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THIS BODY OF WORK EMERGES following the death of my mother. Driven to find what is within, as an artist and psychoanalyst, and now as a motherless child, I become aware that the very effort is based on questions without answers. No amount of digging, desire or toil will let me penetrate what is inside (the Unconscious, the Body, Death). I listen as a psychoanalyst, dig and mold and craft as an artist. I am in the presence of what is no longer living, yet that which still seems to be animated, undergoing transformation.
As an artist and as a handler of the bone, I look to the interiority of things. The bones interrogate the same questions over and over; when does life start, when does it finish? Are we destined to decay and finally, disappear?
When we try to face the body after life has left it, we see that something is lacking. It is beyond our imagination, beyond our grasp. The sense that something is now absent calls for closure but instead we encounter space, perhaps an opening.
The body lays inert after and yet the bones continue to change, as if now another kind of party is getting started. I hold the bones to the light, wondering what else will emerge to make them more beautiful, more white or blackened and rancid, godlike or unholy. I am compelled to examine their stillness and their unstoppable transformations.
The work is a suffering, for it engages what I hate. The smell alone is a warning. The cutting and cleansing a grotesque labor. The connecting tissue, resistant. Repulsed by what I see as I encounter the marrow and interior of the bones, I am equally in awe of the whiteness and clarity that can unexpectedly arise. What is surfacing, and is it giving access to life or death? I rummage through the contents of the body — my mother’s body — hoping to gain access to understanding.
The bones are transgressive, for they refuse to yield to the notion of a life finished. But it is also transgressive to search for answers, to question the bridge between life and after(life). I cannot seem to settle the bones down to their final resting state.
The bones mediate between two worlds, between the living and the dead, between the spirit and the material world.
I am caught in between.
- Francesca Schwartz, PhD merges psychoanalysis with her background in the performing and fine arts. She is on faculty at IPTAR and has private practice in New York where she specializes in treating emerging artists. Pieces from her Series 1 will appear in the CLIO Art Fair, NYC, March 2018.