De/Termination: Self-Portrait Speaking Life Over Breast/Liver Cancer

Terra Cotta
22” H x 9” W x 9" D
About the Piece
De/Termination was born in a flurry of motion with me quickly chucking clay onto my sculpting stand. In these moments I imagine that “if I can just keep sculpting, I can keep death at arm’s length”. This piece is about me trying to stay alive, to create a fountain of life that rises above death. Seeing this sculpture my mom, Verna Robinson, commented: “All ends up in the bone yard, all ends up dry bones, what continues on after we are gone is what we have called forth.” She thought it looked as if the three large faces were speaking their legacies, and that the figures coming out of the mouths were the ideas that transcend death and live beyond the grave.

Three large faces represent different aspects of myself that help me fight cancer.

The first of the faces is a self-portrait with two puti angels tumbling from my lips that represent life, joy and all the dear sweetness that babies bring.

The second colossal head is a Hindu goddess with a dancing Indian woman issuing from her mouth. The Indian woman, her tongue sticking out like Kali’s, has a non-emotional quality like some of the women in my other works who are focused goddesses that rule their worlds.

The third large bust is a Tiki God of war; a horse bursts from his open jaw speaking to beauty, power, the raw energy of life, and is the male counterpart to the Indian woman.

Between the heads are three motifs: a curvilinear and symmetrical pattern speaks to order over chaos; a second area suggests life giving water; the third section images fire, vines, and floral elements that reference energy and life. It is not important that these things are realistically represented, as much as what they evoke: feelings of motion, life, wind, water.

Death is represented by six skeletons at the base of the sculpture.

This piece was challenging was to make. Even when it was two thirds of the way finished, it wasn’t jelling and I really had to keep working to get the piece to come together.