Grandpa Goes to Heaven is one of the most famous sequences by Duane Michals. The sequences are, according to the style of Michals, a series of images that go to make up a short story, putting in question the sacredness of the single shot. The artist builds up stories that have the same relationship with movies as poems do with novels. These extraordinary series of images stimulate thoughts, have no didactic pretensions and offer the utmost freedom of interpretation.

Grandpa Goes to Heaven, 1989. Courtesy of DC Moore Gallery,  New York © Duane Michals

In this sequence Michals represents the death of a grandfather, from his grandson’s point of view. What cannot be seen, what remains hidden, becomes the target of Duane Michals’ quest: the human nature of a child who loses his grandfather, with his most inextricable secrets and most shameful fantasies.

The universal mysteries are one of Duane’s favorite subjects, although in no way is it easy to speak of these things, given that he understands the human condition as a continuous transformation in which the present has already passed, and everything is no more than a memory, dream or illusion.

Duane Michals himself, when I interviewed him in December 2016, commented that: “Basically, I’m interested in spiritual matters. I’m interested in the nature of my experience in the most profound way.”

This sequence, thanks to its poetry and delicate melancholy, draws us vertiginously toward a universe we also feel is ours, that is going to stimulate our empathy. Simply put, we feel engaged and filled with curiosity. There is something that affects us, something that in its evanescence we struggle to define; we can only feel it, but it is precisely in the intimacy of this interaction that the effectiveness and universality of Duane Michals’ work lies.