Remembering Lin


We met in a workshop I taught about ten years ago on placement of memory. After that it was private time here in my studio to work on the things she needed to express through her hands and materials. So many things arrived with Lin, rusty bits, antique dolls, foundry molds, papers, leathers, bibles, paints and pens and tools.

Every bit of space in my studio that could be, was cleared to accommodate Lin and her friend, Shay, who came to explore her own ideas visually or in writings. They were heady times starting as soon as breakfast was over and going often into the night with only brief breaks for lunch and dinner. We would stop at four or five in the afternoon and I would bring out my legal pad to see how closely they were adhering to their plans for the time here or were they getting sidetracked, seduced by materials, losing interest. We drank wine and ate medjul dates stuffed with walnut halves and talk about the importance of what we were doing.

For Lin the work was either about war or putting stories from the Old Testament into sculptural forms using dolls and found objects. Often we would have to travel to antique shops to find just the right doll from the period of her childhood and before. Mostly we came home with even more rusty things that in Lin’s hands became the perfect addition and necessary part of her visual stories so easily recalled from her childhood.

When not working on these pieces that were carefully rendered and resourced with the passages often written on their bodies, Lin worked on statements about war.

Lin worried about how the work would be interpreted if shown in a South that had strong views on religion and patriotism. As far as I know it has never been shown….only the artist books or works that could easily be sidled next to other people’s artwork.

I photographed the work before it left the studio. Most were hard to get a good image of but at least she had a picture of how they were to be put together if ever there was an exhibition. I gave her a cd of the images I took so she could have them for reference later.

The only “later” we had was about six weeks ago. More work on war. And like all the other work I helped her pack it into boxes to put into the car and take home. And there it would join the rest unopened and unseen.

Work does not need to be exhibited. It is the doing that matters. Lin’s last words to me were that here in my studio, doing her work, is where she felt most alive. It was the same for me having her here, lending a hand, a tool or just the right piece that she did not happen to have in her vast stash of materials. There is nothing like seeing something that matters come together guided by your own hands. Then stepping back and saying, “That’s it!”

Over the years there have been absolutely countless pieces completed by her hands here in the studio. Even recently with the cancer treatments taking her sense of touch, Lin still managed to make her work and tell her stories. Many of those stories were about God always being at the table while she and her brothers grew up in a religious household.

I would really like to think she is now in his household making something from whatever caught her eye on the way there.

I bought some medjul dates and walnuts the other day. Later I will have an Australian red and some of those in a quiet time in the studio, the studio where she will be lingering for some time to come.