Monday, March 12, 2012

The Following Sea Project

Letter from Lauren...

"I was greatly moved by your blog post on your experience with my project.  I am sorry that it was a painful process for you, believe me I don't take yours or anyone's part of this work casually.  I really did not want to work on my own tags and it's my work!  Just this weekend I was thinking that the whole project was just TOO MUCH and I wasn't feeling that brave after all and would prefer to be far away from the subject matter of illness, thank you very much.  So your kind words have come in at an opportune time in my thinking, renewing my faith that this is an important subject even if it is a painful one."
Good health and fortune,

Back in 


The Following Sea

I am working on a new work called The Following Sea.
And I need some help.
As part of this work I am hoping to find people who are willing to contribute their thoughts on the great curve-ball of life, illness and trauma. This participation can range from the very simple, a thumbprint (your only identification) and the name of an illness/injury/trauma on a vellum tag. Or more complex, with a thumbprint and some sort of written thought on the subject matter, also on a tag. This invite goes out to anyone touched by these issues, whether through their own illness/, or as a loved one, care giver or health professional.
Taking part goes something like this, you say OK - I send you a packet o' tags and whatnot to put your thoughts on - your go out on a limb to do so - you send the tags back to me in a SASE - I am really grateful as I go about incorporating your generous contributions into the work.
So what is The Following Sea going to be??? (not a blog, this blog is just here to explain the project so you can see if you are interested in taking part.)
An installation. A linear narrative, floating in a series of 56 glass bottles to be shown in a gallery setting.
So in plain-speak I am looking under the rock and using humor, community, irony and lots of glass bottles to hack away at and illness/trauma piece. It will be an opportunity to say something about my experience with illness and where I ask you to do a little bit of the same.
I'm hearing the collective 'no thank you' as I type this, but trust me; it won't be that bad -
...and it's going to be gorgeous.

Post-its in the window like a crazy person

Thinking about this project for the past year or so, I have been collecting thoughts on post-its and sticking them up on the windows of my OCD haven of a studio. I was looking for anythingfunny or ironic or ridiculous enough to make the subject of illness go down a little easier. Create more of a conversation and less of a dirge. When I finally happened apon the term, 'AS LUCKY AS A GIRL WITH BIG TITS,' I knew I had found my way in.

The beginning bottles

Here's some text and photos of the first bunch of bottles while I am working out how the piece will all come together (subtext - don't judge me, it is not finished.)

The bottles pace the central narrative of my experience with illness.

There are also bottles stuffed with the smaller, simpler illness tags you are busy filling out at this very moment. It is my hope the large number of tags in these bottles will belay the usual isolation that tends to travel with illness and trauma.

The beginning central narrative/yes it really is all about me....

The Following Sea.
The wave you have to watch out for.
That comes up in your blind spot and hits you from behind.
Stay ahead of the following sea.

The smart thing is to prepare for the unexpected.

Eating an ice cream cone in the White Mountains, half my face went numb.
Later I would remember that ice cream as the moment before impact.
The last picture of things as they were.

What do you call the med student with the lowest GPA?

My GP grimaced when I told her the half-numb-face-story, asked me to close my eyes and touch my finger to my nose, and said, “...Oh.”
What a bitch. Right?

5 Keith Richards = Immediately go to your doctor.

The Keith Richards worry meter.

Not the test results I was looking for.

I went to see a Neurologist.
He said,
“Missy, I got a piece of bad news….”
“Thank you but no,”
I politely declined,
“These are not the test results I was looking for.”

Hiding in plain sight...

But there it was as the cops say -hiding in plain view.
Shit, how am I going to get out of this one?

No one is as lucky as a girl with big tits.

Excuse me Doc, but, what happened to; no one is as lucky as a girl with
He said,

Ambien, where troubles melt like lemon drops...

I went home to itemize the crop damage with a prescription for Ambien and a tutorial on thenervous system.


Apparently Ground Control was having trouble communicating with Major Tom.

The immune system is the Imperialist...

I learned the immune system is the Imperialist that arrives on the scene to tame the savages.

My immune system is the Imperialist that takes a wrongexit off the turnpike, staggers around in a daze, and crashes into a telephone pole, taking down communications for the entire tri-state area.

Lady, you got hit by lightning.


How had this happened? Too much BTO, that's how.

Had I listened to too much Bachman-Turner-Overdrive in junior high?
Had my self-involved parents neglected the usual middle-class child maintenance?

Such a chump.

I felt like such a chump.

I guess that's enough about me for now.

Now we get to your part.

I would like to invite anyone who has been tossed on their ass by the following sea of illness, injury or trauma to participate in this work.

To take part you email me at and I send you a packet containing:
1. Vellum tags in three sizes.
2. An ink-pad.
3. A SASE so the tags get back to me.

Smallest tags

On the smallest tag (the narrow ones) - please label with your thumbprint and the name of the issue you have dealt with ( if appropriate please include the date of diagnosis.)

The small - narrow tags will be put in bottles to visually contradict the feeling of isolation that is the red-headed stepchild of illness and trauma.

Medium tags

Label the medium tag in the same way as the small tag (fingerprint here as well.)
I don't know how these tags will be used yet. I am leaving myself some wiggle room to cover my bases as the work progresses.

Large tags

The largest tag is for those interested in writing something about their experience as a person touched by this subject matter. So if your life has been changed by illness/injury/trauma, whether your own, or as a loved one, caregiver or health professional this is a place you may want to write your thoughts.
These tags will be incorporated into the final work.
The work that the thoughts on the tags become part of will be shown in a traditional art venue (gallery or museum, not blog. the purpose of this blog is to explain the project to people who may be interested in participating, not to be a participant itself.) So, I guess what I'm saying is your thoughts will be shared in a sheltered art environment but not thrown into the ether willy nilly. I'm sure there is a better way to say that but what can you do.

You send the tags back to me....

You send the tags back in the SASE -
(dump the ink pad, just the tags come back to me.)
I get to be very excited and grateful when I open the mailbox and see a bunch of large, kinda-yellow envelopes -

And your thoughts become part of and are incorporated into, the work.

What's it going to look like?

The cornerstone of the piece will be the narrative in the 56 bottles and the tags you are all busily filling out as we speak.

So the bottles and the tags take care of the narrative. Now I am trying to figure out if I want to include a wave. I have been endlessly knitting a multi-layered 'following sea' and so far I am far from certain about that whole crafty fandango.

During a show the tags will be incorporated into a space where gallery goers can label their own tags to be included with the communtiy of others.

It all comes together at some point - but not yet.

I realize this is difficult stuff and am immensely grateful to everyone taking part.

Please spread the invite along -

As always,
Thanks again,

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