No Country For Old Women
Absa KKNK 2013
Photo credit: Robert Hamblin

click on image to enlarge

The work was made as a direct response to the murder of my aunt Angela Reardon, who was killed and then buried in her vegetable garden. The lack of importance her death held, both for her killers, who did not see the need to do more than remove the inconvenience of a body and the police who were too occupied with more important matters than the killing of an old woman, stressed the apparent insignificance with which the lives of old women are treated.

Candle smoke is an ephemeral drawing medium through which the images are caught on glass, which is then laminated to make individual panels. These are housed in traditional wooden arches like those found in churches as altarpieces or as stained glass windows. In this piece, the three arches stand in the centre of the church allowing the viewer to directly engage with the content on eye level. The work makes reference to the tradition of the stained glass windows, which often commemorated the martyrs of a faith. I reworked or reinterpreted that tradition through a series of images of women, reflecting on an aspect of the violence prevalent in our society. In one of the panels, Anene Booyens, who was recently gang raped and then disembowelled stands entwined in her own intestines. In another, Angela Reardon, holds the very spade used to bury her in her own garden. An old woman, holding a chicken, is shown surrounded by a rain of stones and refers to the ongoing stoning of witches that still occurs in parts of our country. The allusion to so called ‘therapeutic rape’ of lesbians is referred to in the battered torso of a woman that emerges from a dog skin. And in yet another panel, the pregnant body of a woman holds the potential of violence hidden with in her body.

No country for old women attempts, through the use of smoke as a medium, to bring a ghost like ephemeral quality into the tradition of the stained glass window (whose roll it was to educate the masses and remind them of their need for God). In my case the altarpiece serves to honour these women and also remind the viewer of the ongoing violence perpetrated against women and shows their vulnerability and fragility though the medium of smoke.