Beneath the Glass #1: Where Our Souls Part

This is one of my first shadowbox + ink creations. This work, like all works in the collection, is intended as a contemporary memento mori (a reminder that death is inevitable). You can see the traditional memento mori at work in old still-life paintings - it usually shows up as a skull, a wilting flower, or a rotting piece of fruit. It's a nudge to viewers that their time on earth is short. 

When I was collecting old photographs to use for this series, I came across infant post-mortem photographs from the Victorian era. They were fascinating and disturbing. I quickly decided this subject matter would lead my art down too dark a path, but it did get me thinking about the inevitability of death. I therefore decided to create a series of work that would reference the powerful, unifying force of death but (- and I believe, more importantly -) whisper about what is beyond. The historic Catholic church used traditional memento mori imagery as a call to piety, but my works are intended to speak more about hope and peace once the toils of life are through. But more on this in future posts.

 My original title for this work was "Our Souls Part", but it wasn't quite right. I feel that the word "Where" adds a spiritual dimension to the physical dimensions of the work. Where Our Souls Part is the only collage in the show that contains the original reference photo for the image that's painted on it's glass. Well, mostly the back of the photo. The figures are cheery and peaceful, and if you read the inscription on the back of the photo you will discover that they are two healthcare workers enjoying a break on the roof of a hospital.  I imagine these women battled and encountered death on a daily basis. I painted the figures in this series in a way that their bodies would fade in and out as they interact with the collaged background when viewed from different angles. The juxtaposition of the fading figures (as well as the title of this work) and the final portion of the inscription always brings a smile to my face. I hope you'll stop by the show and read it for yourself, since I won't be mentioning it here ;)

Pam Baergen