I left the cemetery today and said, I miss doing more posthumous sculpture. I need to focus on only this. Perhaps the lull in this type of commissions this past year and a half are because we have really walked our own loss through this time. In fact, death, which is usually so much a part of my creativity , has become very personal with the losing of a father, mother, father in law, step mom and God mother— all within a few short years. I’m keenly aware of the loss from my clients perspective.
Leaving the cemetery today I thought, “Sure the giant monuments pay a lot, but for me, this part of my work- posthumous sculpture is much more fulfilling.”
I know many artists who bid on these type of projects and refer to them as, “just another commission.” Anyone who knows me and has followed my work and my studies over my career knows that I do not refer to posthumous sculpture in this way. I believe that sculpting for a prayer garden or a cemetery is one of the most honoring things I could ever do in my life and with my talents. When I do this, I always thank God for giving me this talent.
I know that some might think of this type of work as macabre. I suppose it is in how you look at death. It is interesting that I really no longer want to think about Halloween, but I am increasingly interested in The Day of The Dead. The Day of the Dead is A Hispanic tradition where family members embrace, remember and celebrate their loved one. We— in the western culture are too quick to brush a death away. People think they cannot or should not grieve and celebrate. My work gives people permission to do that, as does The Day of The Dead.
Another element to my passion for this type of work is the children. When I found this tiny grave at Glenwood cemetery I knew I had to have my picture taken with it. The children are here for such a short time, but this does not lesson their impact on the lives of others. The posthumous sculptures of and for children are by far my favorite thing to create.
I went to the cemetery today with a parent. I don’t know if I will be awarded this commission. But it does not matter. The moment we meet. I am connected to this mother and her grief. Someone else may be sculpting the project, but I will be holding this family in my heart and prayers for many years to come. When holidays come, I feel their greif and pray for their loss. As I told a friend of mine this afternoon, the responsibility that comes with this type of work is more than creative, but I embrace it. It is a part of who I am.
Here is a portion of the novel I wrote. This is a young adult novel about a young girl who, like her mother, is very sensitive to the emotions of others. Her mother is a sculptor. Yes, it is based a bit on my own experiences. I am reminded of the novel and this scene as I visited this place in the cemetery. The inspiration for this novel came from this marvelous serene cemetery. Maybe I should work on getting his novel polished and published. Today when I visited, the man in my story was gone, there is a headstone now, but I will forever have this vision printed in my heart, and I know my potential client can identify with the sentiment.
Picnic in the cemetery
The creeping vines cling close to the brick, creating topiary sentinels that hold open the iron gates welcoming the large, sliver van. Mothering oaks spread their long arms intertwining over graves, and winding grey roads that are carefully edged with red brick curbs. The roots of the nurturing trees hold the dead, with tears from years of grief and memory– cradling, scooping nestling.
Caroline looks for her favorite places, as the van proceeds at a reverent pace deeper and deeper into the shade, and green and history that is the cemetery. The road widens at the gazebo, a courteous place for parking. A man in jeans and a light blue shirt who is not quite as old as her own parents stands at the foot of a tiny fresh grave that is heaped with dirt. Dirt that will settle into the earth as the pain and grief settle into the man. He stands, arms heavy and empty and hanging by his side. There is no head stone only stuffed animals and store bought figurines of cherubs. Caroline feels a bit breathless, the center of her chest tightens, a longing and loneliness bore a hollow spot in her.
She tries to shake it off. “This is someone I don’t even know.” She reminds herself. She wishes she was alone at this moment, that the man were not there, nor her mother for she has an overwhelming urge to lay down on the ground next to the pile of dirt, and tell it a story. “If only the man knew my mother, and what she does, maybe she could help.” She thought. But she has discovered, as Ms. Moyer has, that not everyone can handle what Ms. Moyer does. To some it brings immense comfort, others extreme pain. Even some that come to her go away for a time and then come back and say, “No, I can’t do this.”
Bridgette Mongeon is a sculptor, writer, illustrator and educator as well as a public speaker.
Her blog can be found at https://creativesculpture.com.
She is the vice chair of the planning committee for 3DCAMP Houston 2012 http://www.3dcamphouston.com
She is also the owner and creator of the God’s Word Collectible Sculpture series http://www.godsword.net
Click on Podcast Host Bios for a list of all podcasts.