Dig Where You Stand

sugar and mixed media installation, approx. 20 x 5 feet, 2009

Laying tracing paper over old family letters, I read them again and again searching for each letter of the alphabet to copy. Each page speaks to a different moment in time, and while the details are always unique, there are commonalities. My Grandmother’s sisters speak of Jesus often and all sign their letters, “Lovingly in Him.” I imagine many letters between sisters in 1946 were similar, familial details rendered through the filter of Christ. As I trace the letters, my primary concern is the individual letter; each ‘a’ for example, is rendered differently, and I attempt to trace the movements of the writer, mimicking their body with mine. Their creation of script is perhaps more individual than their construction of language. 


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Approximately 250 pounds of granulated sugar rains sporadically from programmed dispensers hung from the ceiling. The sugar is seductive in its soft sound as it dusts tracing paper and sparkly quality when it catches the light.

Written on the floor is an expansive alphabet of letters (a-z) and excerpts of text traced from family correspondence that are inscribed on layers of tracing paper. Copying these letters allowed me to mimic the writer’s body with my own, the way a child might when learning to write.

Falling sugar buries most of the alphabet on the floor over the course of the exhibition, creating more distance between viewers and the script. Hundreds of polished silver spoons surround the text on the floor and provide a means of unearthing the alphabet beneath. Yet when the sugar is agitated, it erases the carefully rendered letters. Memory is seductive and problematic; it can suddenly cause submergence in the past and yet offers only imperfect recollection when we try to return.

I was interested in sugar because of its function as a politically charged material connected to the colonial mission, and its presence in homes for sweetening domestic life. There is an inherent tension between the function of the material and its origin. Similarly, I found that home is often an unwitting arena for political dissemination in a deeply personal and intimate environment.

Video Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7YA6YIV9FM

A publication on this work can be found here: