The inspiration came from a very personal experience the swift dissolution of my family after my mother’s death. I used this show to explore the distillation of a person’s life to taxes, tangible property and record keeping. I often felt that administration took over the real business of mourning. Painting this show was a meditation on these issues, but the process brought me back full circle to celebrate the grace and light in my parent’s lives while reminding me to walk the line on my own.
Years ago I bought a 1910 Sears and Roebuck house. It gave a new meaning to the word fixer-upper. The house was covered in dated, flowery wallpaper, and when I started the renovation, I discovered that the wallpaper was holding the plaster and lathe together. I was struck by the fact that something so decorative had morphed into a structural element and given spine to a decaying house.
For this show I used wallpaper designs I found in books as inspiration, sparked by that old Boulder house. I needed the decorative backdrop to explore the more sober theme of losing both parents in swift succession. I had heard that dealing with an estate of a beloved, no matter what the size, is fraught with challenges and now I certainly agree. I was struck by the charge of stuff that the dead leave behind, the power it holds, and was surprised by my own reactions to tangible property. Why do we get so attached to things and why do we think “stuff” really matters?
Before my mother died, I dutifully plowed through books on death and dying, loss and longing. I pored through self-help classics, underlining and taking notes, as if mourning were a tidy and succinct process. When my mother died, my experience did not nearly collide with what I had read. I was utterly bewildered and unprepared. The only definitive thing I now know about mourning is how definitively personal it is.
I was also astonished at other people’s response to mourning. Some wrote beautiful letters, while others tucked into silence, and still others flailed around the topic. Some people asked me if I was healed, which reflects our society’s very perfunctory approach to death and dying. I realized that our society often treats mourning as inconvenient and ignores the balance of life AND death.
Losing a beloved is a passage we must all go through, but is, ultimately, a very solitary experience. I decided to address this pilgrimage through collages and watercolors like this one. 2008
My mixed media panels range from 6 x 8 inches to 12 x 14 inches size and have a very different compositional approach from my paintings. I find myself increasingly looking for intersection in my private and public lives as a mother, a woman, an artist, a writer, a gardener, as a citizen in my local community and at large. I am using my next show to examine overlap. My creative process is inspired by the rhythm, the chaos, and considerations of my life — and by poetry, literature, and especially by the natural world.
The piece: 8 x 6 inches