An Installation in the memory of Daniel Crichton
Memory looms large in my world, the entire house filled with remnants collected over an entire lifetime. It seems that every single thing that I come across is important in my obsessive visual, tactile hoarding.
Stones from a visit to Vancouver Island, pinecones from Australia, shells from Cuba, volcanic ash from Guatemala, rusty metal from an alley in New York City, years worth of my family’s toenail and fingernail clippings, (I drive them nuts..DID YOU SAVE ME YOUR NAILS I shout to my husband after his shower!) an ancient plastic dog from a dirty beach in Costa Rica, orange peels from ALL the oranges that are eaten at my house, acres of dried flowers and plants from my own gardens, my friends’ gardens and from plants the world over, (I have been stopped coming into Pearson Airport with my treasures) bags of house dust swept up, old rotted pieces of wood from the boardwalk in Coney Island, everywhere bones and skulls of animals, bags and bags of hair: horse, human, dog, wolf, cat, llama, beards, dreadlocks…jars of teeth, old rusty spiky bits of farm implements, tons of rusted bits of metal found on my travels and popped into my purse while I walk, and piles of weather-beaten boards lying around the property.
The list is endless and constantly changing, and I have been this way forever. At age 8 I was kicked out of Brownies because the petrified piece of dog feces that I had found utterly fascinating was deemed inappropriate after proudly displaying it at the post- Nature walk show and tell.
Holding a shard of broken pottery in the palm of my hand that has traveled with me since I was 10 years old. I know the lines, the mottled pattern, the discoloured cracks. It is as if I hold all of life, such simple beauty in this once discarded detritus. I learn from it daily.
I was planning this exhibit at the Edward Day Gallery to be of different work, but in December when my mentor and wonderful friend Daniel Crichton died too young after a battle with cancer, well, my world came tumbling down.
The only word in my mind, over and over like a mantra through tears and such numbing grief was Bereft Bereft Bereft…
So in mid stride the concept for the exhibit shifted gears, and I began to blow breath into glass, remembering with each breath that it was Daniel who gave me the gift of glassblowing so many many years ago. I wanted to create containers to hold the perfection of the world inside, to “bottle up” the wonderment of all life, to be able to preserve it lest it slip away without a trace. For it is true, on far too many levels, that we humans do not know what we have until it is gone. Like a bubble in the wind…
Many glassblowers have sent me hand blown jars, so that each container will have the remarkable stamp of originality on it. I have enjoyed the act of creating most of the containers. Some of the old glass jars from my stockpile will also be used.
Inside each container are items from my vast hoard of human sheddings, urban remnants, and natural bric-a-brac. Deciding what to put into each jar took an age. With a circle of burlap dripping hot beeswax I assumed the role of time-capsule creator when sealing up each top, the life fragment in each jar preserved forever. My hands burned with the fragrant wax, and I was transformed into an alchemist of old. Witchy in my studio at night, the house quiet save for the sound of bubbling water to heat the wax pot. Toil and trouble…
Dan is with me always.
Watching him fade away was something that I can not even describe. How can someone so vital, who loomed larger than life itself be gone from this earth?
Bereft. I feel. Here one moment, and now, where?
But I know that I am a vessel of skin, of bones, of soul, and his memory is inside me, and inside of all of his friends and family too. So he is here, preserved forever, inside of all of us. This thought calms me.
I work in the kitchen, or the studio, and listen to the radio. War, deaths, killings, disease in Toronto, numbers of people gone from an earthquake, pollution, clear cutting etc etc. It is never ending the droning on of statistics about loss. The danger is that we become numb to it all, and we really don’t know what we’ve got till its gone…Joni was right. Her words play in my ear. Gone a friend, gone a forest, gone a river, gone another memory…
So I want to preserve. Put the world of texture, of tactile, of colour, of pattern, of remembering, of intermixing, of look, of history, of memory, of life into my blown glass jars. Hope that eyes will gaze at once was, and still is. So please go into the detailia mode, the mystery of ephemera mode, the seed of life mode. The wonderment mode. The live in the moment mode…
The empty jar holds what we have lost.
The empty jar is for the memories that we are making for the future.
April 28, 2003