1000 Moons virtual launchPosted on · Categories Exhibits, Sculpture
In this first public event for 1000 Moons, I introduce the project and discuss the lack of space for grief and death in American culture; and launch an ongoing GoFundMe campaign to support my continued work on the project. I share process video of making the moons, and a first-concept installation video.
1000 Moons virtual launch text transcript
PTM: Good evening and welcome to tonight’s talk, 1000 Moons with Emily Jung Miller. My name is Caleb Sayan. I’m the founder of TextileX, and the organizer of the Portland TextileX Month festival, and also co-founder of Textile Hive, which you see behind me.
TextileX, and the Portland TextileX Month festival are part of a social enterprise founded and organized by Textile Hive, to build community, foster cross-pollination among textile enthusiasts, artists, businesses, schools, and cultural organizations. We create programming and provide an open platform to share histories, knowledge, commerce, experiences, and practices across cultures and generations. We seek to partner with facilitators and organizations rooted in community building, sharing, accessibility, inclusivity, diversity, and collaboration. By creating and fostering textile programming that champions grassroots collaboration in dialogue, we create meaningful opportunities for change. As a mission-driven textile organization, we reflect and make connections between the vibrant and diverse textile community in Portland and beyond. Through the programming we create, opportunities we provide, and the people we reach, we work to make our programming each year more accessible by lowering economic and structural barriers to participation.
Portland Textile Month acknowledges that what we now call Portland, Oregon, and Multnomah County are located on the ancestral lands of the Multnomah, Wasco, Cathlamet, Clackamas, Cowlitz, bands of Chinook, Tualatin, Kalapuya, Molalla, and many other tribes who made their homes along the Columbia and Willamette rivers. We are on this land because of the forced relocation, genocide, assimilation of its traditional peoples by colonists and settlers. As settlers and/or guests, we recognize the strong and diverse Native communities in our region today, with tribes both local and distant, and offer respect and gratitude for their stewardship of these lands, past, present, and future. We’d like to also acknowledge and celebrate the role that Native communities have had, and continue to hold, within the field of textiles.
It’s my great pleasure to introduce Emily Jung Miller, an artist I greatly admire. Welcome, Emily.
EM: Thank you. Thank you, Caleb, thank you for everything you do with Portland Textile Month. Hello and welcome to all of you joining us tonight. And thank you for gathering here in this virtual space, and for being here with me to talk about 1000 Moons.
Grief and death can be a lot to talk about. I encourage each of you to hold space for what you need right now, and to step back if you’re feeling overwhelmed. We have live captions available for those who need them, and for anyone who might benefit from pausing the audio at any time and switching to text. Just press the live transcript button at the bottom of your Zoom window to add captions to the program.
First I’m going to talk about 1000 Moons and share video of my process and progress. Afterwards, we’ll have a short Q&A. Then I’m opening up the space for anyone to share stories of healing traditions in grief. My presentation and the Q&A will be recorded and posted with captions on my website and on Portland Textile Month’s website. The open conversation after the Q&A will not be published.
I’m posting a link in the chat to the 1000 Moons web page, and a link to contribute and participate. I’ll be talking more about that later tonight.
>> Learn more about the project at https://bit.ly/1000-moons
>> Contribute & participate at https://bit.ly/join1000moons
I started working on 1000 Moons after both my grandparents died of Covid earlier this year, in January and February 2021. After their deaths, I found myself struggling with my sense of time. I felt completely disconnected from days and weeks passing. The sky was clear for a few nights around the first full moon after my grandmother’s death in January. It had just snowed here in Oregon, and the moonlight lit up the night during the darkest time of winter. I thought about how I was watching this moon rise without her, and all the years I had watched the moon rise over the ocean from my grandparents’ house in Maine. I thought about how this was the first full moon I had experienced in my entire life without her being able to see it too. All the full moons we had spent together, or apart but alive together, all the full moons she had witnessed before I was born, and all the full moons my grandparents had shared with each other, whether or not they were actually looking at the moon. It felt like a way I could connect with her life, and with the natural rhythms of the earth, to anchor myself back into time.
At that time, when I did anything at all, I was focused on small and sort of achievable tasks, simple things that made sense, that could be counted and quantified. I started reading about the cycles of the moon after that first full moon in January. There are 12 or 13 full moons in a year, and I figured out there were 1,175 full moons in my grandmother’s 94 years of life. I started to think about what that looks like.
I had a big stack of oversized sheets of handmade paper that I had made with leaves and natural materials years ago in Hawaii, before I moved to Oregon. I started cutting up the paper into circles. Each circle represented one full moon, one month of time. Cutting up the paper felt like destroying something beautiful, but also creating something new. Nothing felt whole to me at the time, and cutting the moon circles became something I could come back to when I wanted to feel close to both my grandparents.
The process of cutting the moons out was simple and repetitive and kind of soothing. The shape is simple, the paper has a beautiful natural texture and it felt good in my hands. When I couldn’t hold anything down in my mind, I went back to cutting out moon circles.
About a week after that first full moon in January, my grandfather also passed. Over the next few weeks, I continued cutting out a few hundred moons. I used up all the paper I had made.
I still had the image in my mind of 1000 moons, and I made plans to make new sheets of paper, to cut out more moons and finish all 1,175 full moons from my grandmother’s life. It takes a very different kind of creative energy to make new paper, than to cut it apart. And I held that idea of making new paper for months before I was able to actually do the work.
Early this summer, after getting vaccinated, I was able to travel safely to help settle my grandparents estate. Their home on the coast of Maine had always been a sanctuary for me through my whole life. I brought home seaweed from their shoreline, and sheet music from their library, to use in making my new sheets of paper. I still felt the need to tear things apart, and the fragments of sheet music and kelp hold that power for me in the new paper I made.
I’m going to share a brief process video of making the paper and cutting out the moons.
And I’ve thought about this process as sort of a making and an unmaking simultaneously, or one after the other. So these sheets of paper are 16 by 20 inches. Because I wanted to be able to cut out a lot of moons out of each one, I made them oversized. But I also found that it sort of made it feel more like a landscape or an environment. Each piece of paper had its own, sort of, sense of energy and presence. I tried a lot of different techniques, cutting up the sheet music bigger or smaller, blending it up. And this is the original paper that I had made in Hawaii, that I cut the first moons out of, early this year.
So I just drew a bunch of circles on the paper with pencil and then cut them all out. I’m still cutting them out. I am not finished. And I strung them together with cotton thread. So they would be sort of a hanging installation, which is what you see behind me. And this was a more recent part of the process, and still a really meditative act for me. This whole, all of the parts of the process, have been sort of like a meditation. Cutting the moons out, even making the new paper, definitely stringing them together. It’s not an easy meditation, but it’s, it still feels meditative.
So that is my earliest process video, and because this is still a project in process, I will be taking more video of different parts of the process that I haven’t done yet, and adding those as well.
This project is a lot about repetition in memorial, and I started to think about, What does that look like in our culture? What do we already have about repetition in memorial? And I realized it tends to focus on the magnitude of death, in what I’ve seen. Single markers are placed to represent each life that has been lost.
An exhibition on the lawn of the National Mall in Washington D.C. just closed earlier this month, that included 670,000 white flags, one for each American life lost to Covid. The exhibit is called In America Remember, organized by the artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg, and I’m putting links to this exhibit in the chat right now. I think. I don’t seem to be able to add those to the chat.
>> In America: Remember https://www.inamericaflags.org/
>> This art exhibition blankets the National Mall with over 660,000 white flags, showing the magnitude of our loss as a nation, while honoring each person who has died from COVID-19.
>> Virtual exhibition / add your flag: https://www.inamericavirtualflags.com/
We see similar displays of gathered flags each year for Memorial Day. I found that the numbers can be mind numbing. In a way, 1000 Moons is a response to this. Each moon represents a piece of life, and the value of the time that was lived.
I kept thinking about time as a physical presence, how each paper circle represented a month of life, and the gathering of circles, was the presence of an entire lifetime. I kept imagining walking through a corridor of moons, being surrounded by the full span of a whole life lived. I thought about where my lifetime would begin, more than halfway down the path. And I realized I wanted to share this space with others. I wanted people to have the opportunity to walk through this full span of a lifetime, and think about locating their own lives and histories within that time, their children’s lives, their parents and their grandparents’ lives.
During this time, I’ve also felt a lack of sustained space in American culture for the ongoing process of grief. Other cultures have built structured space for this into their annual cycle. Most familiar to us might be Dia de Muertos, The Day of the Dead from Mexico and Central America. In China, the whole month of August is Hungry Ghost month, when the dead are present on Earth, followed by the Mid-Autumn Festival in September, to gather with living family and honor ancestors. Other traditions in Indonesia see death as a slow transition that takes years, with important social rituals each year to honor the dead.
In these communities, space exists to be not okay, to set down daily tasks and focus on grief. You don’t have to build that space yourself. Grief groups and gatherings seem to exist in our culture as an optional side note to normal life. Mexico’s Dia de Muertos and China’s ghost month are a more universal and normal, important part of the cultural cycle of the year, every year, for the entire society.
Preparing for Portland Textile Month has also prompted my thinking specifically about the idea of new traditions. And I feel like this is a moment in history when many of our existing traditions have been scattered.
I’ve been thinking about the Chinese American activist Grace Lee Boggs, saying that we have to see every crisis as both the danger and an opportunity, and also, “The time has come for us to re-imagine everything.” This was from her conversation with Angela Davis recorded in 2012, but I first saw it this spring, during the rise in public violence against Asian Americans. In that moment, her words were exactly what I needed to hear, as a mixed race Chinese American having lost both grandparents to Covid in the two months prior to a wave of violence against Asian Americans that was happening in the city near my home, and in the city near my Chinese mother’s home. And I wish I could put the link to that conversation in the chat, but I can’t. The chat links are not working for me.
>> Grace Lee Boggs in Conversation with Angela Davis: “The time has come for us to reimagine everything”
>> Video Excerpt: https://www.instagram.com/p/CMnzpQUD4Vp/
>> Full-length text transcript: https://www.radioproject.org/2012/02/grace-lee-boggs-berkeley/
>> Full-length Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9IsJwE0B1c
So, we have to see every crisis as both a danger and an opportunity. And, the time has come for us to reimagine everything. These words feel very relevant to where we are right now. As she says in the conversation, the danger of every crisis is the incredible damage it does to our lives. That damage cannot be erased by potential opportunity, but still the opportunity is here to transform into something new.
I imagine a new tradition of creating sustained space for the grief process as part of our normal culture, not only in private separated spaces that are careful not to overlap with everyday life. I imagine a place within our everyday society, where speaking about grief and about loss does not feel inappropriate or unexpected. I imagine a time when it feels safe to respond honestly to anyone who asks, ‘How are you today?’ by saying, ‘I’m thinking a lot about my grandparents, they both died earlier this year.’ Some days I need to keep my loss to myself, but other days, I feel silenced by society because it provides no framework to share our grief, as a normal and natural part of human experience.
I’ve chosen to share 1000 Moons as a process rather than a finished product. Sharing my process with this work is about sharing the process of grief, and creating sustained space for that ongoing process. After nine months, this is the first public event I have for 1000 Moons. I’ve barely spoken to anyone about this project for the first four months I worked on it. After six months, I started envisioning sharing it with a wider audience, and I realized I needed to write down what I wanted to say. It took me another month to find the words for my first draft. And another month after that to bring myself to ask for help publicly as a vital part of the work.
Along with a series of virtual conversations like this one, and physical installations, I’ve chosen GoFundMe as my online platform for creating community space. One reason for this is financial. The days and weeks I dedicate to working on 1000 Moons are important, and not easy. I believe this work is valuable whether or not it is marketable through single unit sales. In the spirit of new traditions and re-imagining everything, I believe that community support of non-commodity work is vital to imagining the world we want to be, and each of us using our own power to bring that world into being.
>> Contribute & participate at https://bit.ly/join1000moons
Another reason I chose GoFundMe is the potential I saw in the platform’s stream of comments. This often turns into an endless stream of well wishes, most recently highlighted in the 2020 artwork Get Well Soon by Sam Levine and Tega Brain. Get Well Soon is an alphabetized stream of 200,000 GoFundMe comments that reveals a broken healthcare system where hundreds of thousands of people have to crowdfund their medical expenses. Text by Johanna Hedva on the Get Well Soon website speaks about communal care, caring directly for each other, as a revolutionary act. Hedva says, “It will take all of us, operating on the principle that if only some of us are well, none of us are.” Hedva is speaking specifically about Covid, but also about the transformation of our society as a whole.
>> Get Well Soon http://getwellsoon.labr.io/
>> A revealing archive of comments posted on gofundme.com’s medical fundraisers.
>> Article about Get Well Soon: https://www.npr.org/2020/09/29/904356894/artists-turn-gofundme-comments-into-a-get-well-soon-card-for-a-sick-system
I saw potential in GoFundMe’s stream of well wishes to become a stream of healing traditions. The idea that I had was to think about what healing paths everyone has found in grief. And that helped when we needed it most. I wanted this to become a community resource, to share that other people are out there doing this too, each in our own way, and it is not something we need to hide. Loneliness may be a basic truth of grief, but the erasure and isolation of grief in our culture is something we can choose to change. We need spaces for this.
We need spaces to imagine transformation beyond the narrative that exists.
There is space in our culture already for memorializing the magnitude of our collective loss, in cemeteries and displays of gathered flags. I want to create new space to imagine the magnitude of a life. There is space in our culture already for private grief centered groups that are separated from daily life. I want to create new space that normalizes the process of grief, as a part of everyday society. There is already space in our culture to prove the value of our lives in constant productivity. I want to create new space where we can be supported as whole beings, simply because our needs exist.
>> Contribute & participate at https://bit.ly/join1000moons
So there are instructions on the GoFundMe page for commenting with your healing traditions. You can choose to comment right after making a donation, or you can add your comment at any point later on. You can choose to donate anonymously. I’ve also included a link to share your healing traditions without making a donation. And I’ll add those to the GoFundMe page as an equal part of the community. I’d like to include these shared healing traditions in future installations of 1000 Moons. I haven’t decided how exactly I want to do that, but I will not be including people’s full names outside of GoFundMe.
As an example, I’ll share a healing path I found for myself. What helped me most was to go outside. For this whole year, I’ve focused what energy I have on getting up and walking out my door. Sometimes it’s out my front door and around the block. Sometimes it’s out my back door, and I just sit and feel the sun, and watch the moon.
Right now I have about one third of the moons cut out. Out of the 1,175. I am hoping to have about 400 of them on display in an installation later this month, but I don’t actually know the final count yet. I still have a stack of uncut sheets of paper made with kelp and sheet music. I have more kelp, more sheet music, more ideas, and more paper to make. I’ve started filming my process and early tests of the hanging installation.
For the past month, I’ve prepared for this public launch by reminding myself that I cannot rush this project to meet any milestone, and the work will be what it is, on the day that I share it. The value of unfinished process is becoming a new tradition for me. It feels essential to share that process in community, especially in grief, and in the crisis the whole world is currently sharing.
I have an installation video that I would like to share, but I’m having trouble with Zoom, so I’m actually going to log out and then log right back in.
So I set up a test of about 100-ish moons, or about 8 to 10 years of moons, in my own space to see how I felt about how far apart I wanted the hanging strands and just how I wanted it all to look. That’s the space I’m in right now. And then had an opportunity to just play around with filming it and thinking about what I wanted the public experience to be. And it’s going to be different in every installation, because each installation space is going to look so different, whether it’s a flat window display or whether you’re able to walk around it, or walk down through the corridor, and also how many moons I have finished, which I, like I said, I still don’t actually know the number. I haven’t counted them all. And that probably is something I will be doing in the next few months. It’ll be easier to count them once they’re up in an installation.
One of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot with this project is how to really convey the sense of being in the space and being able to sort of locate yourself within the time span of a life without physically being in the space. So I’m trying to think about what kind of filmmaking techniques or other techniques I could use, that will allow people to experience it without being there in person, and still get the sense of time, being a space that they are within. I don’t have an answer to that question. But that’s what I’m thinking about, as I’m doing the filming and setting up the installations.
So I will have two physical installations of 1000 Moons in Portland this year. Gallery Go Go downtown in Pioneer Place is featuring a series of rotating exhibitions for Portland Textile Month, and it includes a preview of 1000 Moons that is on display now. And on October 18th which is next Monday, a larger installation will go on display in southeast Portland across the street from Crema cafe, in a window display space that I’ve been calling the Crema Art Annex. Details are on my website at ejmillerfineart.com and I will also be filming and posting both installations online for everyone who can’t visit in person.
I have more installations and conversations planned for 2022, to share my continued process. I’ll be posting that schedule on my website and you can sign up there for my email newsletter, if you want to stay updated. That’s where I’m at, with 1000 Moons right now, and by the next public conversation in February 2022, I expect I’ll have new things to say and share.
And that is the end of my official presentation. We’ll be moving next into a Q&A, and after that, there will be time for an open conversation to share our healing traditions. And that open conversation will not be published. I am going to go back and post all those links in the chat that I had wanted to earlier, that I wasn’t able to. So, here comes a lot of things in the chat, hopefully.
PTM: Thank you, Emily and I left out your introduction, so let me just fix that, as well. So, Emily Jung Miller has spent her life by the coast, and all of her work has its roots in her love of the sea. Her practice ranges from immersive interactive installations to tactile ceramics, fiber art, watercolor landscapes, and abstract encaustics. She often incorporates natural or reclaimed materials into her work. Miller is a mixed race Chinese American who relocated from Kauai to Forest Grove, Oregon in 2014.
Okay. Sorry about that.
EM: Oh, that’s fine. That was actually perfect because I just finished pasting all my links. So, to ask questions, I see one question already in the chat, you can type them directly into the chat or there’s also a Q&A feature and I think you can also raise your hand, and one of us will see that.
“Will the moons have dates on them?”
I have not done that. That is an interesting idea, because I’m not clear on whether the date would be the date I made it, or starting from the date my grandmother was born and going through all the years of her life. So, just the fact that the question, gave me more questions, is something definitely to think about. I have thought about writing on the paper before I cut out the moons. I haven’t done that yet, but I think that’s something I’m going to try.
PTM: One thing I was struck by, Emily, since I lost someone recently as well, was going through the process, there is so much invested in this country in terms of the medical care before, into keeping someone alive and to alleviate their pain and suffering but I also felt like, after, entering the grieving process there’s like, very little kind of support, and I just, I don’t know if this is a question or more of a statement, but kind of what it says about our culture kind of that there’s so much that goes into one side of it, and not the dealing with the trauma or the pain that kind of ripples through.
And I just remember the process of disposing of all of the medication, and just being so like overcome by how much, how much medicine is used in that, in that process. But yeah I think the idea of just investing a small amount of money into the, the care and dealing with the after effects, seems like it would be a very great tradition, or new tradition to start.
EM: I definitely agree, and that sort of “out of balance” sense is something that I’ve talked about with other people as well. The way that our culture perceives prolonging care, and life, versus the sort of just total lack of anything afterwards. I definitely feel like there’s space for that and it’s something that we need. And it’s not something that only people like yourself and myself who have just lost someone recently need. I think it’s something that everybody in our society could benefit from.
And I think that that’s why I really started looking for other traditions that do this, and I, my mother is Chinese, but I was not raised with the tradition of Hungry Ghost month. We celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival, as sort of like, I went to my Chinese grandma’s house and ate a lot of food, that was kind of it. So I found out that festival from just looking it up online, which was really sort of an interesting experience for me to sort of come back to that but not, not through my family. But just to think like, there are millions of people, somewhere else in the world, who spend an entire month, everybody in the culture spends a whole month just sort of being aware of the process of grief and people who have passed on. And it’s, I guess I felt like it was maybe an opportunity, it would have been an opportunity for me to feel like this is space that I need, you know, to do what I need to do, to feel the way that I feel, without feeling like there’s nowhere for it to fit. And I have to sort of, you know, find where to do it, that doesn’t get in the way of anything else in life, because there’s no space for it.
So I mean how we do that as a culture, I don’t know. I think I’ve just gotten to the point of being willing to say out loud, we need this. And I don’t know how we get it. But, and I mean especially after this year, we need this.
I see another question.
“Have you considered making standing female forms from childhood through adulthood in order to show time passing?”
I had not specifically considered that. I did think about some way to sort of indicate a timeline. But I wasn’t sure if I wanted it to be that specific. I think the part that I wanted to share most with the public or the audience was that they could see their own lives and their own sort of lifespan within it, rather than it being specifically about my grandmother, although I mean for me, it is specifically about her but I think I wanted people to more, be able to place themselves within time, within a time span, without it being specifically her time span.
Anybody else have any questions or comments?
PTM: Another question, do you feel like this work may tie into some of your other kind of practices, like ghost net, or do you see it distinctly separate from those projects?
EM: I do see it tying in, for sure. So, before my grandparents died, the center of my practice for the past few years, has been, had been, making community interactive installations with a couple of tons of reclaimed fishing gear. So I would bring in this massive pile of fishing gear and invite people to make art out of it, and think about positive transformation. What can this be next? Rather than the problem that it creates, thinking more about what solutions it might be able to create.
And I think that sense of positive transformation is where I am with 1000 Moons. It feels less about the magnitude of loss and more about the celebration of life and the value of life. And it took me months to figure out why I was doing this and what it meant to me and what I was trying to say with it, and I think I’m still figuring it out, but I think that is a common thread that’s carried forward from my work with ghost net, is, Where can we go from here that’s better?
And I think in both cases, there is space for new ideas. And I think it’s something that we need and we’re ready for. And they’re both projects that I’ve wanted to involve the community in, to some extent. Although I will say, that was really hard for this one because it’s really personal and it also can be a polarizing topic, but I still felt like, if some of us aren’t well, none of us are. And we have to come together in community. And we just have to.
Thank you for that question Caleb, that is something I have been thinking about, sort of in the background of my mind, is this an evolution of the same things I was thinking about, or have I just done a total 180 and gone a different direction.
PTM: Jean Camp asks, “What other materials might you use for the moons?”
EM: Hmm. I think I am going to finish out this project using paper as the base for the moons, but I am going to add more things into the paper that I haven’t made yet. So like the kelp, and the sheet music. I am also going to be adding some tea, tea leaves. My grandfather always was drinking tea, the same kind of tea. All my life I think, I remember this specific tea. And that was, the boxes of, the empty boxes they came in, like really nice metal tins. And that was something that was left behind after their passing. When I went to help settle their estate, that was something that really struck me that it wasn’t the tea, it was the boxes. I mean that whole process, that could be a whole nother conversation, of settling an estate.
I think that’s probably where I’m going to be drawing from most on adding new materials, is thinking about that, and still just working through what was there.
PTM: Chandra writes, or asks, “There’s a huge resistance to discussing health in U.S. culture, so that when someone dies everyone wants to get through it as fast as they can. We don’t have the rituals that ease grief, but rather customs to put it away as fast as possible.”
EM: Yeah. Yeah. And I, you know, before this year I hadn’t spent a lot of time thinking about why that might be. These are the first people this close to me that I’ve lost. So there’s a lot of new thinking in my mind this year.
We’re a very productivity oriented culture. And I think that comes back to, you know, we have very minimal maternity leave, and it’s just, you know, not just bereavement but anything that is not production is, as you say, get through it as fast as you can and put it away as fast as possible.
For myself, the first few months after they died, I didn’t feel like I was capable of getting through it as fast as possible. There was just nothing left in me to, to keep going beyond it. All I could do was be in it, and I don’t want to say that was okay with me, because it was a very not okay time, but I felt like it was okay for me to not be okay, and to continue to not be okay. You know, after the two weeks when people have sort of, you know, said the things and went back to their normal lives that I had not been able to. And that is probably what got me started thinking about this as a project that I need to share, rather than just do for myself, that I am still in grief, in the grief process, and there’s just not space for it, that I feel like there could be.
PTM: Pat writes, “Beautiful work. I embrace your thoughts about our need to be open and embrace the grief process, and continue to celebrate the lives of those who we have loved and lost. It is a change needed in our culture.”
EM: Thank you. I agree, and I think it might just be everybody who recognizes that doing what feels right to them to be open about it. And, you know, be willing to share that this is where we’re at, at times when it’s maybe not appropriate in our culture, because there just isn’t a time when it’s appropriate. And, I mean, it’s hard to be the one that has to do that work when you’re already doing the work of grieving, but I don’t know if anybody else can really do it, other than the people who are going through it. I’m not sure.
“Did I use thread from my grandparents home?”
I thought about that. No. I actually looked at my grandmother’s sewing collection, while I was there, and decided not to take any of that because I hadn’t gotten to the point with 1000 Moons of knowing what I wanted to do to display it. And I was trying to only bring home things that I knew what to do with. But I like that idea and that is something that I thought about. I’m just using red cotton.
Chris asks, “To what extent do I think this project of creating the thousand moons has helped you work through the grieving process?”
That’s a great question. It continues to help in an evolving way. At first, I just needed to destroy something. It was that simple. I just needed to cut something apart, and not have to think about anything. And then I think having the moons sort of gathered, I would spread them out on the floor sometimes and think about how I wanted to display them. That made me feel closer to the time span of my grandparents’ lives, just sort of having that time around me.
And then starting to think about exhibiting it, and sharing the work, and talking about the work, really took me to a different level in my grieving process, I think. You know, it’s hard to know whether I was just ready and so I could talk about it more, or whether me thinking about talking about it helped me get there. I’m not sure which which caused which, but this has definitely gotten me to a place where I guess I’m, I don’t know, I guess, more okay, more able to be present more of the time, because I am doing this and because I am sharing it. Both of those things.
PTM: Thanks Emily. I kind of feel like I’m a little bit in parallel tracks, working and grieving at the same time and I worry about the stillness, maybe I have that kind of little bit of a workaholic culture, that it’s been passed on through me but just sitting with the emotion and feeling is something I’m very worried about facing. And I think that keeping busy through creative practice or organizing or community endeavor helps a lot. So, I relate a lot to that.
Let’s see, there was a question from Jean that came through.
EM: “Have I tried to connect with any other artists who are working through grief with their art?”
Not yet. I am barely at the point where I’m connecting with my friends. I think this is something that maybe in the next year I will be ready to expand into more of a community effort and just share where we’re all at with it. But something I’ve experienced this year that has been new to me in my life, is that I will do one thing, and then that’s it for me, for the day. There’s just not, I just don’t have the capacity to do more. So that is something that I look forward to getting to be able to do.
PTM: Is this a project that your family is participating in, or is this kind of separate from your close extended family?
EM: This is just me. I really didn’t talk about it with anyone, for most of the time I was doing it, I mean anyone. I just was making it by myself, and I kind of couldn’t talk about it. I didn’t, I wasn’t able to explain why I was doing what I was doing or even what I was doing, very clearly. And, you know, like, two or three people got a couple of sentences about it.
So yeah, I had originally envisioned it as something that I could share with my family in person. We were planning to gather in August, but we didn’t do that because of Delta. So, I’m hoping that one day, that will be possible. I did think that might be something we would all find value in, is being able to stand in this space of the life. By the time that happens, I’ll probably have them all done.
PTM: Shandra wrote, “I grieve with you and thank you for your sharing your process in your art.”
EM: Thank you, Shandra.
Note: The open conversation following the Q&A was not recorded for publication. A summary of the healing paths and traditions shared by the group will be available here.