Rhetorical Galleries presented Jessica Palomo’s thought provoking exhibition “Drawing Near” in the containers at First Friday. This engaging and haunting installation invites the viewer to enter a sacred space of gaping honesty and raw human connection about our responses to indefinable emotions during times of loss, trauma, or death.
A recent MFA graduate at ASU and longtime teacher, Palomo is also no stranger to the pain of loss. The artist was on hand to share some insight into her work. She recalls being 22 when her mother was diagnosed with cancer, thus beginning the tedious and heart wrenching evolution of the war being raged by the disease. Her mother’s departure was a long process, and Palomo remembers the time spent with her just prior to her death, describing it as a time of beautiful interaction in spite of the terrible pain of impending loss.
Not one to suppress her feelings, Palomo sought healing through talking; but the response from her family was an inclination to remain silent on the issue. She shared that it was interesting to observe them display “…a blindness to the truth that [death] was also beautiful”.
A short time later, Palomo’s grandmother was also diagnosed with cancer. Unlike her mother’s journey, this one would be much shorter; as the artist puts it, “My Grandmother just said “Peace out!” and gave up.” This experience proved to be a trigger for her previous grief, an experience the artist shared she was somewhat surprised at. She noted that sometimes even when you think you have dealt with something, it comes up again unexpectedly, and explains the phenomena in simple terms, “Trauma knows no time”.
Palomo noted that through watching how others deal with grief, she realized that the process of her own emotional response was a truth that was present every day, and not something she wished to push away. Though some might be quick to categorize her work as a therapeutic endeavor, or attach a label to the process such as “cathartic”, Palomo strongly counters that notion and states that her objective is to open a dialogue about being authentic in our human transmission. “Making this work didn’t make me feel better, sometimes it made me feel worse!” the artist admitted with a laugh.
Providing space for such a raw emotional response inevitably has its price. Palomo describes having to physically and emotionally “step back at times” from the work because of the magnitude of facing such reverberations. This installation expresses the notion that loss and trauma are universal experiences shared by all on a daily basis; some might be subtle while others are profound. Thankfully, the artist’s willingness to submit to and share this process allow the viewer a personal channel to do so as well, even if only briefly.
Palomo’s beautiful and indelible work serves to attempt a description of the unutterable weight of grief. “Sometimes there are no words to describe these things or the connection we have through our experiences”, she shares. One can’t help but feel somehow decisively changed by the impact of this installation; whether conscious or intrinsic.