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Transformation: 7/1/16-6/23/19

I started to think about titles that would convey my feelings in a  piece of art to memorialize my husband, Alan Kinsler, on 6/7/2016. The date is significant because we both knew he was dying of Corticobasal Degeneration, an incurable  brain disease. It struck me that I needed to hold on to some of the extra medical equipment that had been so necessary for his use and comfort. Although none of this equipment was enjoyable, I knew that I wanted to use it in a way to make the discomfort and his death transform into something that would honor the  memory of his courage throughout the painful 10-year journey we traveled together. He died on 7/1/16.

Creating this piece of art has been both invigorating and heart wrenching. From the day I started, I kept notes which included my thoughts, my sadness and my ideas. The process has been both slow and difficult in which I was only able to create when the inspiration and courage arose. New ideas were noted; and whether I was able to create at that time or not did not matter...the ideas were preserved.

At various periods of time, I had bursts of energy in which I was able to design and create the components of this mixed media tribute to my husband of almost 49 years! The first thing I did was string beads in patriotic colors on wire and insert the wire into a catheter extension tube. I chose those patriotic colors to recognize Alan's 4 years of service in the U. S. Air Force. Challenging and not to my satisfaction, it was not incorporated into the final project.

There were time lapses in which I was unable to make any progress with my ideas. I was grieving and allowed myself to not feel pressured to set a timeline for finishing this work so important to me. In January 2017, I worked on creating 3 flowers crocheted with silk ribbon around catheter tubes . I felt happy with the way came together..

Close-Up: Catheter Tube Flowers
During December 2016, I was inspired to weave with wool from Manos de Uruguay using catheter extension tubes as the warp. This was easy and turned out well; it gave me a boost of energy to continue on. Many months later, I realized that I had serendipitously alternated the ends of the tubes. and they could be hooked together to form a ring. All I needed was to crochet a circle to add to the bottom; and voila!, I had a basket!   

Woven Basket: Wool and Tubing Warp
This basket led me to creating another one by crocheting over the same extension  tubing. I left the tube ends free to create a textural component; and added some pins that had significance to him, as well as one of his medicine bottles (of which he had many) in the blue color scheme. These two pieces sat idle for some time. I kept the project out in the open in my studio and would look at it often and think about when I could start again on my creative work.

Crocheted basket over extension tubing
My original thought was to find a shelf on which to arrange the memorial components. That didn't happen, but by coincidence I found a basket that turned out to be perfect at Joann. The top support and handles are made of wood and the basket base is copper that looks woven with lots of open spaces. 

My creative juices began to flow again in March 2019 when I took a class at the Indianapolis Art Center: Textiles with New Materials! The class was small with only 3 students and our teacher, Hailee Heron, was fantastic! She taught in a very relaxed manner and encouraged us to think about our "process." We played with many textile techniques, but using unusual fibers was stressed and in ample supply in class. One session, we went outside of the center and collected "garbage" to them return to class and create something led by our material and process.

Sophisticated Lady with Painted Nails
It was during the class that I decided, "what better time to get motivated on my Memorial to Alan"! As an aside, I had taken my grandkids fishing (first and only!) and they had a lot of fun. While at the pond, a butterfly landed on my shoulder and stayed there peacefully for ten minutes! I took it as a sign that Alan had stopped by to join in the fun. I asked one of the kids to take a picture and am so glad I did! During my class I decided I needed to incorporate butterflies into my sculpture.

Butterfly on my shoulder!

Close-up of the butterflies
I crocheted two different butterflies in March 2019, using blue and red variegated threads to stay with the color scheme. At some point, (probably in the shower!), I decided that a catheter bag in my collection would make an interesting "picture frame." It's not perfect because the pictures I inserted are not real clear, but look kind of cloudy and dreamy. Ever encouraging, Teacher Hailee liked the effect saying that the pictures looked "other worldly" to her. I used the butterfly picture, a picture of Alan and one of us, in good times, and this one taken in his last days. the afghan was a gift from Hospice - the colors signify his Air Force service.

I  sat with Alan and held his hand for 3 weeks

Front: Catheter Bag Picture Frame and  Syringe filled with Glitter

Back: Catheter Bag Picture Frame
During the 7 weeks of class, we had thinking and writing to do, projects to create and studio time to work on our main project: I chose the Memorial and was determined to get it finished by the last class without compromise. Probably the most satisfying part of this project was arranging the components in the framework of the basket and to create a cohesive look that expressed my thoughts. The openness of the framework served me well as I was able to secure the components throughout the various levels of openwork. 

Side view with Air Force Patch
Top View: Air Force Patch
Catheters and all that they involve were not the only suffering Alan went through. It was, however, a significant part of our day and concern.The equipment in this sculpture represents so much more. Alan first lost his ability to speak gradually; he lost the use of one arm and then the other. Becoming unable to maintain his balance, he fell more times than I care to remember. Toward the end he was confined to a wheelchair and was unable to eat whole foods. 

Today on Alan's birthday, I consider my sculpture and memorial to him done! I will sometimes think back on his suffering, but more so on his courage. This piece is an artistic accomplishment that I am proud of, and it serves to remind me of the grief I am transforming into a new chapter of my life. Each day I do my best to not look back and suffer sadness, but to be grateful and to find happiness in my new chapter. There is so much to be grateful for!


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