"Each age unwinds the thread another age had wound … all things dying each other’s life, living each other’s death."

– W. B. Yeats

 

My work is inspired in part by a Mexican adage which suggests that people die three deaths. It is said that the first death occurs as the body ceases to function; when the heart no longer beats of its own accord, when the gaze no longer has depth or weight, when the space a person occupies slowly loses its meaning. The second death comes when the body is lowered into the ground, returned to mother earth, out of sight. The third death, the most definitive death, happens when there is no one left alive who remembers. It is my intention, through this body of work, to reanimate those people who have died their third death; to give them a little more time.

 

My family of origin was a small one, and not particularly sentimental. We didn't have fat photo albums or an attic filled with keepsakes. I have always envied those sprawling families rich with generations of stories and anecdotes, whose ancestors are kept alive – even if only in memory - with every retelling.

 

I haunt yard sales and flea markets, pursuing discarded histories – shoe box coffins filled with remnants of other people's dead relatives. I collect and reuse discarded objects; photographs and letters, books and ephemera. I remake these with collage and paint, listening to the ghost voices of my subjects and piecing together narratives for them as I go. The use of materials with existing histories enforces the awareness of a connection to the transient nature of all things. Layered with imagery, redolent of experience and longing, it is my hope that this work will evoke real life and personal histories past and present.

words and images © 2020 susan savory

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