Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tapping In











On Friday, I unloaded my artwork from my car to bring into the house and put in my flat file, which is set up in my new home studio space. In addition to all my portraits, figure studies, and prints, I had the bulky pieces to my Altared Self installation to unload. I had fantasized about burning this piece for some time - it was taking up alot of space, and I'd exhibited it twice altready (here, and here...), so I wasn't even careful taking it from the car, and tossed pieces of it onto a snow bank while I pulled my other work more carefully from the trunk. I was emotionally raw and tired, for it had been a week full of grieving, and in the middle of all this unpacking, I was overcome by tears. I sat on the edge of the snow bank in the warm sun with my Altared Self pieces and sobbed. It seemed as if the sun was embracing me, giving me permission to have a good long cry. I felt better after that, and suddenly wondered what it would look like if I threw some ashes onto my wet face. This is me always - having an experience, and then stepping back and observing it - wanting to make art about it. So I went to the back porch and took the lid off the ash bucket, grabbed a handful of the gritty gray particles, and sprinkled it over my face. I sat back down in the sun and snapped a few self-portraits. Then I gave myself a good facewash with snow, and felt worlds better. Energized, I finished unloading the car.

At lunchtime, out of curiosity, I Googled ashes and ritual and found this fascinating article. I was particularly interested to learn about the Sapindi ritual which takes place on the 13th day after a loved one's passing. I realized that the next day would be the 13th day after my mother's death. Oh, here was the arrow pointing, the permission to burn the Altared Self piece. The piece was about my old relationship with my parents, and I realized that now that they are both gone, I have a new, freer relationship with them, and with myself.

So, on Saturday at noon, I trudged through thigh deep snow, dragging the two big panels, and planted them firmly in the fluffy white stuff, then added a few of the other pieces that were part of the original installation. I dripped a few drops of fire starter on the panels, struck the match, and stood back. It started smoldering here and there before bursting into flames. It looked so beautiful! I was filled with excitement and delight, and starting taking pictures. It was incredibly satisfying to watch this piece morph and disappear, and when it had burned to the snow, I felt lighter, emotionally, and physically.

I've felt at peace since doing this strange ritual. I even dreamt that my mother called me on the phone to tell me that she loved me, something she was unable to do for the past few years, being tongue tied and stripped of memory from the Alzheimer's.

And now I have all this source imagery to work with. The original piece was so packed with information, these bits and pieces can be works on their own. I want to take these photos and crops of photos to my new studio space and start a series of drawings using them somehow...

video

4 comments:

Susan Beauchemin said...

You have a portrait with your head exploding that this reminds me of--it was in a self portrait series of prints.

Susan Beauchemin said...

Isn't it interesting that soap is made out of ashes?

Susan Beauchemin said...

You're brave for burning this! All the work you put into these pieces! I loved this installment!

martha miller said...

Hi Sue ~ Yes! My Self in Nine monopprint series! And yes, the dirty/clean aspects of ashes is interesting! I don't know if I was brave in burning this piece - I just felt compelled - it seemed it was always meant to burn, with all the matches that were a part of it. It was originally inspired by thoughts of painting one's life story on their casket...