Inspiration for the photograph, Woman with deer and bride of dead deer and performance/photograph, passage
What separates me from all else is a thin skin membrane no more substantial than a breath someone momentarily expels in a room. In my work I’m interested in what happens if I rip away all boundaries and step through this membrane? What magical things will ignite if I become entangled with a deer, a rock or another human being, and we begin to live in each other?
This desire inspired my early performance, Passage, at The Vancouver Art Gallery. The gallery was dimly lit with the audience facing the far wall on which stood a large sheet of white paper. I entered the gallery wearing a dark suit, a white shirt, and carrying a fish in my hand. Walking slowly to the far wall, I tore down the white paper to reveal a life sized photo I had taken of a deceased man in a coffin. The paper was the color of the fabric in the coffin. I placed the paper on the floor and laid down on it facing the man for fifteen minutes in silence.
The same theme inspired my photographs, Woman and Deer and Bride of Dead Deer.
My brother and sister-in-law, Ellen and Terry, live in 360 acres of mountains and forests in West Virginia and because they refuse to let anyone hunt on the land, their place is a refuse for deer. Over decades of visits to my family’s home, when the deer came down the mountain to breakfast in the backyard, I got so close to deer I could see their ears turn to catch the sound of my footsteps in the grass.
A couple of years ago Ellen found a dead doe under a tree not far from the front door of her house. She was convinced it had come down the hill to die in the safety of the yard and my gut told me it was true.
Every day Ellen took photos of the doe as she deteriorated – her eyes gone first, then her mouth and nose, shared with the creatures of the forest.
Then Ellen buried the deer.
I planned that two years later, when the deer had given all but her bones to the earth, we would dig her back up. I’d lie down beneath a tree and one by one, Ellen would place the doe’s bones over me. Then I’d stay there quietly, under the tree where she died, with her bones touching mine.