K. M. Ehrenfeldt

Lost Dreams

Sokar Knows of Impossible Choices and the Cost of a Dream Image



Carrying a Life

12” x 19.423”

Archival pigment print.

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Statement for Carrying a Life

In Carrying a Life, Horus's solar disk is filled with three images of a duck: an egg, the duck in its full stength, and the same duck in its death. These overlayed within the solar disk speak to how we can hold with grace the memory and experience of a loved one's life and death, or perhaps, that the whole of existence and cycle of life is in the mind of the divine. Potential is evolving in all directions before, during, and after life — in a terrain signified and stabilized by life-giving qualities of the Ankh, divine radiance of the Sun, and rebirth in the tree of life. This image arose out of unexpected deaths, first a beloved teacher, and short time later the courtyard duck. I think he'd be amused by the association.

I worked with Sam Richardson throughout art school, and I carry his influence with me and regard it as the best kind of influence an artist can have. Sam was a mixed-media artist in love with idea and new perspective. He allowed himself to follow a concept, leading him into new territory again and again. He valued experimentation, excellence, craftsmanship, and presentation. I'd come to Sam with seeds of those similar values in my 20's. While our work is vastly different, my ranging into art and concept is armed with skills I learned from Sam, or rather, skills he helped bring out in me that were unique to my talents and potential. There was an egoless approach to his teaching, driven by a purpose of cultivating aspiring artists into their true potential. And what I learned when he died, after long years since interacting with him, was that a great teacher is woven into the fabric of the student's being as a formative presence supporting their creative essence. And, the movement of their passing rents at those fibers with sorrow and recognition of change, as life moves on differenty now that that person is beyond. A subtle shift of perspective within, the lead duck at the head of the V formation has shifted position, and the younger becomes the leading edge. And so it is with all great teachers and fortunate students, wave after wave. I appreciate Sam, he was a true teacher who could teach from the inside out, he taught me about art, and through his presence, about teaching.

And now the duck — all of the other dead birds I'd photographed for this body of work were unfamiliar to me, whereas this one I personally knew, as much as one can know a wild duck you see every day for a season. Coming upon her lifeless body was sad, for though wild, this mallard duck had adopted our courtyard, and many of us were quite fond of her. I'd taken pictures of her paddling around the stream and wondered whether she'd emerge one day with a dozen ducklings in tow. It was a sad discovery, I had to photograph her… I couldn't ignore the significance that this incident crossed my path just as I was finishing up this body of work about grief.

Meanwhile, as this piece was taking form, two phoebes mud daubed a nest under the eaves above our front window, and we watched the daily progress. Eggs to nestlings to fledglings, watchful parents ever present, and successfully, three more phoebes join the planet. Life as it occurs around the artist is echoed in the work… while the mind is pondering death, the eyes witness birth.

And, I think it would bring a smile to Sam, who was being remembered while I worked on this new image, who in some way was represented by the duck. He'd been a significant presence for so many in his life, a truly great teacher and family man who was always there, part of the environment. And this universal lesson of life and death emerges, that as we learn to experience the death of those close to us, we can learn to do so gracefully. And even so doing, grieving and beyond grief, we never forget, we live with the memory and emotion of their impact upon us forever. I appreciate how this piece adds to the story of the Lost Dreams work — that the duck is such a common creature it speaks to ordinary life, the value of each and every one upon our own experience, and the value of each ordinary life in the greater realm of existence.

Photography notes for bird: 2013, Old Mill courtyard, Mountain View, California

Photography notes for Horus: 2006, Canon Powershot, Abydos

Archetype and Symbols: Sokar, solar rays, djed pillar