Death in the Family
It started out when Juxtapoz magazine did a feature article about me a couple of years ago and wanted a nontraditional portrait. I had done a series of drawings of dead fawns, and so I wanted a photograph of myself with a dead deer. Ben Easter, the second half of the Belle Morte Collective, agreed to take it, and then ensued a series of adventures trying to get to a dead deer before the city cleared it off. They are very efficient. It took a friend in the country finding a deer that was a little less fresh than I had hoped (no one picks up dead deer in the country). Afterwards, we both thought the photograph turned out so well that we wanted to continue with other animals, and interestingly enough, when you decide on something like that, dead animals just start turning up. The hardest one was my beloved dog Beans who passed away last summer. That was really difficult, but it actually helped me deal with something heartbreaking. We are so removed from direct experiences of death anymore that I think we are really unprepared for it when it comes. And I'm not saying that being "prepared" makes the loss any easier to bear. I still cry about losing Beans more than a year later. Those holes where they used to be don't close. But the unease about death that comes when we never look head on at it is something that can be diminished, and there is something deeply human about caring directly for our dead loved ones. It helps us understand that what they were is gone and that what is left is simply that. The leftovers. It isn't frightening or disgusting. It simply is and must be addressed compassionately, pragmatically and tenderly.