2023 Handmade Book Artist Statement
Every human being suffers big losses in life. Loss is the one unifying aspect of the human experience. Every culture and religion knows about loss and grief.
My youngest daughter Abby was tragically killed in an accident in April of 2021, and this has forever changed me on every level, including my passion for the arts.
My 2023 handmade book project is dedicated to Abby and her memory that continues to live on through me and many others.
GRIEF & HEALING
Nothing in life can prepare us for the death of a loved one. Whether death results from a sudden accident or a sustained illness, it always catches us off-guard. Death is deeply personal and stunningly final; nothing can emotionally prepare us for its arrival. With every death, there is a loss. And with every loss, there will be grief.
My handmade Wild Horses of Missouri handmade photo books are the face of my grief and healing process.
Grief doesn’t come and go in an orderly, confined timeframe. When we think the pangs of anguish have stolen their last breath, another wave sweeps in, and we are forced to revisit the memories, the pain, and the fear. Sometimes we try to resist the demands of grieving. We long to avoid this fierce yet holy pilgrimage.
Culture tells us to move past this process quickly. Take a few days, weeks perhaps, to grieve, but don’t stay there too long. Grieving can make those around us uncomfortable. Friends sometimes don’t know what to do with our pain. Loved ones struggle to find adequate words to comfort our aching wounds.
Yet grief, as painful a season as it is, is a necessary part of our healing. To run from grief is to run from the very thing that can quell the pain of our loss. Our grief has a purpose if we come to God and use Bible verses and prayer for healing. Grieving is the process God uses to bring us to a place of wholeness.
WILD HORSES OF MISSOURI
Spending time with the wild horses of Missouri helps me manage my grief and is also part of my healing process. It is the one place where I get lost in something positive and beautiful, and I am not buried in a tidal wave of grieving emotions.
Watching the wild horses live a simple and pure life captivates my complete attention, and it is the only place where I can be still and not think. I get lost in the experience, and they give me something that I can’t give to myself.
Making handmade photo books of the wild horses of Missouri is a cathartic experience that helps me work through difficult emotions.
The artwork for my handmade books aligns with the five stages of grief:
Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Each handmade print creatively expresses my feelings and describes these grief and loss stages with my artwork versus using spoken words.
I aim to help people with loss, grief, and inner struggles through my tragedy and artwork.
I do this by openly sharing my personal struggles. Every piece of artwork that I create is a symbol that is a part of the healing process for me and hopefully can help someone.
The left side of the brain’s verbal language is limited in its vocabulary, leaving emotions unexpressed. To access and release feelings of grief and anxiety, you need to use the right side of the brain’s language of imagery.
For thousands of years, humans have found relief from fears, anxiety, and depression and found new meaning through artistic expression. Artists have used their art to express despair and transcend emotional struggles, and I am no different.
My daughter Abby is the core driver of why I create art now. I need a cathartic release from my loss and grief. The wild horses of Missouri allow me to help people positively remember their loved ones.
We all lose people we love, and eventually, we will also lose our life. Being grateful, present, and helpful are lessons the wild horses continue to teach me.
GRIEF & THE BIBLE
Matthew 5:4 – Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Revelation 21:4 – He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Psalm 147:3 – He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
1 Peter 5:7 – Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
Psalm 34:18 – The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
Matthew 11:28-30 – Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Creating my handmade wild horse artwork allows me to be fully present and stop trying to control the uncontrollable.
Because my process is slow and contemplative, I feel my deepest thoughts and find beauty in the unpredictable. I design every aspect of my artwork with a specific purpose and metaphor.
My time with wild horses transports me to a place of peace and stillness, and I stop trying to control everything. I want my artwork to do the same thing for you too. I want it to be a positive metaphor for your feelings and emotions and be a positive light in your darkest moments.
Wild horses teach me to feel my deepest thoughts and feelings. Their honesty is a positive reminder of all the good things I want to hold on to and experience now and in the future.
Wild horses allow me to be humble and fall to my knees and surrender. I know that I am not in control of anything, and in those moments when I fully let go, I feel like I am floating on a cloud.
After I lost my daughter, I decided to go and try to find the wild horses because I was overwhelmed and needed to escape. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I decided to try to find the wild horses before daybreak because I couldn’t sleep.
I arrived at a location where I often find them, and the forest floor was completely enveloped in fog. I sat on my folding chair, thinking about Abby and watching the fog dance in the morning’s first light.
A chill came over me, and I could sense the horses, but I could not see them. I could smell them, but still no sign of them because of the dense and heavy fog.
My mind was racing. I was thinking about Abby and trying to pay attention to what was happening in front of me.
As the morning light filled the forest floor, a beautiful white mare stood about 100 feet before me, where I took the photograph you see in this paragraph. I could barely see her, but I knew she was there. As the light revealed her, I noticed she kept consistently looking down at the ground.
As the light continued to reveal the unseen, I realized she was watching her new baby foal sleeping on the ground before her. If you look closely at the left side of the print, you will see the baby foal lying on the ground, resting in peace below her mother.
In that instant, a rush of emotion washed over me, and I realized that Abby was in a safe place and was being taken care of.
I continue to struggle with being unable to protect and save her, and when I have those feelings, I go back to this moment to try and find some comfort.
I begin by creating a silver gelatin paper negative.
This type of negative is based on the invention of photography dating back to the beginning of photography in the 1830s. The image is soft and ethereal based on the fibers of the paper and the chemistry involved.
I then place the paper negative in contact with a chemically-sensitized piece of paper that reacts to ultraviolet light.
Ultraviolet light causes a chemical reaction, creating a faint whisper of a visible image.
To fully see the image, a chemical developer must be used to convert the image to metallic silver.
By selecting and using my desired tools and methods, I create original artwork that, in one part, is therapy for me and, in another part, therapy for those willing to listen and embrace the unpredictable and inevitable.
The ultimate goal of my artwork is to help people realize that it is okay to be vulnerable and imperfect and wrestle with anxiety and unavoidable difficult topics.
My artwork is intended to help people relax and give themselves permission to heal and surrender to the inevitable.
BEHIND THE SCENES PHOTOS
- May 3, 2023
- March 31, 2023
- March 18, 2023
- December 15. 2022
- November 08, 2022