LAMENTATION HUT, 2018
a temporary installation
cardboard, electronics, lights
7’ x 7’ x 5’
2016 was a kind of death for many Progressives. Personally, the improbable election of Donald Trump plunged me into an involuntary period of grieving during which an old way of being American died, and a new way began to swirl in the ashes. In response, my sister and I began writing, editing, and illustrating our first collaborative book, “O! Relentless Death!”
During this period of production, I’d been thinking about visual memorials, Enlightenment natur morte iconography, and the 17th century graveyards of my New England childhood. I was also, at this time, wrapping up eight years of practice as a licensed counselor and therefore was reflecting on the varieties of grief my clients had brought to therapy, and on the specialized training I’d undertaken as a grief counselor. Why does grief seem to break us, to shatter the possibility of peace and scrape our very bones raw? Given that grief always seems so unique to us, so isolatingly individual, why is it so universal?
These reflections found form in my linocuts for “O! Relentless Death!,” but also in the form of a little witch’s hut I made of cardboard. Painted to appear burnt and oozing ink, full of menace, I topped the edifice with the bronze serpent Moses raised in the wilderness as an occult symbol of healing.
As a physical installation, the Hut was only large enough to admit one or two participants. Inside, the cardboard walls were painted like limestone, and curved gently to a Gothic arch. Colored lights shifted slowly, and the sound of a brook erased the murmur of life outside. Many participants who entered felt safe enough to weep inside; therefore, the space worked. It made room for folks to grieve all kinds of losses, including the political losses of the previous two years, the past decades, the entire life of our slaving, genocidal country.