This series of handkerchiefs more deeply explores and extends the concepts of loss and of chronic sorrow introduced in a larger art installation called Routes of Sorrow by artist Pam Foley. The images in these quilted squares are meant to provoke a gentle reminder of a sorrowful situation or event. However, it is important to simultaneously hold at the fore of your thinking when confronted with a sudden request to recall such a situation or event, consideration of the material on which the images reside. The material is a soft and cosy square of cotton.
In time, more quilted squares will be added to this artwork, and a larger quilt with more images will be made.
Both the bird (with a broken wing) and the rose are symbols, representing two aspects the self: our internal being (bird), and our external presentation to the world (the rose).
The bird has a broken wing and is wounded and vulnerable. The dried roses and rose petals convey a sense of loss and become a fragile put permanent reminder of chronic sorrow.
This image is intended as a symbol of a type of loss and not necessarily someone who has died.
I was with my father when he died and sketched him as he lay on his pillow. He was rested and comfortable as he slowly drew his last breaths. Some losses I have experienced have been out of my control such as the death of my parents and several close friends. And the chronic loss of non-existent advice from my big brothers was also out of my control. On the other hand, some losses I have initiated, such as the breakup of my marriage. Are these types of losses different? Do we experience them in the same way? This is a distinction I will continue to investigate in subsequent artwork.
I have always felt alone, or a sense of aloneness. Having a means of non-verbal, symbolic expression through visual art has been helpful. As I get older and understand aloneness more, I have come to embrace the feeling, rather than be frightened of it.
I can take it
My mother’s death was the impetus for the making of all of this artwork. Living with chronic sorrow for nearly 5 decades had taught me how to respond to potentially stressful events by ‘riding them out’. I believe that I had developed skills that allowed me to cope with almost any situation. However, when my mother died, a sudden and unexpected surge of grief overwhelmed me to the extent that my usual coping mechanisms failed to help me ‘ride the wave’ of another stressful event. It is the study and understanding of the distinction between the on-going (i.e., chronic) sorrow, and the impactful, almost violent, reaction I experienced of loss due to the death of someone unique and special to me, that led me to render these different experiences in visual art.
This work is accompanied by a specially commissioned piece of music – Routes of Sorrow