8/12/2009

Avoiding A Book About Death

Matthew Rose has this great call for art going on, for A Book About Death. It's coming to a close soon, and finally I settled down and came up with my entry.
I had all these grandiose ideas when he first posted the call. I thought about my own experiences about death...those family members of mine who have recently died, including my mother. It was overwhelming. The power of the subject. I had a hard time approaching the work.
Matthew and I skyped and brainstormed all these wondrous ideas and cool ways to deal with this project. I dreamed about setting up a booth at our local grocery store, sitting with 500 blank cards, and asking people to write a small thought on the card regarding the Death Subject. But if was avoiding thinking about death, I assumed most others also would be. I loved the idea of getting 500 schoolchildren to draw me some death. Not sure where I would find a quick 500 students since Canajoharie only has 3797 residents--I doubt there are 500 kids in the school! I thought of Iraq and how easy it would be to dedicate a card for each of 500 totally unnecessary and bogus war deaths. I would have to leave many out, or do several series of cards for fairness, so this wasn't working for me.

He Giveth His Beloved Sleep
(a favorite gravestone slogan of mine)

I realized that these modes of operation were just another way for me to avoid thinking about death. With deadlines for my show looming, I already am overwhelmed. But I really liked the way A Book About Death was pushing my limit--I know that sounds silly that I liked being uncomfortable, but usually this means a growth opportunity--a chance for me to learn something. So this weekend I engaged it.
I had done a journal a few years ago that was themed around cemetaries. My bestest pal Travis and I had spent so many lunches in various local cemetaries, experimental photographing, seeking Mason gravestones, graverubbing..., and I had used some of these pieces in collage work.

left: pic of fence from the cemetary behind the historical Indian Castle Church (off rte 5s, outside Little Falls)
right: Travis in creepy Halloween mask beside the quiet ravine that comprises some of Canajoharie cemetary


I spend 3 hours looking for that journal. I was going to cheat and use a page from the journal instead of coming up with a new piece. My wonderful organizational skills (or lack thereof) totally prevented this from happening. Still cheating, I knew I also had a favorite piece of mine that I did in my own private journal that would probably work. I even scanned it in, preparing to make the post card entry from it.

private journal entry: 2004

Again, I caught myself in the act of cheating and proceeded beat my own ass. That was it. I sat down at the table and found some clips that I have been saving for a long time. The girl with the netted hat, she has been passed over at least 500 times. Her time had come. Along with some black and white double exposed Holga photographs that Trav and I took years ago. After all that buildup, I'm not sure the end product was "all that". The entire time I composed the piece, my mind wondered to distant Lithuanian and Norwegian relatives that paved the way bravely for me to exist.
However, it's what went on in my own head that interests me. For me it's the journey that matters. The continuous brain games that go on while I avoid things. The personal acknowledgment of my weaknesses. The triumph of thinking it all through. It's this I share with you. Like a mini-performance art.


my final entry

3 comments:

Julie Sadler said...

I just realized how my positioning in this piece totally reflects my attitude. The girl is turning away from the graves...as I was turning away from the subject.

interesting.

LoneStarLibrarian said...

Excellent collage and your insight about turning away. One of my favorite grave inscriptions: "Give My Love to the World" - Conrad Aiken (poet), Savannah, GA.

MATTHEW ROSE said...

It's been a fascinating experience, for me, putting up new works every day, seeing how artists the world over respond to this not only in content, but in action, as you suggest. My own entries came after a long think. I think sometimes the process (the big before) involved is as potent as the final result.

Thank you, Julie, for supporting this project with your words and encouragement.

And yes, I think I'd like to get to Norway for a walk in the snow my self.

Matthew


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