Artist: Michele Pollock
Attribution: Catharsis, 2023, Michele Heather Pollock
Materials: Found metal, eco-dyed leftover papers, waxed linen, pencil
Dimensions: 40" x 14" x 12"
Image Statement: When I found this piece of rusted metal on one of our field trips to the scrapyard, bent and deformed and no longer useful for its original purpose, it reminded me of grief, of anger, of loss, of anxiety – and I thought I might find a way to affix my own emotions to its structure, to use it as an armature for my own volatile feelings about having Scleroderma and the limitations it places on my body and my life. I can no longer handle bookbinding like I used to do it, making blank book after blank book, but I can bind one or two signatures of a book per day. I no longer have use for the reams and reams of white text-weight paper left over from making blank books, but I can repurpose that paper by eco-dying it using leaves from my woods. After dying it, I tore the paper to size and folded it into signatures of 8 small pages each. Then, almost daily, I did automatic writing on one of these small signatures, purging myself of negative emotions, my hand moving as fast as my mind was going, so the final writing is – thankfully – illegible. Handwriting bears witness to the body, uses the body, demands of the body, taxes the body. The point is not to ever go back and read this journal, or to let anyone else read it, but to rid myself of the emotions, to channel them into another vessel. I bound each of the signatures individually to the rusted and bent metal piece using waxed linen thread and a modified Coptic binding stitch. Returning to the piece almost daily for nearly a year, the piece grew slowly, slowly – literally converting grief and anxiety and loss into artwork, signature by signature, joining my difficult emotions to strange beauty – or if not beauty, exactly, then a kind of grace and movement. What does it mean to work on something for an extended period of time? Time itself becomes a raw material in the work. The time spent making this piece is the whole point, really. The catharsis is in the writing itself, in the making, in the alchemy of converting emotions into something material, something apart from myself that I can examine and observe. The making IS the artwork, and the final piece is really an artifact of that time spent making.