Painting her way through the pain…

NEW ULM – When one experiences great pain and grief from the loss of a loved one, a person can try to numb the pain, or embrace it, said artist Patrice Abbe.

Abbe has turned to art to help her embrace the pain following the death of her 18-year-old son in a car accident 17 years ago. Her works are on exhibit at the Grand Center for Arts & Culture. The exhibit, called “Life Altered,” continues through Aug. 22 in the 4 Pillars Gallery at the center.

For years after her son’s death, Abbe felt the pain and endured flashbacks, always the same, with ominous feelings, the question “How could this happen to me,” and imagining the gruesome details of her son’s death, then feeling left alone in a dark place.

Eventually, Abbe began expressing her pain and anger, her feelings of life changed and disintegrated, through her art. Geometric figures in the triptych “Before During After” express the vibrance and give and take in her life, the disintegration of that order after the accident, and the resettling of life in a less open, shielded arrangement.

In “Time to Say Goodbye,” Abbe expresses the emotions she felt after hearing Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman sing “Time to Say Goodbye” while driving. “It was like a message straight to me, that it was time to say goodbye.” After pulling off the road and sobbing, she then drove on, and noticed the beautiful fall colors around her. Her painting shows the grayness that covered her world giving way to the color.

“Post Trauma” is an abstract representation of her flashbacks, with the face of her son hidden behind layers of dark red paint. Once the painting was completed, Abbe said, her flashbacks ended.

The Grand will be hosting a “Life Altered Workshop” on July 26, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with Abbe and two others helping people who have suffered loss explore the possibilities of using art and writing to deal with their pain. The workshop is free, but limited space is available. Preregister before July 23 by calling 507-359-9222, or emailing

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