Artist: Lena Pak

Size: 33" x 14"


During winter break of 2019-20 my family went to visit my grandma’s house in Ohio. While we were there, her old heating system caused an electrical fire that destroyed the main room and caused severe smoke damage in the rest of the house. Fortunately, no one was hurt. When we were allowed back in the house, it was very difficult to look at all the damage and the air quality was not very safe, but I remember how eerily beautiful everything looked. I quickly took these three photos which turned into this oil painted triptych. Similar to the work of Francis Bacon, this piece uses both tight areas of detail and loose areas of expressionist paint strokes to represent gore and gloom. “Limbo” is from Latin limbus, meaning edge or refering to the edge of Hell. To be in limbo is to be in between, to be in an uncertain state. First, the fire left my family in limbo, as they were left without a home, personal belongings, and were stripped of a lifetime’s worth of memorabilia. Second, it is in between life and death. The viewer is on the side of life but their eyes are drawn along the implied line to the dark and ominous hallway in the left panel, which seems to lead to the other side: death, or Hell. Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, Silver Key.

Set in Limbo