My dear border collie’s body had been cold less than 30 hours when a friend and I went to an art exhibit by faculty members of Virginia Wesleyan College. My friend, a specialist in digital photography manipulation, was one of these artists.
On display were photographic images etched into stainless steel; large glass animal figurines, both whimsical and dark; small houses made of a medium unknown to me but washed with color and adorned with strips of what appeared to be bamboo or wood; photographic mélanges narrative in nature; and more.
What really grabbed my attention were objects on three rectangular tables that ran down the center of the gallery. They held an array of various shaped pieces, arranged in groups or alone, all, made of clear glass. Several reminded me of bacteria I’ve seen under a high-powered microscope. Another suggested gray matter, but my favorite series looked like artfully arranged bottoms of hand-blown bottles spit out by the sea. All of these pieces contained what looked to be sand.
But it wasn’t. It was the ashes of the artist’s dead dog.
I learned this from my friend who read aloud the statement by glass artist, Charlotte Potter. I would have read it myself if I had not been caught up in the ethereal beauty of the objects that lay before me. Or if I had know that I would fall asleep later that night and wake the next morning thinking of this exhibit titled, “Cellular Reliquary,” wanting to write about it. Why didn’t I pull out my cell and snap a photo or two? Why did it take me so long to understand the glass shapes symbolized parts of a cell and a dog’s body?Maybe I should have been freaked out or feeling guilty that for the first time in my adult life I did not save my pet’s body or ashes and lay them somewhere special. When my Australian shepherd died three years or so ago, I kept her remains in a tin on top of the microwave because she loved food. I moved them when we renovated out kitchen, Now, I have no idea where they are. Because of that, I did not ask for the return of dear Gracie’s ashes, which would have required me to find a large dead fish on the beach on which to sprinkle them.
The artist’s dog weighed just over 84 pounds, which provides a good amount of ash and bone chips with which to work. With that in mind, the total weight of her exhibit equals the weight of her dog less the weight of the soul, a human one, which in 1907 was determined to be 21 grams or .74 ounces. Since then a number of scientists and physicians have debunked this, citing there were too many variables regarding the weight and quibbling about whether a soul is energy or mass or hocus-pocus.
I will not confuse you with all I’ve read about dark plasma, electron accelerators, how energy can become mass and subject to the laws of gravity, the science of Noetics, etc.
Just know that like any good art will do, this exhibit by Charlotte Potter send me searching for more information. Even though most of it has been contradictory, the possibility that a soul has weight comforts me, and the artist’s creative way of memorializing her dog continues to awe me.
And I hate to admit it, but I’ve taken to looking at my remaining two dogs and one cat as potential works of art.
Potter’s work and others’ will be on display in the Hofheimer Library at VWC until Oct. 5, 2013. If you would like to see her work online, go to http://www.charlottepotter.com/Artist.asp?ArtistID=29721&Akey=Y44GHA99.
Cooley & Rose update: The Goodreads.com giveaway has ended. Three copies of Cooley & Rose are on their way to readers in Connecticut, Florida and Colorado.
Nine books clubs that I know of have chosen to read Cooley & Rose. One of these is a couples reading club. That should be an interesting conversation.