Skimming Boundaries

2017

The series Skimming Boundaries investigates the permeable line between this world and what may lie beyond.  It is rooted in my experiences with my grandmother, Willa, who battled Alzheimer’s for the last ten years of her life.  In the beginning, her illness showed in small ways as she repeated stories she told just days before.  Toward the middle of the disease, she began reinventing the history of her life. Toward the end, my grandmother didn't know who I was.  She lost the ability to recognize family.  Conversations with her became circular as her short-term memory began to fail as well.  In the moments when the recognizable parts of her seemed to flicker in and out, I often wondered where she had gone.  It seemed as if a part of her was testing the waters of another realm even though her physical body remained vital. 

In this series, I explore the intangible world of the spirit and the boundary that separates us. Religion maps out worlds of before and after death, but even the most secular are confronted with these questions: What is the journey of this passage?  Where are the edges?  In this series, I search for what is felt but unseen.

The color in the drawings comes from natural dyes, a technique I learned while serving in Morocco as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  Fruits and vegetables such as raspberries and cabbage are boiled and poured over mordanted paper, resulting in permanent reds, blues, and greens.  Rocks and black walnuts provide tones of sepia and simultaneously act as a resist, allowing the places they weigh down in the paper to remain white.  Sometimes paper is buried overnight and exposed to the rain or wrapped around trees to capture the imprint of bark.

Once the paper is stained, the charcoal drawings incorporate the colors and marks from the dye into the final work.  The resulting pieces reveal a double image – one that depicts an event of discovery or searching and one that hints at a spiritual world.  Sometimes the latter exists only on the fringes.  Other times, the figure interacts with an incorporeal world.  This series is a result of searching for meaning while contemplating what may lie beyond.