In place of death there was light.

I am preparing myself to draw my mother’s “death mask” from the photo my son took after she passed on November 8, 2008.

I have been preparing for awhile.

I know the process will be an important and necessary one for me personally.  I think about it often.  It’s not about needing to work on something unfinished.  It’s about not shying away from the processes of life.  I don’t want to shy away!

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I have just needed to feel the time was right.  I have had to gain some space and maturity and to heal in order to be able to revisit my mother’s “death mask.”  To explore, in full truth, my profound relationship with her.

Our final year together was the “start” of a deeper more authentic connection.  We had always been so close, but there had always been a layer of deference and fear on my part, and fragility and depression and loss on her part that did not allow us to speak deeply with words.  But that final year was different.  We spoke of our love of each other, our love of family and homemaking and caregiving, our love of history and crime stories and our mutual love of hibernation and desire for autonomy and adventure.

There is a lot I want to write about my relationship with my mother.  I want to explore my old diaries and I want to view it all with these new mature eyes.  But I pick up a journal and read an excerpt and there is such pain there.

With time and healing, I am slowly able to open the pages more gently without being thrown into an existential crisis.

Grief is work!

Exploring the journals is an essential piece in my work on Molly as my story and her story intertwines.  But words aren’t flowing just yet around the relationship with Mom.  There have been starts and stops.  I suppose Mom is not ready.  But I KNOW she wants me to tell it.  We “talk” about it often.

Whatever the truth is, to speak it is a great adventure. – Louise Glück

As I explore and prep to draw Mom’s “death mask,” I am inspired by the work of Sue Coe:

The Last 11 Days is a group of charcoal drawings Sue Coe created from July 20 to 31, 1995 depicting her mother as she lay dying with cancer. The drawings reveal Coe’s private struggle with her mother’s illness and eventual death. [source]

 

From: BROAD STROKES

Unlike her other work, The Last 11 Days were created without the intention of being shown and reveal Coe’s private struggle with her mother’s illness and eventual death. Sue Coe is inspiring in every form, supporting issues that plague the world and refusing to sit quietly in their wake. She continues to be a magnetic force in the complex world of contemporary women artists.

 

Memory:

On a visit to SFMOMA in 2011, my daughter stated that sees her “Mormor” in this portrait by Matisse .  We often talk about how Mormor flew right down to Anna in San Francisco when she left her body.

The Girl with Green Eyes, 1908
Henri Matisse

And so, today I will dig through my files and try to find the photo I hid away deep in my computer in an obscure file.  Once found, I will sit with paper in place and china marker in hand wait to see if mom lets me know if it is time.

In place of death there was light. – Leo Tolstoy

And in place of death there is love.  And mom’s laugh.  And more and more love.

Mom’s parrot, Asterix, lives with me now. I love when he does her GIGANTIC belly laugh and answers the phone in her Swedish accent.

Weekly artist series: Week 9 Part 3 of 3 SUE COE: Portrait of Truth. Who do you celebrate? I celebrate Sabrina.

Week 9 Part 3 Sue Coe

What draws me to Sue Coe’s work is the freedom in her truth telling.  Her technique reflects the message and there is an ease to how she produces her work while at the same time she hammers her message home.  She is her art.

From Americans Who Tell the Truth, Portraits by Robert Shetterly

We despair for the fate of animals, the senseless cruelties inflicted upon them by our species, their and our own helplessness in the face of mass slaughter — all this is true. And if we could really see what we have done to the earth, we would go mad.

Alongside that is yet another truth: there is a palpable goodness all around us, even in the most terrible times, that all things point to, like the north star. – SUE COE, Dead Meat

Who, in your life, would you like to celebrate as a truth teller?  Who is transparent and daring and willing to bare their soul, and simply live in the truth? 

I am choosing my former student and now my artist-colleague, Sabrina LaLonde.  This young artist is monstrously talented and conveys a truth in her art and her life that inspires me to no end.  I want to be better when I am around her, I want to draw more honestly like her, I want to be my art like she is.
By Sabrina Lalonde

Sabrina Lalonde Artist Story:

I think that some people are born with a special talent, and some people have to take an interest and work at it.  When I look at my artwork from when I was little, it is the same as the other kids.  But then I took an interest and I have worked at my art every day. 

When I first started kindergarten and we had a choice of activities I always chose art.  My dad wanted me to be artistic because he was, he didn’t force me, but he did encourage me.  By grade four my enjoyment of art had become a need.  I didn’t fit into any cliques and so I would stay inside and do art all the time.  My teacher started noticing how much I liked art and how I took to it.  My parents came to school and saw my art and said ‘wow – this is turning into something’.  My mom has always valued, and respected my artistic need.

It felt nerve-racking because people had high expectations of me.  It still feels like that – people will compliment me, or make requests – and I put pressure on myself. 

This is just who I am, this is what I do, I don’t think my work is any better or worse than anyone else’s.  Art is essential to my survival.  It is my way of expressing my feelings, and how I look at life, and if I don’t get that out it’s like an implosion.  If I’m not creating I will get frustrated with everything because I can’t get my voice out.  When I can’t get my voice out I feel horrible, I feel as though I have pent up energy and I’m tied to a couch, it’s like a feeling of helplessness.  Drawing is my zen-zone where I find myself.  It is peace to me.  It is my way of connecting with myself

Check out Sabrina’s work and other extraordinary youth art at the YOUTH ART AND SALE at Keith Lynn Alternative Secondary School in North Vancouver, BC, April 19!
Sabrina created this invite:

My portrait of Sabrina, June 2011 at the Savary Island Art Retreat:

 
And I scratched out a drawing of her in my journal last summer during a café meetup:

Weekly artist series: Week 9 Part 2 SUE COE: A mother dying

Week 9 Part 2 Sue Coe

The Last 11 Days is a group of charcoal drawings Sue Coe created from July 20 to 31, 1995 depicting her mother as she lay dying with cancer. The drawings reveal Coe’s private struggle with her mother’s illness and eventual death. [source]

I’m not a big fan of the word “resonate.”  The meaning is OK, but the word irritates me for many reasons.  But I have to use it when describing Sue Coe’s drawing of her dying mother.  These pieces resonate with me as I feel such connection to my own experience.

From the series ; Charcoal on paper; 11 x 13 in.; Gift of Patti Cadby Birch; © Galerie St. Etienne, New York

From: BROAD STROKES

Unlike her other work, The Last 11 Days were created without the intention of being shown and reveal Coe’s private struggle with her mother’s illness and eventual death. Sue Coe is inspiring in every form, supporting issues that plague the world and refusing to sit quietly in their wake. She continues to be a magnetic force in the complex world of contemporary women artists.

One day, I will revisit  and draw from the photos of my mother‘s declining body and the photo after she passed, but not yet.

What do you want to process eventually?

I know the process of drawing mom in her last weeks will be an important and necessary one for me personally.  I hold onto her purse, her wallet, her phone, her trinkets, her perfume, even her last umbrella.

Before I went to San Francisco, I visited mom’s memorial leaf and just cried and cried.  It’s not about needing to work on something unfinished.  I’m working.  It’s about not shying away from the processes of life.  I don’t want to shy away.

My daughter can feel the presence of “Mormor” in her daily life in San Francisco.  We often talk about how Mormor flew right down to Anna in San Francisco when she left her body.

Anna sees Mormor at the SFMOMA in the portrait by Matisse.  I love that Mom also had green eyes.

The Girl with Green Eyes, 1908
Henri Matisse

See also:

35 PART daily journal exercise

Weekly artist exploration/journaling series INTRO

Weekly artist series Week 1 parts 1-6 FRIDA KAHLO

Weekly artist series Week 2 parts 1-6 PICASSO

Weekly artist series Week 3 parts 1-5 LISA LARSON

Weekly artist series Week 4 parts 1-3 GEORGE GROSZ 

Weekly artist series Week 5 parts 1-4 FAITH RINGGOLD

Weekly artist series Week 6 Parts 1-3 BASQUIAT

Weekly artist series Week 7 Parts 1-4 deKOONING

Weekly artist series Week 8 Parts 1-3: OTTO DIX

Weekly artist series Week 9 Part 1: SUE COE Life in a Day

Mom's parrot, Asterix, lives with me now. I love when he does her belly laugh and answers the phone in her Swedish accent.

Weekly artist series: Week 9 Part 1 SUE COE black, coffee brown, white, slap #lifeinaday

Week 9 Part 1 Sue Coe

From my post Jan 27, 2011:

I first came across Sue Coe’s work in the 1988 Annual Edition of Gallerie Women’s Art.

“The work is in a series, a narrative, a novel or document in pictures.  It records injustice and cruelty, and attempts to perform the role of witness.  Art can be a weapon for social change, and at its most powerful is a reminder of our humanness.”

Ripped pages from a magazine publication that I keep tucked into the 1988 annual:

From Wikipedia: Sue Coe (born 1951 in Tamworth, Staffordshire) is an English artist and illustrator working primarily in drawing and printmaking, often in the form of illustrated books and comics. She grew up close to a slaughterhouse and developed a passion to stop cruelty to animals. Coe studied at the Royal College of Art inLondon, lived in New York City from 1972 to 2001. She currently lives in upstate New York. Her work is highly political, often directed against capitalism andcruelty to animals.

Source

In this 9th week of my weekly artist series, we’ll focus on Sue Coe’s imagery, her message, her brutal honesty and her power.
In your journal today, test out Sue Coe’s “slap on the face” visual style by painting with black and with coffee on postal paper.  When dry, highlight with white.
When I was born my mother worked in a doll factory, painting doll faces. She went to art school when she was very young, but had to leave when she was fifteen because of economic reasons, to get a "proper job." - Sue Coe

Before we continue our exploration of Sue Coe’s journalistic illustrations, drench yourself in the imagery of LIFE IN A DAY:

 See also:

35 PART daily journal exercise

Weekly artist exploration/journaling series INTRO

Weekly artist series Week 1 parts 1-6 FRIDA KAHLO

Weekly artist series Week 2 parts 1-6 PICASSO

Weekly artist series Week 3 parts 1-5 LISA LARSON

Weekly artist series Week 4 parts 1-3 GEORGE GROSZ 

Weekly artist series Week 5 parts 1-4 FAITH RINGGOLD

Weekly artist series Week 6 Parts 1-3 BASQUIAT

Weekly artist series Week 7 Parts 1-4 deKOONING

Weekly artist series Week 8 Parts 1-3: OTTO DIX

The incredible Sue Coe. #artist #activist #power #image #inspiration

I first came across Sue Coe’s work in the 1988 Annual Edition of Gallerie Women’s Art.

“The work is in a series, a narrative, a novel or document in pictures.  It records injustice and cruelty, and attempts to perform the role of witness.  Art can be a weapon for social change, and at its most powerful is a reminder of our humanness.”

Ripped pages from a magazine publication that I keep tucked into the 1988 annual:

From Wikipedia: Sue Coe (born 1951 in Tamworth, Staffordshire) is an English artist and illustrator working primarily in drawing and printmaking, often in the form of illustrated books and comics. She grew up close to a slaughterhouse and developed a passion to stop cruelty to animals. Coe studied at the Royal College of Art inLondon, lived in New York City from 1972 to 2001. She currently lives in upstate New York. Her work is highly political, often directed against capitalism andcruelty to animals.

Source