The body of work for the “Real and the Imagined” is inspired by and comes from my time volunteering at the Newport Animal Shelter in Newport, TN. While there, I witnessed so many pets brought in and the vast amount of energy the workers and volunteers exuded to save them. I felt the best way that I could make a difference was to make art about what I saw. I was not a bystander and instead rolled up my sleeves and worked as hard as the rest. While there, I was even fortunate enough to be able to take a vanload of dogs to safety in New York through a rolling rescue program. The work is very personal since I was a part of it.
My original intent was to stay with the shelter for a year and to make portraits to honor the dogs and cats that were not lucky enough to be on the transport to safety or to find homes. Unfortunately, I was only able to be there a short time after my Mother became very ill and I needed to move back to Iowa. The project changed from mere portraits as I suddenly found myself working with the information I had gathered during my time there and having to move states away. While working on this project I dealt with the loss of my Grandmother, my Mother, my Grandfather, and I have recently been diagnosed with cancer. The work is not solely about the portraits at all now and has become something much deeper and meaningful to me.
The 2-room gallery at Simpson has afforded me an opportunity to change the work in an even different direction. In one room I have the “real” which consists of the photos I took of the living and the dead I encountered at the shelter… in the other room is the “imagined” which relates to how my imagination has removed the animals from their bars. In some of the work in the “imagined” I have included an image I found of my Mom that I found after her death – she is a young dancer…. And this carries great importance because prior to her death she could not walk anymore- she too had fallen into a cage like the animals I met. While she was dying she talked about seeing past pets who my family had loved, but had lost to death– so I believe she is there with all them…
The work you see is not the end of my project- it is really just the start.