“Death is the only absolute we know of in life, the only clear certainty. Artists know nothing can be done about it. They are acutely aware of their coming annihilation, and the awareness of it follows them around like a shadow. I think this is why most artists are so alert to the fragility and fatuity of life, and to the vulnerability of their lives and the lives of others.” – Francis Bacon
As a daughter of a part-time funeral home beautician, I had a rare glimpse of the deceased. My mother tried to shield me from her motionless clientele, but my curiosity often found its way by her side, quietly watching over the mysterious beings. I was drawn to the peculiar way their personalities revealed themselves upon their solemn, peaceful faces. The delicate laugh lines, rippled cheeks, and deeply creviced brows were drawn back with gravity as their necks balanced upon the cold ceramic support. I was fascinated and fearful, calm and alert. I let my imagination soar about who they were, and what they loved when their bodies were flowing full of life.
This series of oil paintings reflect this unsettling deep sense of stillness and contemplation I experienced, and is based on the black and white crime photography collection of Detective Jack Huddleston. His collection was published by Feral House publications as “Death Scenes: A Homicide Detective’s Scrapbook” (1996) edited by Sean Tejaratchi with text by Katherine Dunn. Instead of recording the cold facts, my body of work places emphasis upon the individuals and their imagined stories. The colorful patches breathe vibrancy into the portraits to focus upon the lives lost, and to soothe their violent endings. The shallow backgrounds give few distractions as they encourage a serene and introspective experience for the viewer. I see mesmerizing narratives found within their wrinkles, expressions, and features; and commonalities of the human experience. Love. Laughter. Heartbreak. Despair. Vulnerability. Compassion. Fragility. Their stories are our stories found in another context, another body.