Instinct Is Worth A Thousand Years Of Memory

I see that the last time I posted – or even updated – this website was November 2020.

Earlier that same month, my husband of almost 17 years was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He died less than 7 months later.

Followers of my Instagram may well have seen my scant posts since then. As I’m sure you can imagine, I am completely rearranged. Almost everything in my life is different. But I am still making, and in the another of the posts I will publish soon, I invite you to see the first pieces of my new body of work.

In January 2020 just before the pandemic hit, I was in Costa Rica as one of the artists in residence at the Mauser Foundation. Whilst I was there I had an encounter with a snake, which I believe was a portent of the transformation to come.

Like all wildlife, I was delighted to spot the animal, so unhidden in my path. I carefully and respectfully moved as close as I could to take this photo. It wasn’t until several days after that I identified the snake as a Fer-De-Lance – the deadliest, most aggressive and unpredictable snake in Central America.

This experience was so significant for me and I couldn’t stop thinking about the snake, and how close I was, literally, to serious injury and likely death (despite my respectful approach, I was certainly in striking distance).

After completing several other projects, I finally realised I needed to express this experience in my work, and created the personal piece I am sharing here.

Before completion, we got the news my husband would die. After finishing the piece, in a sort of catharsis, I no longer had the desire to make work in the same way as I had been since 2013. It just wasn’t in me anymore, and I didn’t know what I would create in the future.

For many years I had wanted to make masks. Originally the idea was to make Death Masks for extinct species. The reason I never explored this is because I felt too caught up in the process of making my flat and framed canvasses, and felt I didn’t ‘have time’ to step away from this and experiment with making three dimensional objects, a process that may have been messy and unsuccessful.

However, the ‘enforced’ hiatus combined with, despite it all, my compulsion to make and process my life through making, meant that in March of 2021 I did begin tentatively the process of figuring out the mask. I have learnt all my skills in this way – learn by doing – so, now feeling that ‘no one was watching’ anymore, I framed up and drew a shape.

I didn’t work on it more than this until September, when I completed my first mask, named Portal.

I continued to experiment and create, processing my grief through this medium.

Now it is November 2022, almost 3 years have passed since I met the Snake on the path. I am back in Costa Rica as artist in residence at the Mauser Foundation as I write this. I’ve rewritten my Artist Statement, revised my offerings as a teacher and mentor, and updated my portfolio.

The work I’m making now feels very exciting and the most personal I’ve ever made. There is huge vulnerability in that. I still deeply care about the issues I was making work about before, but as I am changed, the work has changed. Interestingly I believe the 3 pillars my work explored before, are still intact: Grief, transformation and divinity are still very present.

Instinctively grief instantiated in me a self love practice I’d never experienced before. Like all practices it takes work and vigilant tending, but I felt I would not be able to go on without giving myself the love that I had been receiving before he died. Part of that has been leaning into my work. Creativity externalises what you can’t voice. Processing my grief has helped me continue the bond I had whilst adjusting to the new life with his physical absence.

Grief opens a new room in yourself. Often an uncomfortable room, but a part of you. Others can meet you there. It is my hope that my masks will ultimately provide a liminal place where viewers/participants/wearers can experience transformation.

In reflection of all this, I am having a studio sale. Almost all my unsold previous work needs to go to make room for the new. Prices are up to 2/3 off the original, please contact me if you wish to purchase anything.

Finally, I am no longer going to be using this blog to write long form essays on methods of construction or meaning. I will update it as and when I feel the need and desire, and will still update it with any news of shows, events, sales etc.

Thank you for reading.

3 thoughts on “Instinct Is Worth A Thousand Years Of Memory

  1. I’m so sorry for your loss. I know first hand how hard it is to go on and also that my work is my way to proceed, my comfort. One step at a time. It never goes away completely but does get doable.

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