On Hope and Dead Hydrangeas

The Vestal Virgin (Great Expectations) , 1996, beeswax & bridal bouquet

The Vestal Virgin (Great Expectations), 1996, beeswax & bridal bouquet

Almost two decades ago I created a piece for the inaugural exhibit for the Skirball Cultural Center, inspired in part by Charles Dickens’ Miss Havisham. At the reception, a couple asked me why I chose a theme that embodied such sadness to celebrate a happy event, and I responded "in longing there is hope." For me, the wax hands were always reaching, and therefore eternally open to the possibility of receiving love. 

Lately, on early morning runs during my first snowy winter in a long time, I've been noticing the delicate beauty of dead hydrangeas and other garden plants. Hydrangeas hold in their dried state the promise of what they may become again in spring, but with no guarantees. Seeing the latent possibilities is an act of hope. The opening of a cultural center was the culmination of an original act of hope. In the end, Miss Havisham repents for having chosen revenge over love, asks for forgiveness, and makes amends to Pip and Estella. This is also an act of hope, even though Pip and Estella (at least in the novel) never really have a happy ending together. 

As an artist, I live constantly in the longing / hope paradigm during the process of imagining and then creating work. Envisioning a piece is seeing the latent possibility of form and meaning in a world where the form does not yet exist. The act of making, sewing, photographing, or drawing may bring this image to fruition, but there is no guarantee that the reality will accurately reflect the original vision. Sometimes the real thing just doesn’t work, but sometimes it comes together beautifully.

Rebecca Solnit, in her book Hope in the Dark writes that “hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act.” In these times, to create is both an act of hope and an act of resistance within which we are able to see what we might become.