Title: Winter Wonder
Size: 6.1x6.2 inches.
Technique: Digital photography, digital painting
On December 14, 2015, my dear mother died from metastatic breast cancer. Her celebration of life services took place on the first day of winter. In going through the dark sorrows of planning her funeral, combined with concern about the welfare of our younger brother who was critically ill, my five siblings and I decided that having a theme for her celebration of life would help us to best plan for this difficult rite of passage. The theme we chose was “Winter Wonderland.” Her casket was ivory and gold. Her long, flowing silk skirt and top were likewise ivory, trimmed with gold hand-sewn beading. Her precious head was laid to rest on a white faux-fur pillow. We placed white ballet slippers on her feet. There’s something about losing a good mother that sends a deep chill throughout your body and soul. “Winter Wonder” seeks to capture that. In executing the portrait, I chose to use my mother’s favorite hairstyle as a way to mirror her departure and the pain that echoed through my soul.
“Masks (Fall Away),” "Gullah Me: Galaxies," and “Winter Wonder," are self-portraits from my “Gullah Me” collection, which consists of digitally rendered portraits of myself and family members. I created the portraits when I was working as a family caregiver for my nonagenarian parents and younger brother. The portraits tell the story of our internal and externally visible journeys, as my family members struggled to live, age in place, and die with grace. The portraits and their stories were rendered within the context of our lives as members of the Gullah community of the South Carolina Lowcountry. The Gullah people are descendants of enslaved Africans, who supplied forced labor for the plantations of the South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida coastal areas of the United States.
The project was executed using digital tools for the creation of fine art. I had a dual purpose for the creation of “Gullah Me:” stress management (“Art is a medicine and medicine is an art”), and documentation of my family’s journey, to serve as future instructions for younger family members. “Masks (Fall Away),” "Gullah Me: Galaxies," and “Winter Wonder," are digital photomontages and digital paintings. These artworks are also meditations on how the deaths of elders cause individuals to move up the ladder of family ancestry. I created them to show the multiple roles caregivers play (“Masks”), the cold isolation of death (“Winter Wonder”), and the certainty that one day we will all become one with the stars within which the elements that created us, were born (“Galaxies”).