Sonya Jones is the RMG’s assistant Curator and Curator of the Thomas Bouckley Collection. In this post she shares a reflection from artist Kate Wilhelm.
Revealing Spaces, is a current exhibition featuring three emerging Durham Region artists, Kate Wilhelm, Shaun Downey and Andrea Carvalho. One of the woman depicted in Kate Wilhelm’s photographs of derby girls sadly passed away just this past April.
Here’s the artist’s reflection about Kiss My Ashlinn:
Kiss My Ashlinn
July 2, 1957 – April 5, 2012
She was in treatment when we first connected by email. We had to keep rescheduling visits because my family was a walking petrie dish all winter and her immune system was in no shape to protect her. If it wasn’t me suffering pinkeye, it was my six-year-old’s scratchy cough and runny nose or my baby’s diarrhea. When I finally managed to squeeze a visit in between illnesses, she told me her lung cancer was incurable. She also said she would skate again. “I just need to get off this damn oxygen, and then I will.” The way she said it, I believed her.
I photographed her and Thom just before Christmas. I was about to reschedule because I was still coughing, but she encouraged me to just wear a mask. She couldn’t keep her eyes off my baby, and she wrote me about a month later to tell me how much she enjoyed having him in her home. She had one granddaughter, whom she adored, and she couldn’t wait for more.
I did see her once more, before she died, at a party. I hadn’t been expecting her or I’d have brought the copy of Spontaneous Healing I’d been meaning to give her for months. The book sat on the floor by my front door for ages so I wouldn’t forget. Around the end of March, I dreamed about her. I can’t remember now what happened in the dream, but I know I didn’t want to tell her the details. I think I dreamed she died before I gave her the book and I felt awful. I woke up determined to give it to her that week and thinking of another woman’s miraculous recovery from cancer. I tried to make a time to drop the book off, but she never replied. I found the silence ominous, and sure enough, 5 days later she had passed.
I only put the book back on my bookshelf a couple of weeks ago. As I type this, the mask I wore when I photographed her hangs on the window right next to me. I don’t know why I’m keeping it.
Revealing Spaces is on at the RMG until August 26.