After eight deaths of friends and family during a short period of time, I contemplated bereavement and legacy in a new way. I began to look at the settings we grieve in and wonder at their strangeness and soothing abilities.
Through the use of tableaus and funeral home locations, I created self-portraits that represent haunting aspects of those who have passed on. Several people who died were family or community members who added to my Japanese American upbringing. The blend of Asian and American symbolism and aesthetics compliment each other in my work. Likewise, the images I created in homage are full of the dichotomies that life and death offer. I showed the need to hang on to my loved-one?s life, as well as the fleeting quality of memory and time. Strange shadows and blurred movement discussed absence and presence while light symbolized a physical connection between heaven and earth. Americana chapel-like funeral homes were familiar, yet bizarrely uncomfortable. Insects such as butterflies represented transformation and new life, as well as frailty and limited longevity.
Foucault theorizes that our culture provides sacred spaces where we can carry out specific acts. At funerals, we cry and grieve with individuals, which we would never embrace in normal environments. I use the funeral home as a space for private performances that express loss and acceptance, as well as presence and absence.
This body of work was titled Koden after the Japanese tradition of gift-giving to bereaving families.