What a gift! – to share sadness with a stranger. After we cried together, we were no longer strangers.
Surprisingly, one of the high points of our first Junket, was when Cristelle Blackford reticently, but bravely, shared some deep feelings of grief. Cristelle, always meets me with a smile and is one of those optimistic, excited to be here, kind of friends. But, on Sunday I knew something was wrong. She was unusually quiet. Sad even.
Not wanting to dampen the excitement we were all feeling on this sunny afternoon, Cristelle was quiet. She was concerned that Erin Mahollitz, the new mother of twins, would be especially upset by her tragic news.
A good friend from Berkeley died on February 25th. Suddenly and tragically. Pregnant with twins, 38 year old Susan O’Malley, died a week before she was due to deliver twins. Sadly, her babies died, too. See KQED’s “Celebrating the Life of Artist and Curator Susan O’Malley” (1976-2015).
“[Susan O’Malley] often created art — simple messages of text in multiple colors — designed to deliver what she called ‘pep talks’ to the community. In one project, ‘Advice from my 80-year-old Self,’ O’Malley asked people on Berkeley’s San Pablo Avenue what advice their 80-year-old selves would give them. “I think it’s easy to forget how wise we can be,” she said in explanation. The result was a series of posters like ‘You already know what you need,’ or ‘It’s not a dumb idea.'” (March 7, 2015 Bay Area News)
While researching for this article, Susan made me laugh and then made me cry. I wish I had known her.
“Hi, I’m Susan O’Malley” is her Website. It is a simple, eloquent site.
Susan O’Malley described herself: “In her socially-based art practice, Susan O’Malley uses simple and recognizable tools of engagement – offering Pep Talks, asking for advice from strangers, installing roomfuls of inspirational posters, distributing flyers in neighborhood mailboxes, conducting doodle competitions at high schools – in order to offer entry points into the understood, and sometimes humorous, interactions of everyday life. Interested in shifting these otherwise mundane exchanges into heightened experiences, O’Malley’s projects rely on the back-and-forth between herself and others in the creation of the artwork. Ultimately O’Malley’s projects aspire to inspire hope, optimism and a sense of interconnectedness in our lives.”
My Healing Garden is Green
Susan hosted an art exhibit, featuring the handwritten writings of her dying mother. “The notes she wrote to me comprised an exhibition at Romer Young Gallery in 2012.” Her mother had a rare degenerative disease. An artist herself, Susan’s mother wrote down the core of her teaching to her daughter. As her mother was declining, her scratchings became more and more illegible. “Trick your brain + smile.” “It is the little things in life that count.” “I love you Baby.” Here are the rest.
Mantras for the Urban Dweller
“I created a series of texts that are Mantras for the Urban Dweller. They are off-kilter, open-ended public service announcements; invitations to pause amidst the hustle of the city. The texts open the possibility of a flash of introspection in the hamster-wheel of life; and I’d like to think that the words can be repeated, chanted, spoken, howled, whispered or interpreted. In these works I’m suggesting my wish for how things could be: if we paid closer attention to our being, to our grieving, to the way the sun makes a spectacular reflection on the buildings at that certain time of the day. It has to begin somewhere, why not here?”
Button of Every Person
“I have made a button of every person I have met and remember. I have made over 500 unique buttons that were sold in vending machines for 25 cents each. To make a button, I had to remember both the first and the last name of the person. Who knows, you could have a button out there somewhere.”
Don’t you want to do this?