A first glance at this image and I thought of how relationships can be a double-edged sword providing both security and confinement. I'm sure most of us can relate to the feeling of suffocation in an abstract or metaphorical sense. Some people, no matter how well-intentioned, simply suffocate the life out us. They somehow manage to rob us of that vital life-force needed to create, play, or express. As I looked closer at the king's face, I could see signs of devotion and desperation to hold onto someone he has strong feelings towards. But, first impressions don't always tell the whole story and curiosity forced me to find out the real intention of this piece of work...
The image shows Mr Goff, Guru of Grief, and is part of a series of photographs which represent mourning people who are gone. Tags associated with it include; chrysalis, cocoon, fairytale, and fallen leaves. With this in mind, the plastic wrap could be seen as a means to preserve someone, or a memory of someone, who has now died. The expression on his face is intense, and he's looking straight at the face of Mrs Fly. His arms and hands cradle her securely, and he's pulling her close into his body. In the background, we have the faint outline of a Christian-style cross on the wall. Whilst it represents faith and belief in a higher power, we're missing Jesus; I'd take that as a sign that there is no reason to sacrifice oneself nor be crucified. Is faith a necessity at a time of loss?
The second image, shown below, is the first in the series and shows the loss in its raw form. The way he holds her speaks of a desire to comfort and connect but in an emotional, non-sexual way. Losing hope, and lament were two of the tags. Mr Goff is looking upwards; is he looking to the heavens for relief as he cries out in sorrow and grief?
The third image was originally the second; words included were last words, whisper, and goodbye. Mr Goff's face is completely obscured, and the tags are necessary to help us understand what's going on. I wonder if his hidden face is a suggestion of those final moments being intensely private, and how we cannot possibly know what a person desires to say the most.
The fourth image shows Mr Goff alone; Darla comments on the image saying - When you are left with the duty to remember. I find the picture compelling despite feeling the sadness. The presence of the plastic is a curious one...I wonder if there could be a message of being aware of one's own mortality? Or maybe worrying about who might be next to need it? I certainly don't think its inclusion is insignificant. Mr Goff is no longer on his throne but sits on the floor, and the cross is missing from view. These may be important symbolic factors on a journey through loss; in the end, grief may leave us on the floor without hope.
Lamentation for Mrs Fly is a beautiful series, and I can't help but wonder about the choice of using fly as a symbol. Flies have a very short lifespan, does using it as a motif suggest that death and endings can happen too quickly? Interestingly, they have four stages of life, and we have four pictures, although I'm sure that's no more than a coincidence. I was surprised to learn flies have an important symbolic function in some cultures. Christian demonology has Beelzebub as a demonic fly, yet the Navajo have Big Fly, a helpful messenger deity. Modern Western totemism has them listed as symbols of survival and transformation. I have no desire to lean heavily into interpretation of this series of pictures. I came across them whilst processing the separation from a significant other, although thankfully it wasn't death which took him away. Sitting with these images and thinking about the emotional journey of loss certainly helped me to acknowledge the depth of my pain and reluctance to let go.
I have no advice on the so-called moving on and away from grief. I honestly feel that some losses are so great that we're never able to recover even a half of the self we used to be. If we're lucky, there will be others around who care enough to let us know we have a reason to continue forward. The feeling that life will never be the same again is an honest, if not brutally painful one. Ultimately, we will accept the physical loss and adjust our lives accordingly. We'll find ourselves alone with nothing but our memories, but it can take time to be able to sit with those memories. Circumstance will often dictate how we respond to loss; was it sudden and unexpected, or was it longed for after a period of illness, age, or pain? For some, it may be easy to remember with fondness whilst others will have to suffer through anger, guilt, and depression before being able to indulge in nostalgia or reminiscence. Letting go of someone, or the idea of someone is most certainly a process and not a one-off event. The departure itself is merely the signal it's time to let go. If love was present, it is inevitable that grieving for what is now gone will be a painful process, and we may indeed cling to denial and hope for their return.
All images are the work of Darla Teagarden and you can find her website here