© Grace Weston, Swimmer
Breathing, Dying, Swimming, Flying
My established artwork is still photography of staged miniature narrative vignettes that I construct and light in my studio. As a departure, while still employing photography of miniature scenes, I created an immersive life-size installation, addressing the drowning death of my brother and my learning to swim late in life. It is about loss, release, and liberation.
© Grace Weston, Tommy and Me
When I was four, my eight-year-old brother drowned in a nearby pond a week after we had moved from the city to the country. I have very strong and warm memories of him. He was my first best friend, and protector. The tragedy had a devastating effect on my family and our future. Out of my parents’ concern and fear, swimming pools and any bodies of water were off limits for me. I grew up not knowing how to swim. But as a child, I would fantasize about life as a mermaid.
Fast-forwarding to several years ago, I discovered adult swim classes at a pool where I had started taking aqua aerobics. I had subconsciously assumed every adult but me knew how to swim, but there I saw many taking a beginning class. I signed up, practicing regularly to improve. I now swim a mile and a half each session and it fills me with life. Water brings me joy, not fear. I belong there.
© Grace Weston, Entry Corner
© Grace Watson, Pond UpView
© Grace Weston, Peek Through Curtain
There are two chambers in this installation, one is the Pond, the other is the Pool. The vellum pages in the Pond room are taken from the newspaper article reporting the incident as well as a faded unsent letter found in a box after my mother passed. It was wrenching to read her thirteen grief-filled pages accounting the details of the tragic day, and the numerous things that went awry that set the stage for my brother’s death.
Passing through fabric streamers from the Pond chamber into the Pool, wafting chiffon banners of swimmers hang in the space, recorded sounds of bubbling and splashing water play, and moving theater lighting emulates the surface of the water on the ceiling. It captures the joy and serenity of my swimming experience.
© Grace Weston, Pool From Below
© Grace Weston, Pool From Back Movement
Swimming is very meditative. It’s quiet, rhythmic, and a perfect atmosphere for the mind to muse. It makes sense that I often think of my brother. What was his experience of drowning that day? What would it have been like to grow up together? What would he be like as an adult? I miss what could have been.