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Fragments of story and memory infuse Devon Midori Hale’s painting Empty Chair at the Table, whichtook first place at City Arts’ Winter Art Walk Awards on Jan. 8 at Sole Repair. The oil-on-canvas creation, shown at Tariqa Waters’ Martyr Sauce gallery and nominated by AWA guest judge Tim Lennon, shows Hale’s great-grandmother shortly after the death of her daughter. “The empty chair at the table is symbolic of the seat that one continues to set for the deceased,” says Hale, who was inspired by Michelle Peñaloza’s poem “Family Kundiman,” which describes the woodwork pattern of a piano sent overseas after a death. The carefully carved wood, she says, also serves as a metaphor for a coffin. “The actual chair in the painting was the chair in my studio at the Jentel Foundation residency where I painted this piece,” Hale says. “It references my own eyes and imagination as I retell this story through my work, as the great-granddaughter born many years after my grandmother’s suicide.”

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