Time in a bottle

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Last modified: 1/4/2016 6:27:43 PM
There are many ways to deal with pain. One can bottle it up, stuffing it down inside to where it is barely evident, only surfacing when those little reminders trigger a memory. Or, one can channel it, turning feelings into creativity, expressing what can’t be put into words, a true release.

Eva-Lynn Loy of Peterborough has found herself in the position to do both, as her life’s recent roller coaster ride has dealt her tragedy and the means to express it.

Back when Loy met her husband, Bob, she was working as an expressive art therapist at a Boston-area school.

“I was working with children so they could use art to heal themselves,” Loy said, “and express the hurt inside of them.”

When she first visited Bob’s Lunenburg home, she was taken aback by the display of his life’s passion, a collection of midcentury glass perfume bottles from Italy.

“He had these gorgeous display cases that were all lit up — it looked like an art gallery,” Loy said. In fact, Bob’s collection of Murano perfume bottles was so extensive and specific that he became a leading expert in the field, with a review in Perfume Quarterly.

The two were in love, and eventually moved to Peterborough, where Loy found that there were many outlets for her to expand her artistic repertoire. It turned out she had a passion of her own — oil painting.

“[Peterborough] is an amazing place,” she said. “It’s got more creativity by the square inch. I like that it draws creative souls.”

In the late 2000s, tragedy struck. Bob was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It was then that Loy began to use her art therapy background and newfound love of oil painting to deal with what she was going through. She started a series of paintings that depicted roller coasters, symbolizing the ups and downs of life with a terminally ill spouse.

“One day you’re optimistic, the next you’re more tentative,” she explained.

Finally, it happened. Bob succumbed to his illness, and Loy’s days of walking the hospital grounds, waiting, were over. And for a while, so too were her painting days. Aside from one painting, “Refuge,” inspired by a special place she’d walk to while Bob was in the hospital, she didn’t pick up a brush again for over a year after his death.

“I wasn’t inspired to paint anything at all after Bob passed,” she said, clasping her hands together in the living room of the Peterborough home they once shared.

Out of that darkness came a lifeline, a sort of high-tech message in a bottle. She received an email message through the website classmates.com that she simply couldn’t believe. It was from her college sweetheart, Pat, whom she’d met while on vacation in Florida with her parents. Pat had waited on their table and after the meal, asked Loy’s mother if it would be all right to write letters to the young lady once they headed back north. The two corresponded by mail for a while, before Pat shipped off for Vietnam, and that was that — until that email.

“I didn’t even know if he’d even survived Vietnam,” Loy said.

The two arranged to meet, and when she arrived at the airport, Loy was overwhelmed.

“I was thinking, ‘Evie, you’re a mature woman, get it together,’” she recalled. “But when I saw him, it was like I was a teenager again.”

Soon after, Pat moved up to Peterborough, and eventually, the two were engaged. And with Pat’s support, Loy began her most transformative process to date: a series of paintings based on her late husband’s glass bottles.

“[Pat] allowed me to start painting again,” Loy said. It seemed her understanding new partner’s presence and love were the impetus she needed to help her let go. “Ironically, the series was to be dedicated to Bob and be my healing process, and little did I know it would be a double whammy.”

In April of this year, Pat suffered a heart attack and died, fading away right before Loy’s eyes.

“I lost him,” Loy said. “I lost him just when we were beginning to relaunch.”

The series of bottle-inspired paintings complete, Loy would show them at the Jaffrey Civic Center in May, though now they’d serve as a tribute to not just her late husband and his love of glass, but her late fiancee as well. Titled “Alchemy: The Transformative Power of Creativity and Love and the Honoring of Loss,” the show was an early step in the grieving process for Loy.

Since then, she’s been in one of those creative ruts, not apt to pick up a brush.

“What I envision is just taking a tube of paint and just — doing something with it,” she said, mimicking a flurry of paint flying every which way, “getting it all out of my system.”

Loy gave a quick tour of her upstairs studio — one of the first times she’d entered that space since Pat’s passing — and considered the possibility of beginning to create again.

“The process of creating is healing and centering,” Loy said. “It makes me more awake and alive. It wakes up all my senses. I feel it’s starting to stir again.”

For now, she hopes to find a new spot to hang the “Alchemy” series, and urges those with ideas to contact her. To do so or for more information about her work, visit www.eva-lynnloy.com.

Editor Ben Conant can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 226 or bconant @ledgertranscript.com.

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