textile art by Angela Simione on view at Artist Television Access Window Gallery, San Francisco CA March 2015
artist reception Wednesday, March 11th, 7-9pm
She got sick when I was 29. When I was thirty, she died. It was January. Cold. I curled up with my crochet hook and I kept my hands busy.
Looking back, I see it as an attempt at repair; each stitch, an act of healing. A simultaneous meditation and distraction.
In the weeks following her death, I would wake up crying; a mess of sadness. I hid myself. I didn’t want anyone to see me cry but my confused despair was impossible to hide. I was ashamed of my red eyes. For as sympathetic as people were, they were equally uncomfortable. I was deep within the landscape of my mother’s death (and the early confrontation with my own mortality) and I was in it alone.
There are no spaces for these conversations in our culture. No one wants to talk about death over morning coffee. Or afternoon coffee. Or after-dinner drinks. And after a few weeks, there is a collective pressure for one to bounce back, for the grieving to subside, for a smile to flicker and pull at the corners of one’s cheeks again. The pressure to resume one’s previous dance, to return to business as usual is torturous. I couldn’t stand it. Still, I wore dark sunglasses and waterproof mascara. I tried hard to contain the mess of my sadness. I tried to control my tears. Sometimes, I would suddenly start crying on the street. Never wailing or sobbing, no bunched up red face, just tears silently running from my eyes. The dark glasses and waterproof mascara were my preventative maintenance. They helped me prevent myself from making other people uncomfortable. They helped me prevent my mother’s death from spilling on to their lives, such an unwelcome topic, such an inconvenient contagion. They prevented me from embarrassing myself. Nevertheless, the tears came. An overflow. A mode of expression that wouldn’t be denied. A supplemental voice.
Eventually, I got angry about the silence but I didn’t know where to go to say the things I needed to say. I didn’t know where to go to find people who were interested in talking about death and its aftermath. Behind my dark glasses, I was stoic. Straight-faced. I marched across this city silently, clad in black and smile-less. I noticed that no matter what I wore or how I looked, someone was bound to notice me. It was then that I discovered the power of my body to speak for me, to create an area for discussion and exchange of ideas. My personal billboard. My own private gallery wall. My mobile wailing wall.
Taking phrases from my personal diary, lines from deeply loved songs, and scattered bits of my own poetry, I began to speak of my mother’s death. I embedded my longing for her in the clothing I wore. I broadcast my anguish, my confusion, my loss, my unbelievable anger, and my longing for a reckoning. I emblazoned my feelings across handmade sweaters, each stitch bearing witness to my silent suffering. They spoke the words that I couldn’t say without completely falling apart.
Now, 4 years later, the repair that I was attempting feels as if it has largely taken place. Presented at ATA in their entirely are my “sweaters of death”, a fragmented poem of sorts, my “work of mourning”.