Created with the support of the Fluevog Artist Grant.
Heap is a sculptural exploration of a family’s generational struggles with mental illness. It is comprised of a large pile of over a 750 individually cast bronze leaves collected from the towering oak tree of my family home. My childhood memories are a complex web of happiness and grief, comfort and pain. This work investigates the dualities of childhood through the juxtaposition of material and content. Heap articulates a moment pregnant with potential—for the explosive joy of a youthful leap or the reality that few of us escape our youth unscathed.
Trees are often used to articulate the genealogy of a family—in mine, that lineage is a narrative woven with the trauma and pain of mental illness. We weathered the crests and troughs of recovery and relapse as the disease battered our shores; developing an uneasy familiarity with the halls of psychiatric institutions. Our family struggled to find a new normal, and accepted that there would be no ‘train emerging from the tunnel moment’ but that resilience in recovery is a hard fought and slowly won battle. We learned that it is only with the support of a loving, present, compassionate and understanding community that the permanence of the recovery can match that of the disease.
Through the years, I found refuge in the natural world. And when in the city, the expansive bows of the oak tree became my sanctuary. The dappled sunshine through rustling leaves provided solace from the stress of the illness and quieted the roar brewing in my chest—the knowledge that my turn would come.
Through my own struggles with depression, I’ve come to a place where I’ve been able to find a beauty in the pain, and permanence to my acceptance and resilience. This is what is at the heart of Heap, that two such opposing feelings can be held simultaneously as truth. Each leaf representing the myriad of individuals who made up our support network and lead us to a place where post-traumatic growth was possible. This work is a memorial to our pain and flawed genetics, a monument to compassion and tenderness, and a love letter to a tree.