fig. 10: Old Woman, C, 1992
© Corinne Whitaker

fig. 11: Old Woman, A, 1992
© Corinne Whitaker

unfolding: a memoir


The old women in the family were the worst of all. I couldn't blame the men, those with the fat fannies and thick lips. All they wanted was to be flattered and spoiled, as they always had been. But the women with the old-bitch eyes - they knew. They knew what it was to be young and full of life, to want to carve your initials on the moon and drink from the handle of a star. To crave joy, and find obedience. To dream of Tibet and travel instead to the store with the unplucked chickens. Secure in their corseted minds, they never let the flame of joy singe the hems of their conforming. They were tough, and they were terrifying. They chanted their relentless dirge:

fig. 12: Anguish, 1996
© Corinne Whitaker

In the name of the censors and of the keepers
of the one and only
authorized litany,
bow down, lest you be seen
quiet down, lest you be heard
settle down, lest you ruffle the centuries
for where we stumbled you too shall fail.
where we bled you too shall suffer.
you will follow the straight and narrow.
you will walk the pious path.

fig.13: Mates, 1994
© Corinne Whitaker

But the rebel knew, as the artist knew, that a straight line is a coward.

fig. 14: Starfish Circus, 1994
© Corinne Whitaker

And so I grew up as a floating particle, a positive ion in a society that had long since lost its energy. Never look truth in the eye: "your grandfather went to the hills", they told me; "my grandfather is dead", I replied. (Horrible child!) Cancer did not exist if you did not name it; an aunt's cancer would be cured if you went to the cemetery and changed her name so that the angel of death could not find her. (She died the next week). Wash your hands when you leave the cemetery - death is catching. Stay away from artists: they are insane, and their insanity is catching.

fig. 15: Facing the Future, 1993
© Corinne Whitaker

fig. 16: Looking Back, 1992
© Corinne Whitaker


All text and images © Corinne Whitaker.