Tuesday, January 10, 2023

The Enduring Fascination of Christina Grimmie’s Face

Six years and seven months later, this face still surprises and inspires me.

The face, of course, is that of Christina Grimmie—which I hope is still recognizable through the artistic “interpretation” that my imagination has used to attempt to express one of the ways I perceive it. Here I’m aided by digital filters, “paint” apps, and the specific manual “virtual sculpting” that together constitute a method of virtual artistic expression I am continuing to develop (and, I hope, improve). I work on Christina “portraits” with a persistence, intensity, and patience that surprise me. Rarely am I satisfied with the results, but I continue to seek to do this work—to craft a perspective, a vista, a momentary flash of the inexhaustible personality that animated her face.

Christina’s is still “everywhere” represented online. The late singer/songwriter/teenager-young-adult YouTube pioneer was slain on June 10, 2016 at an open meet-and-greet after a concert in Orlando, Florida. One of the great plagues of our society—gun violence—took her life from this world at the age of 22. Violence took her away from her family, her loved ones, her “frands,” the music she made with her astonishing voice, and the radiant image of positivity and hope that she sustained even amidst difficult circumstances that was a vital inspiration to so many of her young followers. Nevertheless, her legacy has grown over the past 6+ years, and her giving of herself continues to bear fruit.

Today, images of Christina’s remarkably expressive face have multiplied exponentially all over the internet (helped, no doubt, by growing AI technology). Her YouTube channel remains current with just under four million subscribers, and her incredible voice is still being heard by many people, some of whom are just discovering her immense musical talents for the first time. The international Team Grimmie continues to grow. And Christina’s family and friends continue her generous and grateful affirmation of life—her determination to respond to evil with good, to hatred with love—through The Christina Grimmie Foundation which provides financial assistance and human solidarity directly to families of victims of gun violence.

There is something extraordinary about this girl.

I’m still “searching” for her face—from pictures shared by others (always “credit to owners” for the original photographic images presented here; this blog is strictly for gratuitous and educational purposes and is never-for-profit), or from many screenshots of videos that serve as “foundational sketches” for my artistic efforts, or from whatever-other-places she pops up—I have a huge file of materials for my “Grimmie Portraits” which serve as templates for my private and personal art works (many of them “in progress”), a few of which are gratuitously shared here or on social media.

There is reflected in Christina’s face a deep joy, a gigantic passion for life, a powerful yearning to give and to receive love, a sense of responsibility for the gifts (and the people) given to her, and an overflowing gratitude: always this gratitude from the depths of her heart. I look at her face and I’m convinced that her life was full of what she saw deep down in things, the encounter with the Mystery that sustains and resonates through all of reality, and that awakened and energized her in the days of her brief beautiful life.

I want to see what she saw. I want to see more, and to live with greater ardor an adherence to that Mystery.

Six years ago I posted the above image and texts. I used to search out those occasional moments when Christina made explicit reference to her faith. Her words about her love for Jesus Christ were unambiguous and all-encompassing when she spoke about the foundation of her own life. Perhaps by isolating these quotations, however, I was too preoccupied with presenting her in the form of a “pious image.” Certainly, when she said “my faith is my whole life,” she meant it. But the remarkable and truly “mysterious” quality of Christina was that she lived her faith, ardently, right inside of a real and relatable teenage/young-adult life with its panoply of interests and “distractions,” the give-and-take of adolescent fun on her YouTube channel and in her social media, and her pursuit of a successful career in popular music where she could share all of her prodigious musical talents and her stupendous, jaw-dropping singing voice.

In all of this, she remained down to earth. Recently, I found the source of this beautiful quotation in a YouTube live stream. Christina was chatting with her frands about television shows and songs and video games—the kind of talk that my own kids (ranged 16-25 years old) pass around among themselves and with their friends, and that I cannot enter into because I am by nature an uncool Dad. 🥸😜 Then in the midst of this stream of jocular verbiage, Christina found a moment to make reference to her faith and to clarify it with a seriousness that was earnest yet effortless—that didn’t withdraw from the adolescent mood of the conversation, that was natural and memorable, and that was followed by more talk of food, music, and video games.

My instinctive “uncool old man” reaction would ordinarily be to find nothing particularly remarkable in this kind of conversation, even with a religious reference in the middle of it. But as I watched Christina I began to glimpse something deeper in the way in which she was engaging and accompanying her frands, who were mostly teens and pre-teens. She was sharing her own interests, her own goofy self, but within that normal 21-year-old young woman was the immeasurably greater reality—the Mystery, the Mystery-made-flesh—transforming her, shining through her humanity, Jesus Christ her whole life.

Faith is a great adventure, a growth in conviction, an enlargement of the fascination of life, of hope and love and vulnerability, of the search for the fullness of the meaning of things. Christina Grimmie remains for me a bright light on my own journey of faith seeking understanding, longing to “see,” loving and hoping for the fulfillment of love.

The persistence of my poor artistic efforts over the past six years are grounded here.