Commissioned Art and Story behind The Intimacy of Memory
The idea for the Intimacy of Memory and its original body of work seeded almost years ago when the biological mother of my adopted daughter, died of AIDS and substance use disorder. Taylor was six at the time. As I cleaned out her mother’s apartment, I had to decide what to keep. Which items would hold memories of her mother and offer Taylor comfort both in moment and throughout her life? As I selected a few dishes, her mother’s favorite shirt, a locket, a mirror, I knew it wasn’t just what I kept but also what I didn’t keep that would play a role in Taylor’s recollections.
I became curious about why people choose particular objects or keepsakes after someone close to them has died. In what ways does an object represent the person who died and the shared relationship with the survivor? How do objects celebrate a life? How do objects prompt memory and how does this memory change over time?
As part of this exploration, I interviewed participants and meditated on what I had heard. When I began to paint, the layers of color seemed to mirror the layers their recollections: feelings of loss, love and longing. While many details, faded into the background, what I felt most acutely was the sense of connection that stretched from the present to the past. I began to see how relationships and roles become fixed in time and space at the moment of death…how we forever remain mother/father/grandfather, husband/partner, sister/daughter/granddaughter.
Jim, beloved son, died at 52 of a heart attack. He had four brothers (represented by the white shirts), played hockey and, after a long struggle, became clean and sober. Jim could often be found in his ‘uniform'-shorts and a Hawaiian shirt--even in weather that would have had many reaching for a sweater or coat. The height marks symbolize what many parents feel when they lose a son or daughter: that they always remain a child, no matter what the age at the time of their death.
Together for 40 years, Frankie and his partner married as soon as gay marriage was legal; George still wears his wedding ring to this day. Their beautiful home is decorated with photos from their many trips, and overflowing with hundreds of volumes of screenplays, a testament to Frankie’s long lost dream of becoming a playwright. In turmoil about the still-fresh loss of his partner, George’s memories swirl with emotion.
Martin's Alarm Clock
His alarm clock was the last thing he touched before he left for an operation a year ago, which left him paralyzed and unable to return home. Arthur, his partner of 25 years, thinks of his death as ‘broken time. He canvas is wrapped in thread as an homage to Martin, who was a tailor and sewing machine operator, and the flecks of pink are a nod to his love of color and of life.
Doris' Recipe Box
Doris’s Recipe Box: Doris died of a stroke-without pain and surrounded by family. She was a mother, wife, friend, business maven and amazing bridge player. As a woman of the 50’s, she was also the cook in the family--not her strongest suit. The recipe box sits out on her daughter’s counter. Though Martha doesn’t really notice it or use its contents, it is a constant presence that symbolizes her mothers complexity and hidden vulnerability. The playing cards represent her mother’s smarts and indep
Joe's Toy Soldiers
Joe died on 9/11. He was working as a bondsman when the plane hit the South Tower. With the World Trade Center and the grief of that day slowly fading, his sister Mary smiles as she remembers younger brother’s warmth, his life-giving energy and amazing imagination that kept him playing with his green toy soldiers for hours at a time.
Zep (Grampy's) War Medals
Zep’s (Grampy’s) War Medals: Zep died too soon for his grand-daughter, who was 17 at the time. He was a WWII hero and a quiet man who, in many ways, filled the role of both mother and father for his grand-daughter. Julie’s memories of her beloved Zep engage her five senses: the feel of the hump in the back seat of their 1979 Sunbird as he drove her to and from work; the smell of his cigars; the glint of his medals that she played with; the sound of his voice as she listened to his war stories; a
To her daughter, the travel clock evokes childhood memories of her mother’s ‘adventurous soul.’ When she tried to use it recently, Mary found that it was still charged with pain of a difficult history caused by her mother’s alcoholism. Still, she is working to understand and reconcile herself to their past in hopes that it will result in a more peaceful way to remember and love her mother.
Taylor's Bio Mom's Stuff
Taylor’s bio mom’s stuff: Taylor’s biological mom died when she was six, resulting in her becoming an orphan. As her adoptive mother, I was deeply challenged by the responsibility and the knowledge that the objects I saved--or didn’t save--would impact the ways she would remember her mom. Sorting through the piles, the decision-making process was painfully slow: How could I possibly know what would be important to Taylor when she turned 12, 24 or 50?