The Waiting Room, 2017. 95″ tall x 160″( edition of 1 ) to 31″ tall x 53″ wide ( edition of 12)
Recently a friend was describing an NPR Radio Lab episode(Afterlife season 6, episode 2 http://www.radiolab.org/story/91680-after-life/ ) he heard, which was about death. In the episode, a writer and scientist was talking about three deaths and a waiting room. The story, as my friend told it to me, grabbed my attention; I immediately thought it would be an interesting art piece.
A few days later, I was listening to Radio Lab when that very episode was rebroadcast. I was struck by the coincidence, and struck again by the concept and the possibilities for imagery that it conjured. I ordered the book by neuroscientist David Eagleman,, where this tale of three deaths and a waiting room originated. The book, SUM: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, is a collection of his essays which explore what the afterlife might be like. All of the stories are well written and immensely creative. But it was Metamorphosis, that had aired on Radio Lab, that I found myself still wanting to pursue.
Metamorphosis is about the process of waiting to transition, and then transitioning, to the afterlife. In the story, after we die we go to a waiting room until our name is called. The wait can be quick, or it can take a very long time. Once called, we go through a door, behind which is a mystery.
When we experience a loss, death of a loved one, loss of a job, not getting a promotion, an unexpected change in a significant relationship, what do we do with this disappointment or loss? Do we spend any time being still, or consciously waiting to see what we want to do next? Often, where we will go after loss is a mystery.
How we deal with loss, sadness, or change differs from person to person. Some get busy and distract themselves, others sink into deep sadness, others become angry, others simply deny their feelings. It’s rare to find the person who consciously waits and listens for a new direction.
Carl Jung said, “ We cannot change anything until we accept it.” Pema Chodron says, in her book, When Things Fall Apart, “We think the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things really don’t get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together and fall apart again…The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” And Jeanette Winterson, in The World and Other Places: Stories, wrote, “ In the space between chaos and shape, there is another chance.”
The waiting process is hard for me, as it is for most people I know. It is this conscious waiting process, however, that is vital, that, if given a chance, will allow us to walk through the next door with openness and curiosity. link to full story here
The components of “TRANSITION”:
For the left side of the piece, I used a photograph that I took of a man who seemed to be in front of every painting I wanted to look at when I was last at the Museum of Modern Art, in NYC. Now he IS the art.
The clock on the wall is from my home, and is a reminder to be mindful of our time and how we use it. Below the man’s feet is a poem by the poet Marie Howe titled What The Living Do. see link here for Ms Howe’s poem and an amazing interview.
For the Waiting Room section of the piece, I posed and photographed three people. The face of the woman to the right belongs to a mannequin in a shop window.
The art in the background of the piece is another collage that I created for the purpose of this piece. It is of a man searching, or on a journey.
The writing on the wall is from the three sources already referenced above: Carl Jung, Pema Chodron and Jeanette Winterson.
The diagram on the floor is a black hole diagram that may also be seen as a mandala.
The magazines on the floor, from left to right are, Thoughtful Waiting which has the image of a Nuxalk Indian illustration from 1865. This illustration signified transition to the Nuxalk.
The next is Man in Chair from one of my earlier collages, and the next is a photo of the George Washington bridge in NY that I took a few years ago. The magazine is titled Bridge Symbolism.
The magazine to the far right is titled Just Sit There. Far from just sitting there, the cover shows a woman on a horse juggling. It is based on a funny teaching, attributed to various sources, an old friend of mine used all of the time, “ Don’t just do something, sit there.”
The writing on the newspaper has a 1582 alchemy illustration of man in transformation and writing from the Jungian psychologist, James Hollis.
Finally, the man to the right is a friend who often models for me. The sky is meant to reflect possibility.
The writing surrounding him is from the Tao, and the gold stars in the sky are actually illustrations of the Higgs-Boson “God “ Particle. The other stars, the color in the sky, and all of the color throughout the piece comes from photos I have taken of paint on train cars, sidewalks, splattered paint, and weathered walls.
Carl Jung said, “ We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.”