Saturday, November 26, 2011

Past Tense

This is how it started:

It seemed so simple at the time--too simple maybe. I had been struggling in grad school following my mother's death in the middle of my first year of school.  I tried to create meaningful work but it didn't resonate with everyone else. Nobody got what I was trying to say with my paintings. Professors went to great lengths to tell me that I was over thinking my work, basically instructing me to lay off the heavy thinking for a while. Clearly, they didn't understand the agony that I was experiencing with the loss of my mother. Didn't they know that it was all I could do to just be in the studio in the first place, let alone create beautiful paintings? If anything, I wanted to convey the meaning behind the hurt, but the imagery that I chose wasn't going anywhere.  The oddball among the group of work that I'd done, this two-paneled piece with two simple words got all of the attention from the panel of reviewers in my studio at the end of the semester.  Nobody gushed or wrung their hands in grief while looking at this piece. Instead, they were able to imbue their own experiences upon it and the sense of "is" being turned into "was" in a mere moment was felt universally.

So began a big phase of my work in which words became the subject of my art work.  The words themselves contain meaning so manipulating them in the work became my challenge and in some ways my calling. Sometimes serious and sometimes funny--words became the tool to tell my story visually.

Shortly after the "Past Tense" piece, I did a piece on that serious note--working out the feeling of loss that I was experiencing. When someone close to you dies, people will tell you that "life goes on" and it's true. But, how could it and what if it really does go on?  The devastation of forgetting the cadence of my mother's voice complete with its thick Long Island accent, or the sound of her laugh, or the way she looked when she smiled...that would be terrible to lose. Yet, memories fade and I was completely aware of that being a possibility.  I made this piece, "The Forgetting" to recall the layers of memories, some prominent and some floating off into the distance.

The same word, "remembering" is hand-printed in pencil over and over, dozens of times. The repetition of writing the word so many times--to meditate on it again and again--could possibly help save each memory from evaporating with time.  The choice of pencil was important as a medium--so basic and easy to use--but something that can ultimately be erased.

Over the years between then and now, I've come to use words in much of my work (not all)--and I am still excited at how simple words and phrases can continue to fascinate me.

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