stretcher I & II

over and over and over and over

This work is supported by the College Performing Arts Award at Pauli Murray College.

Among my first battles in isolation was having to stifle my urges to drink. Living completely alone and in the absence of alcohol in New Haven for the entirety of quarantine, I was forced to interact with my immense loneliness as a young gay man. I could not stop from making parallels of this current pandemic and the continued HIV/AIDS pandemic. As it was then and as it continues now, grief and loneliness drown the LGBTQ+ community. I found myself reading archival materials about the AIDS outbreak in the US and have gravitated towards critical queer theory regarding and confronting the government’s failing response to the AIDS Crisis and drawing parallels now to COVID-19. I was deeply consumed with the personal testimonials and diaries, among other archival material I could find online of the communities that saw such immense death. I was also trying to navigate the lack of testimonials of black and trans LGBTQ+, which is symptomatic of an androcratic and racist system, even manifesting within marginalized groups. I have since been enlightened by the glorious speeches of Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, and again by the poetry and writing of Pauli Murray, among countless others.

I became fascinated in the changing systems of communication between now and then, and the assumed empathy we have for each other through advancements in technology—as if technology guarantees communication or healthy relationships. Spending so much time on my own rendered me to my most basic self as I spent most of my time trying to handle failed communication and an inability to empathize. This also left me thinking about the presence of absence; the realization and the acknowledgement of emptiness and acceptance as a first step to addressing a problem. The burden and pain of time and my perceived conceptions of reality/time made empathizing one of the most challenging things to do. While knitting is a peaceful process, it also requires absolute patience, especially when you take on a project so large that a single row can take several hours. Most, if not all, my energy went to concentrating on the tapestry because it was a simple action that required limited use of already limited emotional energy.

The pervasiveness of death during isolation made me envision my own funeral service, and, as such, Stretcher is equally my take on the medical stretcher, the funeral shawl, and the coffin. I would hope, while certainly solemn (and not to occur for many more years to come), that my funeral service be a celebratory and beautiful service too. I would hope that following our subsequent burial, Stretcher as an organic material like myself, would give rise to new life. I hope to see Stretcher deteriorate and change over time.

I am also very aware of the Stretcher series as a prospect of paternalism; I am acutely aware of my position as a young man using a traditionally and predominantly feminine artform/craft to create a body of work and advance my artistic and academic agenda. I have been trying to find some ways of addressing this issue and have yet to come up with solutions that I deem fitting. This will be a point of discussion as I move forward with the work.

Over 500+ hours have been dedicated to the series thus far. 

learn more about the process ︎︎︎