How would you cope your child’s suicide?

Now there is a big, in your face question you never want to even consider.

Ask any of my three kids about their mom and technology, they will tell you “she’s cursed” or “anything she touches, goes bad” or “she always screws it up”. This is one area that I will completely agree with them. (How’s this related to suicide? Just keep reading.) In fact, as I went to sit down to type this quick blog, my screen split in two and there are coding symbols on my screen with things that say, “chrome 68 update”, “event listeners”, “DOM” or “eager evaluation”. And things with color codes, font size numbers, padding. I have never even heard of PADDING in computer terms until recently. I just HOPE when I get this typed that it will publish, and my computer will continue to work.

This website thing is not new to me, but it is a struggle at times. I have found a wonderful lady helping me to rebranded and rebuild it all. I need to update and work on this site if I want people to see and sell my art. I slowly, but surely am adding new content, then I remove it, then add it again so that is not soo large it doesn’t fit the screen, and so on. Today I was stuck, absolutely stumped, and needed a brain break so I went to the office “thinking chair”.

The comfy chairs

My office has a 1950’s extra comfy, sink down to the bottom chair, and my vintage bookshelf, which holds all my art books, full sketchbooks, and multiple books on multiple subjects. Stuck in between all the books I spy a spiral notebook and pull it out. I have not seen it for years, it has words written in white script on a soft green cover saying: “take a chance”, “take your time”, and “relive a memory”.

This small, hard-covered notebook is the one that sat out at all my previous art exhibitions and served as a guest book where folks could leave comments. I did several exhibitions and entered many shows shortly after I graduated in 2004 from the University of South Dakota with my Fine Arts degree. (Yes, I got a late start, I did it backwards: had the career, the hubby, had the babies and THEN went to college.) But I finally found my calling by making art, exhibiting, and living my dream.

Enter life. Kids growing. Jobs change. Moves. Illnesses. Death. I waivered between being a mom, an artist, and finally back to “part-time jobs” here and there. Life won and my art sat quietly in its place waiting for me to give it a voice again.

So back to this notebook I spied on the shelf, I plop down in the office chair today and on the inside cover I had penned, “Guests, please share!”. This is where there are pages filled with people who had taken time from their lives to view my artwork and share what they saw in my pieces. That is where they left me testimony about my art, and today, they brought it all back and challenged me to reflect about my art, and their words have been in my head the rest of day. I know my sculptures have a powerful impact on people and reading the words on the pages, their testimonies, reminded me of faces I had seen passing through my solo exhibits with my figurative sculpture pieces.

Which Direction? | Dayle Sundberg | @2002

I read the words on one of the pages. I flash immediately to the moment. A man about 50 years old, he was tall, thin, and looked completely exhausted and lost. Before anyone looks at my pieces, I always ask them to please read my artist statement, to grasp what these random body parts lying around mean to me. This man, stood at the wall, staring at a white piece of paper with black ink, slowly reading and taking in every single word of my artist statement.

Then he dropped his head, shoulders sank, and he began weeping. He had not even looked up to see at my art yet; I was thinking “what on earth did I just do to this guy!?” I was worried, scared, concerned, and searching for a box of tissues. This was not the reaction I was expecting at all. I remember it like yesterday, it impacted me profoundly as the message in my art was validated. I will never forget that moment.

On the Edge | Dayle Sundberg | @2002

He regained his stance, I watched. He looked around slowly at my sculptures, randomly touching one or two, taking in the textures; all while his eyes were searching. Searching for the artist. He walked up to me, his strong hands took mine and he pulled me in for a bear hug that was like no other I have ever received. He then squares up with me, put his large hands on my shoulders and with tears in his eyes and a shaky voice trying to say the words a parent never wants to hear out of their mouth, he said to me: “NEVER, EVER stop doing what you are doing. You are making a difference. My 19-year-old son committed suicide last week” and then he broke off, unable to continue.  I was…speechless.

You see, my professors at USD challenged me to address a problem in my art. I addressed mental illness and what is it to “be normal?” and “Why try to act normal when nothing is normal?” I am far from normal and so are every one of you, especially after the past year or more.  So, from the frustration of technology today and to the lady who is helping me rebrand my website and talking about needing an actual testimony to add a “testimonies section” on my website, and here I am thinking I had nothing to put there….

I just happened to glance at that notebook a few minutes ago and thought, “I do have testimonies of how my art touches people” and I will add those testimonies on the website. I sure did not plan on writing a blog entry about this subject tonight. But I did, and I have realized in these last few paragraphs, as I am randomly writing what comes through my thoughts, my experience, and my hands, that I need to HONOR that father. Today more than ever, because too many people are acting “normal” and we are far, far from it. And too many parents are speaking his words.

You are not alone. Reach out. And if you have not heard from someone you usually hear from. Reach out.

Technology and testimonies. Wow, that was not where I planned on going with this blog entry. Now, please go read my Artist Statement below, and forgive me as I have yet to figure out how to make the “Sculpture” page on my website look all pretty and “normal“. That will get worked on next week and we will see how technology works for me then.

Have an un-normal week-end everyone.

(Please God, let my computer work after I close out these weird screens. And may you grace my hands with works I am to put forth.)

Artist Statement:  Dayle Sundberg

The song “I Hope You Dance” is an inspiring factor in my work. Working through my own bouts of depression, grief, trauma, and stressful events I found hope again through determination, hard work, friends and art. By talking and sharing with others my experiences of depression and grief, I have had many people approach me and express their feelings of despair and fear. Some asking where they can go for help to get better.  Through my experiences I have gained many close friends and an excellent support system. If I would have covered it all up and appeared normal through it all, would I be as strong as I am today? Would I be here today, would I have hope today? My art is my therapy and my way of expressing to others that they too can go through challenging events, and still have hope. 

The goal of my art is to create a dialog among the viewers and to encourage them to talk about their personal losses, their illnesses, anger, family issues and stressors.  Do you cover up your feelings to appear normal or do you face the feelings and uncover them? What is normal?  Do you cover up a subject to cover it or should you uncover it and reveal it to others?

The artists that inspire me are all sculptors, Auguste Rodin, Alexander Calder, Manuel Neri and George Segal.  Neri and Segal are the main influence for the plaster pieces in the exhibit, after seeing the expressive qualities Neri used with his life-size female figures by using texture and bright slashes of color. I was inspired to find my own voice by using the female form.  I create my works by using the same technique of body casting as Segal and the heavy texture of Neri, however, my colors come from burning each sculpture with fabric.  In each piece I burned, it became a ritual type of event, symbolic of releasing the hurt into the flames, a healing process of sorts.  If you are to touch the pieces, you will feel the harsh textures and beaten areas. Hidden through the flame-colored marks are soft, subtle areas that are sensuous, smooth and indicate hope and peace that is within us all.

What does it take to hope? Can you have hope without faith, humility, and wonder?  Can you reveal your hope?

I hope you dance.

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