It is such a secret place, the land of tears. --Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
I last wept (tears of joy) at a wedding in New Orleans this spring. Those tears were preceded by tears of grief: over the death of my brother, of happiness: over the birth of my nephew, of exultation: on seeing the credits for a former student’s first major film, of frustration: over the sad state of America in this current administration, of relief: of being told I did not have lymphoma. We weep when emotions overwhelm us.
Tears of Joy and Sorrow is about the power of tears to move people. I began this project in recognition of the range of emotions that give rise to tears. It was remedial for me as it follows a project titled Tears of Despair: A Year of Terrorthat commemorates one year of the millions of tears shed for the thousands of innocents killed or maimed by hundreds of senseless terrorist attacks around the world. For every terrorist attack, I made a small painted panel of tears. After a year there are nearly 400 panels, creating a wall of tears. A year was all I could endure.
For this installation I returned to 3D art, but turned to a new medium, glass: the only material that could adequately convey the range of feelings in near identical shapes. It was both scary and exciting to explore a new technique, using borosilicate glass and a gas flame that exceeds 2000 degrees. Each tear is similarly shaped, yet unique. I spent hours upon hours fabricating the tears at Urban Glass in Brooklyn under the guidance of the gifted Amy Lemaire.
This installation represents my tears, everyone’s tears—each individual and personal. Like the smile or the laugh, tears are universal, an expression of deep, often unspeakable, overflowing emotions. Though merely tiny drops of water, tears can sway a multitude. Tears can be cathartic, depleting, thrilling or isolating. As R.L. Fishers writes, “It’s as though each one of our tears carries a microcosm of the collective human experience, like one drop of an ocean.” This thought encapsulated the 2017 installation at Century House Historical Society. For this installation, and for future ones, the work needs to be over water. The site was obvious from the moment I first came upon it: Tears dropping into water, returning to their calm source.
Above image: Tears of Joy and Sorrow (detail), 2017 (Installation forEOTECHNIC SENSORIUM at Century House, Rosendale, NY