susan worsham

When I was 18 my brother took his own life on his first visit home after severing his spinal cord in a motorcycle accident. I had already lost my father to a heart attack at the age of thirteen, and finally in 2004 I lost my mother as well.

Shortly after my mother passed I came across a set of antique veterinary slides. They were some of the most interesting things that I had ever seen. They seemed to hold beauty and death at the same time. I framed 90 of them in a long wooden frame resembling the shape of the slide itself. It was the first piece of art that I made after my mother died.

I called the piece a watercolor because of the collection of pastel colors, but it was also a sort of poem when you got close and read the titles...Rabbit's Lung, Fowl's spleen, and even Human Umbilical Cord. I then went on to photograph my old childhood home as well as my oldest neighbor, Margaret Daniel. She is one of the last remaining threads from my childhood and was the last person to see my brother alive. She made Russell her homemade bread and he finished the whole loaf before he shot himself.

The story came full circle one day when Margaret brought out her own dissection kit and microscope slides. I had forgotten that she had been a biology teacher, and here she was holding the same sort of slides that I was so fascinated by. Margaret's microscope and slides have since become a metaphor for my own desire to look deeper into the landscape of my childhood. From the flora and fauna to the feelings, Margaret calls it "blood work."

I can remember one particular time when I visited Margaret. I looked out of her large picture window and saw what looked like a nest or hammock of small red berries draped between the winter trees. I asked Margaret what it was. She answered, "Why, that's bittersweet. Bittersweet on Bostwick Lane."