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death to life - on the edge of the whittling

linen stretched over frame, red thread, carved and burnt jelutong

5 ft x 5 ft


my dad, who is a philosopher at heart, gave me the idea to wander, "if this tragedy wouldn't happen, you wouldn't be here either." and so as i ponder on it i cannot but think of the cycle of life and death, of how without one there would be no other. just like in the forest, fires give way for new saplings to see the daylight, so do we, humans, are bound to the same laws of nature and universe, the unbroken dance of dying and rebirthing. and what binds it all is the infinite energy of regeneration.

in march 2021 i went on a medicine journey with the guide, and i faced deep ancestral traumas. one, that pertains to my paternal line, is where my woodworking path comes from. my grandfather lost his first wife, daughter and son in 1943 when natzis burned the whole village, 56 people total, mostly elders, women and children, while men were in hiding (they thought natzis were looking only for men). 

besides the transformation of that heavy trauma through grief that i've experienced, i felt there is more to do, and specifically with an art form. while meditating one evening i saw how the project unfolds. i would make 56 small wood whittlings each with a hole in it. i will save the wood chips to then create a fire from them and place all 56 pieces in it to burn it slightly to various degrees in the process of an intimate ritual. then i will take them all out and place them into the center creating a circle and while using red thread i'll stitch each piece onto the linen canvas (linen is the staple of belarusian textiles). at the same time i will embroider the red circle (red meaning life) that will be enclosing the wooden pieces and radiating from it belarusian symbols that represent different things like "life" and "family" and "child" and "human being." the wooden carvings will represent each of 56 people perished in that tragedy. placed in the circle with the symbolic embroidery around it meaning rebirth and transformation and reverence for life and family.

by Mark Serr Photography  

by Mark Serr Photography  

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