Since 1998, my installation work has always been based on the idea of a story. Whether these stories were from memories of growing up, family history, or shared with me—they were the reason behind what I created. There was safety in these stories, and if a viewer dug deep enough or long enough, they could find clues to understand my work.
Along with these stories was a personal vocabulary in the materials I used, which included wire and rust. The medium I used for over 19 years was baling wire, something that traditionally was used to bind-up, shutout, and fence in a family or homestead from the unknown, or in some ways, from actually being known. Having been someone who always dealt with depression, when I read Andrew Solomon’s book The Noonday Demon, which said, “Mild depression is a gradual and sometimes permanent thing that undermines people the way rust weakens iron.” Also, “If one imagines a soul of iron that weathers with grief and rusts with mild depression, then major depression is the startling collapse of a whole structure.”
“It’s Time to Address’er Drawers” was first conceived after my mother passed away. When cleaning out the house, we discovered in her chest of drawers a stack of sealed envelopes, some addressed and others not. Inside were her journals that documented various disappointments in her life (including me!), as well as revealing the tumultuous and abusive relationship between my parents.
I decided it was time to acknowledge the abuse in some way, and installation was my best medium. I chose one of the more dramatic "letters" and penned all the words out of silver wire. The words reside in the drawers of the actual chest that belonged to my parents. I rusted the chest inside and out and covered the mirror with a thin stained fabric in an attempt to hide the reflection from the viewer.
The silver words were intended to sparkle with colored lights installed into the drawers. My intention was for the audience to pick up the words, handle them, sort through them, and co-participate by pinning them onto notebook paper-like lines that surrounded the room. By providing a hands-on opportunity, the words would become real, and in some ways, redemptive from the original intent.
I used one of the lamps from my parents’ home and wrote all words so the audience could read the letter. The audience could touch the words, read them, as well as hear them continually through the recorded audio that accompanied the installation.
For me, to acknowledge the abuse that I had often witnessed allowed myself to become a bit more sympathetic to my parents. Not by condoning it, but recognizing the roots of my depression. Knowing that my passive temperament grew out of the desire to hide from the hatred and abuse that I experienced growing up.