This collection of photos and poetry are dedicated to my mother, whom I lost May 10, 2014 to a long and arduous battle against ovarian cancer.
My mother was diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer at City of Hope in Los Angeles after being treated with what we thought were ovarian cysts. She woke up from surgery with a colostomy bag, tangled in tubes of fluid, and the hopeful stares of her family. I saw a small fraction of her die when she woke up to hear that she was going to be bound to wearing a bag on her stomach, and treated with intensive chemotherapy in order to survive. She struggled with her body image since her initial diagnosis, but never let the fear of dying keep her from fighting for her life. I can honestly say that I never saw a moment where she gave into the disease. Her tremendous will to live made it easy for both myself, and my family to forget what she was up against.
Throughout her illness I created so much. Towards the end, she slept a lot because of the insane amount of medication she had to take to feel somewhat comfortable. I spent most of my time tending to her, sleeping with her and making art inspired by her. The only medium I didn't use was photography. My mother absolutely did not want to be photographed. I am immensely grateful for the few photos I have of her on good days. Being a photographer, I repurposed my vision into mixed forms of expression. Witnessing her unwavering will to live redefined my life's purpose. I can't say I've reached peace or acceptance, but I can say that I will forever live in her image.
This collection is an ongoing project that will more than likely never reach completion. Creating is how I feel closer to her, and I hope that others who have been affected by a life-threatening disease can also heal through my work, or inspire others to do the same. So far, everything I have finished was made in the darkroom. Thank you for viewing.
Siempre Contigo Mama.
Exquisite, splendor, pulchritude of desire detonate, ignite this heart wrenching fire warm blankets, entwined lines, and fatal fucking signs resign, decline, I’m taking back whats mine disease, plague, cancer fuck off pretender surrender your contender she’s mine you can’t have her her love is the fortitude of my being the mountains, the moon, the spring in bloom maps to mercury, mailboxes on mars a highway on her gut, a road of scars mask wearing mouse, marigold scented muffins folk story, idealized imaginary and fiction the tulips- her lips, flushed and blushing visions, marvels, treasures and yearnings splashing, treading, immersing in water floating, steeping, howling with your daughter the stars are coming out to play frisk and frolic, forever with me you’ll stay tragedy, catastrophe, misfortune no longer forceful, indomitable, tenacious your stronger lasso, capture, and clutch the constellation ‘hello mother? are you back from vacation?’ this is merely a recess, a leave of absence a furlough to boundlessness the grapples almost over I promise
Moonshine eyes from a long slumber. So damn lyrical.
Backpack strapped and snapped, senses precise, intuition still intact.
Respect for untamed inconvenient adventures. Like roads on a map adventure.
Windows down, sound blaring adventure.
There you go, appearing in my dreams again
knocking at my door with flowers
smiling straight at me,
Dutifully dripping in simplicity. Complacent.
But unpresuming, gentle and unpretentious.
I miss that. Hey, I miss you
and the way you would scatter the clouds acres of sand with so many stars to count.
Some sky scrapping freedom you’ve acquired, if i might say so myself.
Ma, I’m okay.
Like mimosas at brunch, OKAY.
Like home-made tie dye socks, OKAY.
Cause all that matters is that I knew you. Finish your sentences, know you. Blood type A positive, know you.
Poached eggs sewing threads like pulling needles through my head,
it hurts to remember cause I knew you, the true view.
Manually adjusted exposure, a light too bright too see.
I'm spent, tired.
Three week loaf of bread, expired.
Ma, I gotta lay these river rocks down I’ve been carrying them for miles.
Knots, cramps, spasms, miles.
I’m ready to be okay, and even if i fall off stage,
hit the floor, and bleed a tower of tears…
ah sweet music my mania
is no longer suggestive.
Dreams of my mother dancing barefoot on melting ice. She falls through the cracks, the water too shallow to drown her. Life spilling into her toes, symmetry in her organs, with every breath she exhales zest. Grapefruits lining up for liquidation, a subtle sacrifice for forbidden fruit. Her long tangled hair not yet ready to be broken, whooping at the flavor of the air. There’s a break in the clouds and the sun is shining on her face, the patterns of orbits in the universe adamant for her eminence. She dies in fractions. Her flesh too human to persevere. Her purpose too perpetual for earth. She choreographs my words to the rhythm of her lips, and my actions follow closely.
I was born on a sweltering day in a desert city. A silent landscape, unintelligible, like the sky holding its breath. I am the fruit of young love, found under the shade of a palm tree. My father melted into my mother, and rain drug the clouds across the horizon. If my mother was a mountain, my father was a mountaineer, galvanized by earths rotation. But soon they snapped like elastic on a baby, the marks of untimely decisions. For the first few years of my life, Spanish was my cardinal language. “Siempre Contigo” My great-grandmother would press my hand into her chest as if it were saving her life. My mother knew no Spanish, so she spoke to me in gazes and smiles. Her eyes were as boundless as the depths of the ocean, a lighthouse for those lost at sea. Like a needle trailing the grooves of a spinning record, I’ve adhered to the inclinations of my mother.
Doctors squint at the sight of her setting, an egoless eyeful barefooted and nude. Sometimes resting her eyes on yours, the small immensities of her bleak stares dutifully discarding your puny prognosis. Like charred logs embossing the soil, eyelids flickering from the suddenness of fire. They seemed so useless, dud batteries not turning the lights on, but rather putting them into eternal rest. My shoulders were screaming like the mind of boiled tea, why the fuck cant they fix her? …is it so much to ask? It irks my bones to reason with fate, the scraps of my thoughts a meager meal of reason. Little avalanches cornering a tree, flashes of sun releasing my box of birds.