“Fur Coat and Skeleton Stand” is an experiment in language and circulation. Made in response to the exhibition Good Neighbor, its parts come variously from a relative that passed away, a library, a skeleton, and a quote from a short story written by Charles Yu. The quote reads as follows: “Feeling grief. Someone else’s grief. Like wearing a stranger’s coat, still warm with heat from another body.” The stand, without a skeleton, supports the coat. The coat, without a body, is supported by the stand. The words, without arms, bring the two together. In the back of the coat is a checkout card from a library. Alluding to a dust jacket, it’s also meant to be a proposition: text is to body as needle is to thread. In the context of Good Neighbor, it is also simply a warm winter coat for anyone that needs it.
“Artist Statements” started with a statement I ghost wrote for Gail Grinnell that gave rise to some pressing questions, like why do people ask for artist statements? And why don’t artist statements read more like job descriptions or mission statements? And, why doesn’t everybody, regardless of profession, write statements that explain why they do what they do and what they care about… And while these are questions meant to challenge the elitism often found in and associated with art, the actual process of writing the statements has given rise to some interesting questions and challenges as well. In the process of writing these statements some key texts have surfaced– Workers by Studs Terkel and Six years: the dematerialization of the art object from 1966 to 1972 by Lucy Lippard– but for the sake of brevity, I’ll talk about only one: The Diary of Anne Frank: The Critical Edition. In this iteration of the diary there are three complete versions of the text on each page: Frank’s original diary entries (written between the ages of 13-16); a version of the diary she re-wrote page for page (at the age of 16) when she found out it would likely be published; and the final published form which was again re-written by her father. As a reader sifts through the comprehensive texts, a poignant question evolves that really shaped this project: how does the awareness of an audience or community change the way we think and talk about our experiences and what is the significance of having multiple versions, written from different points in time, of the same experience? In addition to that there is another question or maybe challenge that has really informed this project: does the way a person uses language provide a sense of identity as distinctive and unique as their fingerprint? The following statements were written with these thoughts and questions in mind.
Gail Grinnell, August 2013
Working in the studio I often find myself repeating gestures and movements that my mother made while sizing me for a dress. She would stand me up on a chair in the dining room and smooth pieces of pattern paper across my body, pulling out all the moments – the two-inch too short torso, the extra wide hips – that made my body different from an average sized person. Standing still on the chair was hard but what was harder was finding out just how many inches separated me from other people.
As a child, what made that experience worthwhile was the extra attention she gave me. As a teenager, the experience became meaningful in other ways. With her touching and her measuring I came to understand that the oddities of my body were something special and sought after, something worth caring for and accommodating. Often times when I’m in the studio I feel my mothers hands tracing unabashedly across my back and through my hands. It reinforces everything I learned from her about myself, and about working. She taught me quiet things about bedding – about all the places we sleep and make love, give birth and die. She showed me how to make and mend the pieces of fabric that have enfolded my body during every significant moment of my life.
These lessons came full circle, in a way, when she was on her deathbed. When my mother lay dying, her body failing from old age, I noticed a hole in the blanket that covered her. While she was struggling to breath, I sat and mended the hole in the blanket because somehow that seemed to be the only thing that brought comfort.