Elegies on Brambles: Love, Grief, Art
For the last 12 years, I have driven all over the American Southwest photographing hundreds of Outsider art memorials constructed and lovingly maintained by families and friends of those who died on the road. When I began, the structures were rarely seen beyond the Southwest. In the years I have been documenting them the custom has spread to all parts of the United States appearing almost immediately at the scenes of violent deaths.
But the Southwestern structures most often incorporate the cross as an integral part of the memorial. Artists, including Georgia O'Keefe, have tied the symbol to the land as a spiritual signifier of the West, beyond it's religious connotation. The idea that the soul of the deceased can still be communicated with by standing on the location where it left the body is indicated by the food, drink and personal effects often left (and replaced as necessary) at the scene.
In the past I have come across families mourning at the sites, and others refurbishing them. Some years a site will have been repaired from the previous year, others fall into ruin and disappear.
I lost both my parents tragically at a young age and so I respectfully document these offerings of pain and loss. I feel some connection with the survivors who so beautifully and simply insist that the world not forget. The individual creativity shown in many of the monuments springs from the overwhelming desire to remember.