Last week I went to the thrift store and looked for some books to set at Dick’s feet. The title of these books will change as they will be covered with clay and the form of the books actually become an armature. I’ll carve the titles in the book so they will be seen in the cover and spine. I may utilize the book bag as well, covering it with wax to stiffen it up.
I am still searching for the title of the books that would be at Dick’s feet. You may notice there are a few other elements that are spilling out of the bag. To be specific they will be an elephant carving, a feather and their will be a piece of paper a letter on top of the bag.
Here is the significance of these items.
The first is an elephant. I received this elephant from my professor Charlotte Hastings. It was in regard to something I mentioned while I was writing the book “Bringing to Life the Spirit of the DeceasedÂA Sculptor’s Journey”
I commented in my writing of the book, “I have always been intrigued with the story that I heard of elephants, marveling at the bones of their ancestors that they never knew. I remember seeing an elephant documentary that said that elephants that came across bones of their ancestors would pick them up and caress them, passing them from one to another in a respectful but mourning ritual. By doing so, it helped them come to terms with death. I feel that this action, this simple action by a wonderful and majestic creature is what I feel when I create posthumous portraiture. When the box of personal affects comes to my studio and I examine it, from that day forward until the day that the sculpture is complete I have spent time lovingly caressing the life that I have had a pleasure to be introduced to. I turn that life over and over in my hands and heart as lovingly as those majestic elephants did with the bones of their ancestors. It is through my ritual and my art that my experience is enhanced and the healing process and letting go occur for my client. “
There will also be a feather pouring out of the book bag, another symbol that is mentioned in my book –
“While sitting at dinner with several classmates on the Vermont College Campus, we were discussing posthumous portraiture and my journey. They were all interested in my topic. Again I state, “How do I do this? It is a difficult thing for me to look at, do you think that somehow I communicate with my subject”
Communicating with those who are dead is not an easy thing for me to comprehend. I have a strong Christian background and communication with the deceased would be frowned on by some people. “Besides”, I tell myself, “this is just art.”As we talk the eyes of one of my classmates tears up. I have just met all of these people within the last day, and these women at this very dinner. I discover that Helen has just lost her mother seven days earlier. “Great.” I think to myself, “You have done it again talking about death like it is an everyday thing.”
I apologize to Helen, “I am sorry if I am being insensitive.” It would not be the first time that I have had to do this” apologize. Just last year I was visiting a friend who lost her son. She and I had had our children months apart, and I could not begin to comprehend the incredible pain of losing a child who is only 19. She inquired about my work, artist that she is, and I told her about my most recent commissions, all which surrounded death. I truly was not trying to be insensitive to the pain of others, this work is my job, my life. I work with death almost every day.
Helen tells me that it is all right and proceeds to tell me a story about her mother. “I did a study on the Native American Indians,” she begins. “Within this study I discovered the strong symbolism that a feather has to the Native American Indian culture and while my mom was in the hospital, I gave her a feather.” We all listened intently to the story. She told us how unsure she was about coming to residency, but she knew that her mother would want her to come. So she packed her bags. She left the room where her bags were sitting and upon returning she looked and on top of the bags was a feather. She quickly stated that she collects feathers and has cats and maybe one of the cats could have gotten into her feathers and brought one to the suitcase. All three of her classmates concurred: it did not matter how the feather got there, it meant something to her, and so we believed it was from her mom.
After our conversation that evening, I was overwhelmed with the amount of interaction with people in the last few days. It was so unlike me, but I decided to skip the next lecture and take a long walk up the mountain. Just before dark I returned to the campus. As I turned to enter the dorm building, there on the ground was a feather. I stepped over the feather at first saying, “Hmm here is a feather”. Then I realized the significance and backed up and said, ” HERE IS A FEATHER!” I picked up the feather and then searched for Helen. When I found her I handed her the feather and said, “Maybe they do communicate; if so, I think your mom says hi.”
It was not the only feather Helen received throughout the six-day residency. In total she received five feathers.”
There were many more strange things involved in these two symbols, but I suppose you will have to read the book to find out.
The letter will be a statement about Dick, a letter to him from those who loved him, all of us. I’ll carve this into the wax or clay.