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Monday, March 25, 2019



2019: Presented at The Dorsky Museum

Let me begin with this: "Take all I say with a grain of salt." I am a beginner at this business called Death. Today I will take us on an interactive tour through The Art/Life Hospital, and describe how each piece, each project spoke to or about death.
And why the "art/life hospital?" After a palm reader told me I would go to the hospital 2 times before I die, I got negatively triggered and angry. Asking myself, "How can I make art of this nonsense?" I had an embossed sign made for my house that said, The Art/Life Institute and Transfiguration Hospital. Making art of it helped so I thought living in a hospital at home has been wonderful, and so I brought the hospital to the Dorsky so I can continue to soothe my own possible hospital future and maybe that of museum goers.


BACKSTORY: Growing up Roman Catholic in Saugerties NY, I was theologically directed toward the Crucifix and Hell. Nuns and priests were good at that manifesto. It's what they learned. And the Crucifixion kept those of us who bought that one-sided bias perpetually scared and penitent and thinking we had to be crucified too if we wanted to be like our God-Jesus. At least I did. I had not learned the theology of the Resurrection. I became an early death-aholic.

THE ART & ANTIDOTE:  By presenting the coffin as art and reminding others about death AS ART, I am taking my childhood preoccupation and terror, re-contexualizing it with humor(chicken puppet) and defusing fear by letting art be my medicine and life-healing. Also look closely, I wrote on the wall next to the coffin , very lightly, like a bad school child, "I'm dying." Laughing with death  is a fine thing to do sometimes. And my deceased relatives and friends are pictured in the photos next to the coffin: Mom, Dad, Mitchell, Karl, Nan, Grandma, Ula,  Dr. Mishra, Kalu Rimpoche and of course Jesus and Mary, mentoring me how to die.




BACKSTORY: During 14 YEARS OF LIVING ART, I promised myself I would only allow one drawing a year. A small death, because I love to draw. The first seven years of my performance, I drew the teaching I received from the chakra that I was practicing . The drawing was done with my  right hand. The second seven years, I copied the exact same drawing with my left hand.

THE ART & ANTIDOTE: Syncronicity? Why are these in the Art/Life Hospital show? About 7 years ago, I broke my right hand in two places. You guessed it , I can only draw with my left hand now. A small death, but yes a death and loss. But hey, the drawings aren't bad. They look like outsider art.




BACKSTORY: My grandmother was an Outsider Artist and I sat next to her silent self as she made lots of outsider things. Including dolls.  And another backstory fact is that I firmly believe that women who don't choose or cant have biological children need to womb-mourn that.  That's a path to self forgiveness.

THE ART & ANTIDOTE: These 7 Gland Dolls are my substitutes, my fill ins for children I might have had. They are my mourning.  What had to die? What needed mourning was the fact that I didn't have children with my husband and so my art gives me an opportunity to "FIX" my life. For over 50 years I have made dolls as fixes. And these are double fixes because they all have Mother Mary's face and so I get to make my own version of the Infant of Prague statue, my own version of the Black Madonna painting and statue, my own version of forgiving myself as art. Art is a wonderful therapist. 
Plus the audience gets to practice compassion by praying at  each doll bed and then rocking a chakra doll in the rocking chair. 




BACKSTORY: Who doesn't remember if you are over  70, writing on blackboards, erasing, making your own mark. Who doesn't want to be an artist while standing in beautiful colored light? Who doesn't want to turn their back on the world, dive into their own fantasy dream and draw a miracle on a blackboard? 

 THE ART & ANTIDOTE: The small death here is about my  handing over the paint brush to the museum goer, handing over the title artist, handing over the  inner hubris that often accompanies this vocation that sometimes titles people who paint/draw/sing/sculpt/write----- SPECIAL.  Funny how social media has changed that burden of specialness assigned to ONLY ARTISTS and now everyone is equally fabulous . Back to death. How is this station about death?  By allowing everyone to be  a participant/artist by drawing on the blackboards while standing in their own private spa bath of chakra light,  I am dying to my own specialness, my own artiste-ness. But there is also a hidden agenda here: at 77 years old, I must be in preparation for asking for help, I must prepare  for a time when I have to hand over the objects I've made. Hand over the chalk.  I must hand over my once special talent and ask for help as my energy levels change.  So this blackboard station is multi-level: it is about including the other as artist  and also a rehearsal for my own personal practice called the art of aging  and dying. 


BACKSTORY: When talking and speaking were not my childhood practices or skills, video later became a perfect language and way to communicate and pray. A 22 year collaboration with Tobe Carey allowed me to speak as I wanted, not how I was told by church/school/society/patriarchy. Art is a ticket to freedom.

1. LEARNING TO TALK: I was in emotional anxiety in 1975 and dissociated, got out of my skin, left town so to speak, found a way to not think about my own pain by becoming 7 different personas. For a year, I sat  in front of a video camera  and interviewed myself. I learned to theologically die to having to be me.
2.MITCHELL'S DEATH: My ex-husband  was murdered. Mourning him as art was a therapy, was a path, was a way to grieve.
3.ANOREXIA NERVOSA: Anorexia was my not so subtle way of performing  self harm and literally becoming an 82 pound skeleton. In this video, I asked 12 other women to talk about their eating disorder so I could understand mine.  Read Holy Anorexia for another take on the subject of anorexia.
4.ON DEATH AND DYING: By Bart Friedman. Vicki Stern, Elizabeth Cross and I , dressed as faux nuns, played cards and distracted  the viewer from the possible heavy and scary death talk by Woodstock elder, Mescal Hornbeck, nurse and hospice worker.
5.CHAKRAPHONICS: This video explores the way I got to not be me for 14 years. Theologically dying to the encultured self.
6.BENARES: By visiting the burning ghats of Benares, I was able to see how Hindu culture accepted and incorporated death and cremations and dying elders into everyday life. 
7.DYSTONIA: Edited by Tobe Carey: How to know that old age , sickness and  death is a reality? Try a chronic illness that daily invites  pain, spasm and tremors into the picture. Then make art of it. Good opioid.
8.LIVING ART/DYING ART: edited by Tobe Carey. A ride through death rituals from as many cultures as we could find via images/you tubes and my own personal experience of taking care of my father for 7 years and being with my mother as she died. 
I9. 'M DYING: Edited by Tobe Carey. A reminder to get  my life together. Each year I will tell the camera "I'm Dying. "  So I wont forget.



BACKSTORY: Because my mother could not breastfeed, I was not  given mother's milk and  became ill on cow's milk. Also I was sick with other things as an infant so I would suppose my parent's fear of my dying got imprinted. Death became an early thought. 

THE ART & ANTIDOTE:  PERFORMANCE: I lay in the coffin for 2 hours at the opening and closing. As I lay there fixing my past, a Gland Doctor and surrogate Mother, Amanda Heidel,  feeds me from two baby bottles; one  mother's milk and the other goats milk, a drink that I was fed at infancy. The negative gain mind-game  can be- keep thinking of the back story stay miserable or fix it with art. That is, I get to feel what it is like to really drink mother's milk in this performance albeit a bit late, by 77 years.  Fix it. I always choose the  art-fix and I must admit  therapy is helping a lot as well.  While im getting fixed, the three Gland Doctors: Lynn Herring, Megumi Naganoma and Arielle Ponder circulate throughout the Hospital, taking syncronized pulses. Fixing others. Service to all. Being missionaries. And the video at the foot of the coffin,  ONE LOVE a breast feeding performance by Christina Varga, edited by Tobe Carey, is begging that all who see it know that this is the RIGHT WAY. Life WINS. 


Death and orgasmic sex have been conceptually allied and seen as close friends via the petite mort reference. At the petite/little mort, time stops, thought stops, worry stops, body stops and there is only the experienced ecstasy of love and fun light.  Maybe the grande mort, the end-game is just a bigger petite mort. May it be  so.

CONCLUSION: I'm dying. We all have to do it.
ART& ANTIDOTE: Let's dance to Love and Light while we wait.