Wednesday, November 9, 2011

This Bird Has Flown: a new mixed media assemblage

Kym Hepworth / red thread

Kym Hepworth / red beads

Over the summer, I bought a doily at an antiques store. When I looked at the shape of the doily - two circles joined at the middle - I immediately thought that I'd use it in a piece about lovers. With that in mind, I began embellishing the doily with red beads. 


Kym Hepworth / work in progress: doilies embellished with seed beads

Kym Hepworth / work in progress: beaded doilies


The piece remained generally about lovers until I looked at a Victorian brooch that I own and it provided me with a more specific inspiration about marriage. At first, I considered using found images of any anonymous man and woman and placing them in the center of the doilies. However, I decided that it was important to use portraits of an actual couple, and I ended up using the images from the brooch itself.

Kym Hepworth / Victorian brooch

The Unquiet Grave

The wind doth blow today, my love,
And a few small drops of rain;
 I never had but one true-love,
In cold grave she was lain.

"I'll do as much for my true-love
As any young man may;
I'll sit and mourn all at her grave
For a twelvemonth and a day."

The twelvemonth and a day being up,
The dead began to speak:
"Oh who sits weeping on my grave,
And will not let me sleep?"

"T is I, my love, sits on your grave,
And will not let you sleep;
For I crave one kiss of your clay-cold lips,
And that is all I seek."

"You crave one kiss of my clay-cold lips,
But my breath smells earthy strong;
If you have one kiss of my clay-cold lips,
Your time will not be long.

"T is down in yonder garden green,
Love, where we used to walk,
The finest flower that e'ver was seen
Is withered to a stalk.

"The stalk is withered dry, my love,
So will our hearts decay;
So make yourself content, my love,
Till God calls you away."
- popular ballad collected by Francis James Child
 (source for ballad: The Norton Anthology of Poetry, third edition, edited by Alexander W. Allison, et al., published by W. W. Norton & Company, New York, © 1983)  
 

As I worked on the piece, my idea for it changed again and turned darker. The love birds on top of the brooch suggested mourning doves and then mourning. The lovers joined in marriage changed to lovers bound to each other beyond death. A narrative developed that the wife had died first and the husband was left in mourning for her. In order to convey or suggest this story, I covered the image of the woman with black netting, placed a feather between the couple, and positioned a bird - ready to take flight - directly over the image of the woman. I picked out a wooden rope trim for the frame and echoed it with green braided trim along the inside border. This small detail suggests - in a very abstract way - being joined together or union. The dominant color of the piece is dark, charcoal gray and, of course, refers to mourning. 

Kym Hepworth / This Bird Has Flown / 2011 / mixed media / 9 3/4 x 12 1/2 x 3 in.
© 2011 - Kym Hepworth. All Rights Reserved. 
Available at inthecrystalpalace 

Kym Hepworth / This Bird Has Flown / 2011 / mixed media / 9 3/4 x 12 1/2 x 3 in.



Kym Hepworth / This Bird Has Flown, detail 


That's what the work is about for me - for someone else, it could be about separation or divorce or simply an odd thing with a bird stuck on top for no particular reason at all. 

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