Most of the time, Suvan Geer’s work is, well, temporary. She has said of her art, “I explore the ephemeral. My materials are common substances with ties to alchemy and the body such as salt, wax, water and milk. In my installations I examine the elusive lived experience within impermanence, memory and time. … I use my art to investigate the meaning created by common residue and things that fade.” She has used eggs and powdered milk to explore birth and nursing and to give women a voice in these intimate experiences. Geer once made a stylish full-length coat from rice; at the end of the exhibition, she composted her creation in her backyard in Orange County.
The stones we are showcasing here – funerary objects – are anything but temporary. And yet, the work links to her art; Geer has said, “I want to make images that shift and change, even as they appear to be stable and unchanging because that’s what reality does, contrary to how we tend to remember it.” What shifts and changes about the headstones for her is “their ambiguous meaning and the memories they refer to but do not reveal.”
Here is how Geer describes these photographs:
“In 2005 I took a road trip to help a friend who is interested in genealogy move across the country. While looking for traces of her family in old graveyards in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, I often came upon headstones carved without names. Some were very old; others looked more recent. I photographed them with Kodak 200 film and my 35 mm, Canon A1 using a 50mm 1:18 lens. The film was developed at a local Kroger. When I got home to California I found similar anonymous stones in graveyards here and photographed those. I scanned over 200 images into my computer, digitally removed the color, and cropped, burned and dodged the images playing with legibility. Some I had printed in a catalog. A very few were lithographed onto silver leaf so that the image vanishes or shifts color with the light. The series is ongoing.”
What is grave. It feels like gravity pulls us all down, and the cemetery, the final resting place for many of us, who are laid in coffins.
There is such poignancy in cemeteries, and none more poignant than those tombstones that do not identify the people below, other than a simple word, that evokes such beauty, such love. Such as, here, Husband, Mother, Infant. We open out, ourselves, in imagining their world, now lost to time. And yet, for me, I hold the following as a deep mystical, spiritual truth, and that is, it’s not over, when, it’s over. Beyond that I believe, as my life is taking me fast, into a new way of seeing, that all souls, still reside, that no story is ever lost, and that be longing, we all have, to leave something us behind, is answered in a story that is deeply circumscribed by words themselves, As hind is to deer, and as deer is to dear. As share is to cher, what is cherished. Nothing we have ever loved will ever be lost. And so, that mythical Library of Alexandria, described in a book about Journey, Ulysses by James Joyce, exists for us all. One day, in some form, perhaps as a soul, we will each walk into the library, and ask, about Our Book. And a silent, wizened man, will bend over a huge tome, and find us within. He will take us to our floor, to our door, and we will marvel, how our story is there recorded. It’s about the music. It’s always been, about the music.
Key signatures. Signature of all Things.
Thank you for such a beautiful evocation, which gave rise to just this.
Such wonder in words! Lovely.
Eerie, moving and provocative.
Sad the anonymous nature of womanhood.
Thank you for sharing these mysterious images with us. These lived stories are left untold, unknown, anonymous…leaving room for only the viewer to fill in the void. Would love to see more artwork by Suvan Geer.