In Dead Baby Club/Memory Box, 2016 I have replicated the work of 4 twentieth century artists. Dead BabyClub/Memory Box places octopus ink replicas of paintings made in mourning together in a memory box, a contemporary vessel dedicated to housing ephemera and relics from a dead child. The works on rag paper are meant to be touched. Though rag paper is a greedy surface for working in octopus ink, the texture and softness of the paper is evocative of flannel baby blankets hung to dry. There is something beautiful about turning a substance meant to be ephemeral into something so permanent. The cumulative grief of Alice Neel, Kathe Kolliwitz, FridaKahlo, Stella Haase and my own work hide together under a tether. It’s there to be opened and closed by anyone willing to witness and share the weight. Though emotional, it is not precious. It is meant to be touched with hands, meant to show the wear and tear, to be looked at in a stolen moment at the kitchen table, when no one else is looking.
After Kathe Kolliwitz, After Futility of Effort by Alice Neel, After After Munro/So You Can Take Home His Smell (drawing made by me 2 months after the death of my son), After Grief (Der Gram) 1917 by Stella Hasse, After Henry Ford Hospital Detroit by Frida Kahlo, After Sarcophagus 1- document of the funerary box I painting in which my son was cremated.
Part 1: Into the World
Part 2: Drop Off/Client-Pump-Repeat:In Client-Pump-Repeat a ritual done in broom closets and bathrooms every few hours by every nursing mother is depicted. Expressing breast milk is an invisible, uncomfortable, and time consuming act.
Part 3: Missed Call
Part 4: Is He Breathing/Is He Gone?The text came through. He'd been taken via ambulance to a hospital, but which one? I got there finally. And because it's LA I threw my key to the valet at the ER. I was greeted by woman who said Are you Mom? I pulled the curtain back and the doctor asked What does she know? Talk to her! The curtain closed and I had two question for the intern Is He Breathing? Is He Gone?
Part 5: In To Care for Him in Death as We Cared For Him in Life I used squares to divide the page like sticky notes listing the tasks at hand. I became extraordinarily pragmatic. Once all my tasks in the hospital were completed, the structure was gone. The memory box for all that was left.
During my initial investigation in to images of bereaved women, I over looked the most famous grieving mothers of all time, the Madonna. Based on the Tabernacle of the Linaioli by Fra Angelico. My surviving children replace the disciples surrounded by the worldly goods that link them to time, memory or legends to their brother. A note about materials: This is on vinyl. For a while "gas Theory" circulated as a possible cause for so called SIDS deaths. Vinyl was identified as a possible culprit of the off gassing. I am still hashing out how by hanging the drawing on a 'Step Repeat' frame serves the work, I'm taking a nod (or a jab) at selfie culture. I am looking at the way we as a culture view historical art as something to photographed in front of...
Collaborators 'under painting' printed on vinyl by American Sign, Los Angeles.
To be hung with 'Children' triptych. Uses the same 'm' tagging motif as in "children". The 'm' motif is a visual representation of the all encompassing aspect of grief like an invisible tagger, marring and mark all on its path. As I push this motif, I am thinking about how the work could evolve in the vein of Cicely Brown, where a drawing can be representational and abstracted.
This started simply: two portraits of my surviving children standing in a doorway or house and an empty house for the child who died. After I initially completed the portraits, these three drawings sat pinned to the studio wall for about two months, staring at me as I started and finished other works. They were not accurate representations somehow. They were too clean, too pretty, too proper. How does one depict the pervasive of grief that gets in everything and covers everything one sees? My adopted city of Los Angeles often has the answers, and here it came through gang tagging sprayed across murals. The grief is like that invisible kid with a spray can zipping through the city, impossible to catch, popping up again and again where least expected. I began to tag the work using india ink to tint gesso, acrylic gel and gloss medium. I did not use any pre-mixed black paint. The "m" tag, like grief, repeats and repeats saying “I am gone now, but I was here." Invisible, ever present.
I realize this is an outlier within this body of work, but this drawing (made in late summer 2016) was a test kitchen of sorts for the mixing of inks with clear acrylic mediums that lead to the 'm' tags in the "Children" triptych and the capability to work with ink on vinyl instead of paper. By using india ink, water soluble charcoal, and water soluble graphite mixed with clear acrylic medium and clear gesso instead of black acrylic paint I achieve a translucency and layering not typical in the non-octopus ink drawings I made previously. Thematically, I have worked with dead trees in the past. I have a deep tie to the physical world from my experience growing up in Alaska. This image is based on scores of drawing made from life of the spruce beetle kill of millions of trees on the Kenai Peninsula.
Landscape of the Mundane. This series started in the two years following the death of my son when I made a pastime of watching my children sleep. The original sketch made from life, this is documentation of the vigil I kept while my remaining children partook in the much needed activity responsible for my son's death. Unlike Robert Longo's sleeping children that are trying to stop time, this series was born out of a need to keep watch, a diligent eye while the children slept.
Taken from a 5”x5” watercolor live sketch from my daily drawing practice.
“She turned four the day before he died. We knew we couldn't cancel her birthday party, so it went a head as planned. Our community swept in and threw it for her. Her favorite gift she received was a yellow princess dress. It was the only thing she wore for the better part of the year that followed." My figural work is influenced by my undergraduate studies in Dance, specifically, the academic study of Butoh, where dancers explore similar themes of the child and loss. Concerns with the spiral, memory and the archetype of the child were at the fore front my mind during this drawing. I can also count Bill T Jones/ Arnie Zane, Pina Bauch, and Merce Cunningham as my influencers. Here the dancing child is depicted larger than life size, like a memory or dream.
My figural work is influenced by my undergraduate studies in Dance, specifically, the academic study of Butoh, where dancers explore similar themes of the child and loss. Concerns with the spiral, memory and the archetype of the child were at the forefront of my mind during this drawing. The scale is also of note: this drawing is a more than life size representation of the child depicted.
Evocative of the Victorian post-mortem photographs, the “While They Sleep…” series is based on scores of sketches done in the two years following my son’s death when I made a pastime of supervising my sleeping children. The materials play an imperative role. The indelible octopus ink is layered wash upon wash to build a living surface, rich in pattern and tone. The rag paper is a greedy surface, but is evocative in size and texture to a flannel baby blanket. Though this work is figurative, it is also a Landscape of the Mundane. Interesting to note, the tones present in the ink are variable based on the diet of the individual octopus. After the shrimp population crashed in the 1970s, all of the ink pulled from Kachemak Bay has been cooler in tone. In the past 5 years the shrimp population is making a come back leading to a warmer, more red tone.
From my daily drawing practice. Drawn a year to the week of my son's death when I realized (with some humor) I had been pregnant for 30 months.
Baby John Doe 8/14/2012, 2012 Drawn from memory. Drawn 3 months after his death, here my son lies in repose wrapped in the blanket donated to our family by Cedars Sinai ER so we could "take home his smell". After I completed painting the funerary box in August of 2012, I was concerned I would not be able to return to my drawing and painting practice. As Victorian and romantic as it sounded to have the last thing I painted be my son's casket, I was determined for that not to happen. This drawing was the first completed drawing examining bereavement.
In lieu of satin coffin trimming, I depicted my son's basinet. The lid, when closed looked down upon this view. Please note: The formal images documenting the funerary box have been lost. As the box was incinerated shortly after these photos were taken, I cannot re-shoot. I chose to include them because I feel these funerary paintings are the origin of much of the work I am making now.
And that night she asked, "Yes, but when are we going to be done being sad?" I replied, "We may never be done being sad about your brother's death, but that doesn't mean we can't be happy about other things." From the inside lid of my son's casket. A family portrait to hold his body while lying in repose. In lieu of satin coffin trimming, I depicted my son's basinet. The lid, when closed looked down upon the body and the painted image of the crib. Please note: The formal images documenting the funerary box have been lost. As the box was incinerated shortly after these photos were taken, I cannot re-shoot. I chose to include them because I feel these funerary paintings are the origin of much of the work I am making now.