In Ictu Oculi
(In the Blink of an Eye)
The title of this series is borrowed from a vanitas still life painted by the artist Juan De Valdés Leal in 1671. The vanitas in art (most notably in painting) employs the symbolism of the represented objects to remind the viewer that our time on earth is short, death can be sudden, and when the end comes, trivial and materials things will not matter.
In recent years the access to news stories detailing tragic happenings has become almost overwhelming. I find myself drawn to dramatic headlines promising to reveal the specifics of horrific events. Mother murders her three children. Cancer kills a bridegroom. She forgave her abuser and then he hurt her again. They watched their sister drown. While, I never know these people personally, their stories always leave a mark.
Although painful and frequently tear inducing, I have found the reading of tragic true-life stories work in a similar manner for me that a vanitas painting does. I am reminded that life is short, that I should appreciate the present, and to let go of the trivial.
The images in this series are my contemporary version of the vanitas. I use many of the same symbols as the originals, but instead of making a general reminder to all that death is inevitable, I base each arrangement on a story I have recently read that had an emotional impact and reminded me personally that my time is short and nothing is guaranteed. These images are not a visual representation of the literal story upon which they are based. Those are not my stories to tell. These images are an expression of how reading each unique and important tale made me feel. They are, for me, an act of empathy.