Center On Contemporary Art, Seattle, 2006
Bloodletting has been an auspicious event in the story of my life, if I were to look at it as a story.
My task of late has been to capture, in my hands in tangible form, the precious delight and precious violence this blood has brought into my life. Great transformations in our lives are often accompanied by a violent killing-off of old selves, and we emerge as something new, raw and exquisite. In my life, these transformations have twice come about from an excruciating love that has been signaled by an actual bleed, as if, according to Vitalism, my humours were balanced by the trauma. Bleeding cures were once thought to bring harmony to a disrupted soul, the shadows scrubbed clean. My husband’s ruptured organs and buckets of blood allowed me to admit that I could do nothing but love him, in spite of how that love would tear apart what I thought was my life. But I killed off one self to find a more authentic one below. Then, as the story goes, our blood together became another’s. I’ll never forget the gush of beautiful viscera and what felt like the joyful expelling of my own internal organs when I gave birth to my son. Reading those entrails, I was a seer of an unknowable future. Holding a day-old human being in my hands, I could not shake the feeling that he was one of my vital organs that should still be inside me, an organ that contained my very life force and without him I would die. Our umbilical cord was a shared limb, our blood once separated by the thinnest of membranes, our first communication. I mourned for the phantom limb, and am still unable to believe there isn’t a cord that binds me to him. And when he is away, there is always a lingering ache where my vital organ used to be. Both loves are a Small but Mighty Wandering Pearl. It is a translation of my husband’s name and an accurate description of my child. Blood has been a subject, if not a material, in art-making since art-making began. But this blood here is my blood, my family’s blood and the blood that binds me to those I love.
I believe I owe a debt of gratitude to Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi, in which I found the nobility in death of an eviscerated zebra. I was gripped by the idea of this ultimate exposure, to see one’s organs while alive as both terrifying and somehow exhilarating. I remember as a child, seeing a mortally wounded cat emit such rage and electricity, I could only imagine the authority a mortally wounded large animal would emanate. I also, of course, am referencing the many myths of the White Stag. The story always seems to follow that a beleaguered person enters the wilderness to hunt the white stag and through an otherworldly adventure then emerges from the wood cured.