Songs From My Mother's Sky

Fort Wayne Museum of Art
Fort Wayne, IN
January 2007

This piece emerged as a part of an ongoing series of gestures in memory of my mother, Florence McCoy.  Following her passing in 2003, I began constructing physical spaces that sought to simultaneously reflect something of her spirit, and to function as a prayer. Within each of the ’prayers’, the presence of birds has been central.  "Song’s" consists of a small post and beam structure filled with immaculately crafted birdhouses that stand in for living birds.  Each birdhouse was hand made from recovered Maple and Oak:  each fitted together with the care given to fine furniture.  Sounds of birds recorded from the landscape in which my children were conceived and born, were mixed with the sounds of Mockingbirds from my mother’s home...   this ’mix’ emerges from within the birdhouses.

For my mother, and for myself, birds are evocative of a kind of freedom that is chosen and actively pursued. Birds are music.   Flight.

Materials include: cream colored translucent fabric, structure (5’ X 8’ X 7’ high) composed of poplar and basswood beams, sixty pounds of roasted coffee beans on the floor.   Not pictured are the sounds of the Pacific Ocean woven into the murmur of morning traffic in Los Angeles, Ca., a train pulling into the station, and a distant helicopter serving as a backdrop to the night songs of a mockingbird among a chorus.

A Promise in Blue and Green

Allen Memorial Museum
in conjunction with the Trace Elements Exhibition
Oberlin, OH
October 2005

for my mother

This piece was composed as a gift/prayer of celebration in memory of my mother.  It is intended as a quiet space of rest, play, and moving forward.  The structure is modeled after the tree-house built for my children in our backyard.  "A Promise" is built upon recovered oak posts, and constructed from laminated poplar boards pinned with steel fixtures designed for the project.  The entire structure measures 11X14 feet and stands 16 feet high.  Additional materials include: gathered oak leaves, several constructed birdhouses, a small golden bird hanging from braided cord above a nest containing locks of my son's and my own hair standing before a blue wall, beeswax, lapise, incense, pillows set upon a floor of poplar boards. Not pictured is the scent of the wax, incense, and wood along with the sounds of the Pacific ocean, ice clinking in a glass, birds, frogs, and my children laughing softly…

Station to Station

Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art
Cleveland, OH
in conjunction with Material Witness Exhibition
January 2004

In Memory and Celebration of Ms. Florence Wilma McCoy
"aint no quit in her"

This project was composed and built on location for Cleveland MOCA in conjunction with the Material Witness Exhibition. The histories embedded within the Northern Ohio landscape have been topics within my work consistently over the years that I've lived in this region. With this piece, as with others before, I am imagining that elements standing within the contemporary landscape contain the memory of past events. "Stations" is composed of an invented straw barn that stands witness to the unspoken interior experience of a spirit in flight upon the Underground Railroad.

Materials include: eighty bales of local straw stacked and pinned to construct walls framed by post and beam structure (old oak beams recovered from barns in the area surrounding Oberlin, Ohio) and capped with recovered rusted tin.  The interior of the structure is quite dim w/ the only source of light emitted through a stretched muslin ceiling-the floor is composed of wooden planks framing a closed trap door.  Additional materials include a birdhouse standing upon a post,  cradling my great uncle’s gold watch nested inside:  time set to one minute before midnight ("the first moment of the new day").

Not pictured: the smell of dry leaves and fresh straw, the sound of birds, water, an unseen human presence: a slow heartbeat, breath, footsteps in water-hounds on the chase, silence, an approaching helicopter…

"Stations" is composed as both an homage to, and prayer for my mother.  Throughout my life, she demonstrated a depth of spirit and vision and resilience and unimaginable strength.  She is a guiding light.