Loss of Material Evidence

Collaboration with Mark R. Smith
Ronna and Eric Hoffman Gallery, Lewis and Clark College, Portland, OR, 2018

This project was the result of an ongoing dialogue between my partner, Mark R. Smith, and myself about the aging and passing of our parents. Being of a certain age, we often find ourselves drawn into a familiar conversation with friends and family of our generation regarding the aging, care and eventual passing of our elders. A particular question that plagues us is how to deal with a lifetime's worth of material accumulations and emotionally charged possessions.  It is a difficult discussion because of the conflicting sentiments inherent to it and the implied, inescapable reality of our own mortality.

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Prompted by the death of one parent, we created this exhibition to explore issues of loss, remembrance, legacy, the passage of time, and the making of art as a way to process grief through abstract visual language. Some of the work is collaborative and some was created by one or the other of us; each piece tells a specific story that is also part of a universal narrative.

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Ultimately, we find that despite the sadness, there is a great deal to celebrate upon examining the objects, memories and stories of lives lived.  In losing the physical presence of a loved one or the cherished material evidence of that person's life, we do not lose the effect they have had on us.

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Our connection to an individual is our connection to everyone. We all share a brief moment – with all its adventures, struggles, pain, love and beauty.  The variety of imagery, color, form, media, texture, size and complexity in the artworks is our effort to represent the diversity of our common experience.

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Our hope is that this project reminds the viewer that with every day, each one of us can circle back to begin again, knowing that we move in concert in an infinite relationship to time and one another.

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Time Tunnel, 2017
Collaboration with Mark R. Smith
Reclaimed textiles, thread, glue, canvas
111 x 202 inches

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Receding View, 2018
Collaboration with Mark R. Smith
Reclaimed textiles, thread, bed
38 x 216 x 174 inches

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The quilt design incorporates a variety of symbols for time.  Seven rows, each with twenty-four hourglass quilt blocks, are days in a week.  Looped black and white lines that wind through the rows are night and day.  The stitched line represents an individual’s path and the sky-blue background is infinity.

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Heirloom Waterfall, 2018
Linens, baby clothes
108 x 77 x 7 inches

This piece is made from linens and baby dresses that have been handed down through four generations of women in my husband's family.  Arranged as a waterfall, the earliest clothing (late 1800’s) is sewn at the top and the others descend in chronological order to the most recent dresses (1940’s) at the bottom.  The crochet, tatting and stitching reference the threads that run through all our lives and the connections between us, as well as the time intensive work of women from all over the world.

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I Used To Think I Knew Everyone, 2017
Collaboration with Mark R. Smith
Muslin, paper, newsprint cutouts, thread, glue
84 x 83.5 inches

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Waiting to Cry, 2016
Paper, acrylic paint, thread, glue, nails
86 x 213 x 1 inches

I began this piece when my mother-in-law entered hospice.  Each day I sewed on a length of paper to mark time as I waited for an event that I did not welcome.  While sewing, I listened to stories of women's lives (Anna Karenina, Far from the Madding Crowd.)  The colors of the paper alternate to differentiate one day from the next.  The strip, with black and white threads knotted together to represent continued devotion, is installed to show the ups and downs of that period, with the last day being a long and sad one.

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Bloom, 2017
Digital prints, Flashe, paper, and glue on fifty-nine 4 x 4" panels
77 x 64.5 x 1 inches

The day that my mother-in-law died I was home alone, waiting to pick up my daughter from the airport and my son from school.  When I got the call that she had passed away I was stuck, unable to leave to be with her.  So, I took a walk.  It was a beautiful day and there were many flowers blooming.  My mother-in-law was a biologist; she taught me how to garden. I felt her presence in those flowers, so I photographed them the next day.

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Remembering Every Day, 2018
Paper, gouache, Flashe, glue, colored pencil on wood panel
113 x 113 inches

I began this collage on the day after my mother-in-law died.  Every day I tried to remember something about her, and a color associated with that memory.  I painted that color on a square of paper.  I did this for one year, recording the date, color and memory in a notebook.  The squares are arranged with the last color (dated on the first anniversary of her death) at the center.  The squares and days spiral counterclockwise from the center, symbolizing a desire to turn back the clock.

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Comforter - Beloved Embrace, 2018
Paper, thread, glue, digital printing, varnish, wood
Installation in a room measuring 14 x 20 x 12 feet

This work started one year after my mother-in-law died. Using copies of photos from family albums, I cut out figures of friends or relatives, making one cutout every day for a year.  Also, on each day I made leaf shapes out of painted paper, using templates of leaves I had collected.  After one year, I had 365 figures and over 3000 leaves.  The hand-stitched strips of leaves are woven into a blanket and arranged so that the stitching is one continuous line. This daily meditation focused on appreciating what is gained from those we have known; recognizing that the people we care about remain with us no matter where they are.

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Perennial Host, 2018
Collaboration with Mark R. Smith
Plywood, reclaimed textiles, paper, glue, thread, pies
90 x 64 x 64 inches

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Fear of Falling, 2018
Collaboration with Mark R. Smith
Found objects and reclaimed textiles
107 x 41 x 41 inches

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Road Trip Reflections:  The Constant is the Horizon, 2018
Collaboration with Mark R. Smith
Reclaimed textiles, found photographs, paper, paint, thread, glue
38 x 216 x 174 inches

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Flower Clock - Infinity Hours, 2018
Paper, hair, glue on twelve wood panels
72 x 72 x 1 inches

Each flower is made up of infinity signs and took one hour to create.  Hair is used because it contains DNA and is a window into past generations.  Arranged as a clock face, each panel contemplates the fluid nature of time as we experience it.

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Photos:  Stephen Funk

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