I collect Victorian visionary tales of the afterlife. These accounts of the Other Worlds are usually produced, or channeled, by Spiritualist mediums who can recount what they see, or speak in the voices of the departed who are already in the other world. Often, the Spiritualists called this other world the "Summerland," a place of perpetual but unthreatening summer. There was no night there, or else night was a time of faery flight and dreams. The heavenly world's landscapes are populated with happy spirits, dressed in white Victorian gowns, surrounded by flowers and meadows and friendly animals. There are cities and villages there, made of glass or gold or other shining substances, in which the blessed spirits live and enjoy heavenly banquets and pleasant companionship. The air is bright and sweet and no one has to toil or endure disease and misery.
Many of these Spiritualist visions of heaven are derived from the Bible; the nineteenth century in America was far more Biblically aware than our own era. Similar descriptions of Heaven can be found in the Koran. In a society where many more people died young than nowadays, whether through sickness, war, or accident, the Spiritualist visions of departed loved ones living in Summerland gave comfort that is no longer available to our modern age. All I can do is enjoy my banquets (whether Mexican food or not) and my wineries, set in Virginia's earthly paradise.
"Summerland" is markers on posterboard, 21" x 13", winter 1980. Heavenly restoration in Photoshop.