of the models kept bees at one point so that idea was fortuitous.
One of the models designed the pattern on the wedding bands so I painted that engraved in one of the bricks. Bricks and wood are building materials so I thought they would be good symbolically to include. They serendipitously ended up in the photo shoot. The frame I had built to photograph them was not tall enough so we brought in the bricks. I ended up including them as a reminder of our time together in the studio.
One of the couple went to Princeton and the other's family is from the Netherlands, and the Dutch national color is orange, thus the link between the two that is the House of Orange. The main building of Princeton University is Nassau Hall, named after William III, Prince of Orange-Nassau, a member of the House of Orange. So I have included a bit of orange drapery.
The painting was finished off with a hand built frame made as a labor of love by my husband. It has about 10 layers of hand-rubbed tung oil for a finish. He uses furniture style construction. This one is poplar.
I will be delivering this piece in the next couple of weeks and am so excited to see their reaction to the painting.

Commissioned portraits are a collaborative effort and a friendship has been forged as we journeyed together through the design process.

There were countless hours of struggle with the paint, trying to transform these miserable elements of minerals and oil into a physical embodiment of love and commitment.

What a treasure I have been given, this opportunity to meet new people, to be asked to create a work of art to commemorate their love and life together.

I love my job!


  1. Amazing work, as usual my friend! Your blog article was also very interesting. We will have to catch up soon! =)

  2. Thank you, yes indeed to the catching up!

  3. Absolutely beautiful! I hope I can afford you when Deb and I figure out our future together! :)

  4. Thank you so much Rick! That would be awesome.

  5. Wow, Terry! Your choices and your listening so clearly to the happy couple is a true creation, a work of art! And I never knew all the consciousness they put into their matrimonial ceremony! What an ecumenical blessing! (God is much bigger than our safe, little compartments- MUCH bigger!)

    1. Thank you so much Paul. It was a lovely experience, meeting them, having the honor of doing their portrait, attending their beautiful wedding. And now we are friends, how cool is that?



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