I am excited to be showing my work with the paintings of Shirley Mason better known as Sybil. Many of the paintings are signed by different personalities and its a fascinating show. When Clare Bailey (Owner of 2110 gallery) asked me to show my sculptures with Shirley’s paintings I was honored. I realized that it would be a perfect opportunity to create some pieces about my sister’s struggle with depression. My sister Cindy is 56 years old has suffered from depression practically her whole life. She was able to manage it for years getting her Masters degree and an Ed.D. in educational psychology. She created a very successful psychological practice working with Headstart programs, working with autistic children, and doing psychological and learning disability evaluations on kids, and counseling both children and parents.
About three years ago her depression got worse and the medication just stopped working. She had a hard time working because she could not focus or concentrate, simple things became difficult. She tried new medications and therapies, she had 25 Electric Shock Treatments and then more medications, she had to stop working completely, move out of her townhouse and put all her things into storage and go live with my parents. She could not be alone, she could not drive and she had constant suicidal ideation. She saw several different doctors. Finally she applied to be part of a clinical trial for Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) which is where they implant electrodes in the brain into “Area 25″ and the electrodes are attached to a battery pack which gets put into the chest. She went to Atlanta in October of 2009 for the clinical trial and lived there for about six months. I went to Atlanta with my mother to be with Cindy for the actual surgery which lasted 14 hours. A year later she is doing better but she has a long way to go still.
Here are the pieces I created for the show.
“The Other Side of Hope”
This was one of the first pieces that I envisioned for the show. I had looked through Shirley Mason’s paintings and was struck by one that had menacing trees. I saw the trees attacking and I thought of a person trapped in the trees. This piece is about being trapped by a menacing force and having no way out. This is one of my interpretations of what the depression does to my sister. Since the front was so menacing I wanted to give some hope to the piece… I wanted the other side to have a positive side. So I used open trees and “freed” the figure from the tangle of the trees and I shined up the side. The ideas is that there is still some darkness on the side as she is not yet totally freed from the menacing disease that haunts her.
Process: I wanted the metal to look beat up and raw. I went to the scrap yard with this in mind and found several ripped apart pieces of metal that came from a huge drum and it was very rusted. I created the stand from truck headers that I also found at the scrap yard. The trees were made from recycled copper wire as well.
“The Edge of Darkness”
This piece was created in response to a series of emails my sister sent out to family and friends throughout her struggle. I went throughout her emails and picked out 15 quotes that seemed to reflect her state of mind in the deep depression. I cut the letters cut out in a cursive font to represent someone’s handwriting. Each phrases is welded around the box so that the viewer must walk around the box to read the full phrase.
Two of the quotes are on the top of the box and an LED light shines up reflecting the shadow of the words onto the ceiling where they can be easily read. In the center of the box is a smaller metal square with the words “Are you Free?” welded to the box. That question is the one that the family asks her consistently… as in Are you better yet? The phrases are listed below the image.
I walk a path without end and filled with rocks that weigh me down and keep me from moving forward
I have no way of knowing who I am anymore.
Nothing is familiar.
Those gifts that I had are out of sight out of mind.
I cannot do any of the things that make me who I was.
I can’t think in any more than minutes.
Basic simple things are too much for me to tolerate
I love my work, but I cannot do it
When will I be able to function independently?
I am just plain scared about the feelings and thoughts
I can’t make it different right now except to note what I accomplish.
I wish it was as simple as just thinking positive thoughts, they are not that accessible, no matter how hard I try
What am I supposed to be learning
I am stuck with no where to go or anything to do
Efforts at visualization go no where
“The Lightness of Being”
This piece is the anti-thesis to “The Edge of Darkness”… after the words were cut they left the skeleton or negative cut out of the original piece of metal and the words were beautiful so I decided to piece together positive affirmations out of the words and add them to a backdrop. I shined up the words and bent them to give them more dimension and then resined them metal with patina. I wanted one of the pieces in the show to be a message of hope and healing.
Here are the positive affirmations:
I can accomplish anything
I think positive thoughts
Learning is a gift
I can function independently
I am able to make a difference
I am moving forward
I am loved and cared for
“Shadows of Me”
This piece was inspired by Shirley Mason and by my vision of what it must be like to live in a clouded version of the world, lost and trying to find your way out of the fog. Its also representational of all of the shadow selves that most of us have… trying to play so many different roles in our lives and trying to keep them all grounded and integrated so that we can move through life.
I built the skelton of the box our of metal tubing and attached the metal to a wooden box and welded poles at various levels to hold the heads… which were donated from my hair stylist Adam from AJF salon. I ordered special spandex from a theater company and my good friend Kira came over and sewed the spandex bag to cover the box part. On the night of the shows various people will get inside the box and push out as a performance art piece. There are also 4 LED lights inside the box that light up the fabric.
Here are some photos from various stages. My buddy Alister Oliver is also getting some great art photography shots from the box as well.
This piece was inspired by a conversation that I had with my sister while we were brainstorming pieces for the show. She talked about an image of a caged bird trying to be freed and I thought of a piece I had done several years ago with a cage. I went to my trusty scrap yard the next day and found this large beater in one of the bins. I then asked my good buddy James Stone, who does wonderful blown glass to create a clear glass heart for me with a hole in the center. He sent me this beautiful winged heart and I asked my sister to send me words that would go inside her heart to signify the pieces of her that were locked up inside the depression. I added the blue LED light to fill the glass with light and to reflect the cage back onto the wall above the piece.