Holding Space:

Reflecting on the decade of absence of three community members.
June 2024

      I was invited by Frank Lui to take photos of Make, aka Josiah Gabriel at the FPH NYE concert in Downtown Houston. I originally planned to miss the festival because I didn't want to pay to get into it. After documenting Make's set I stopped by Dre's booth to take a break from the crowd and be still for a moment. Alice walked up to the booth and began speaking with Dre. When she looked at me, her first words were, "You're beautiful." A few minutes later I captured photos of her conversation with Dre. Since I have always been terrible at remembering names, I had to wait until someone tagged her in one of the photos so that I could connect with her.

    Soon after, she and I were connected on Facebook. She, like myself at the time, would stay up very late. Many of our early conversations took place between 12am and 2am. When Jessie and Raquel were notified that they would be losing their home to a potential demolition, they converted it to an art experiment and experience. Like many other local artists, Alice made her way to the space, bringing with her Hannah Cooley. While Alice scrawled her poem on pillar within the main foyer, Hannah wrote on many of the walls within an adjacent room. After having a very awkward moment in a room which sent outdoors and led me to focus on the yarn sculpture that I had previously not attributed much attention. Within that moment I realized the error and immediately sought Alice to help create a sculpture to rectify the situation. She, still working on her transcription referred me to Hannah, who assisted in the very first sculpture.

    Two months later, while sitting at Avant Garden I had a conversation with an intoxicated friend of a friend. Not being a big fan of small talk, especially drunk small talk, I asked if he would be willing to share a story with me about anything, as long as it was his story and true. After he finished his story, it was discussed and I shared one of my own. I reflected upon the conversation for a few days and had an epiphany: If I have enough of these types of conversations I wouldn't feel so afraid of being more open about my own experiences. However, in the same stream of thought, I did realize that I would need a vehicle for these, and that is when I began reaching out to friends to have these exchanges, or one side of them, documented. Though I asked and posted about it many times, Alice was the only person to respond. However, she didn't originally want to, she wanted to assist me, but decided to ride the rail with me anyway.

    At one point Alice invited me to her family's home in Huntsville. I remember being really excited because it felt like an opportunity that was not extended to everyone. It was cool being in the woods with friends, cooking, exploring, swimming and sitting fireside. It was at the home in Huntsville that I met Frank and John. I remember seeing a copy of Ovid Metamorphoses and asking if I could borrow it, Alice said that I couldn't but that I could come to the woods and read it anytime I liked. Sadly, she would pass before I had another opportunity to visit the home. However, when I did, I stole the book.

    The night Alice passed, I was working on an installation in the East End within what should have been a condemned property, but was accessible due to the efforts of Michael Abramowitz and is ability to find landlords with condemnable properties. For days I would reflect on what I was doing, how it felt and if I felt her there with me that night. I wouldn't find out she passed until the following afternoon, when giving Candace a ride after spotting her walking on Leeland. I pulled over and sobbed, I dropped my partner off and drove with Candace back the house she shared with Jaz and Michael. A sculpture that I previously installed hung above us and I decided that I would add to it to honor Alice's memory, but it wasn't enough.
    While she was with us, I gifted her with a sticker of a digital artwork of her face. It was this artwork that I converted into a stencil which I then took upon myself paint in many of the places we frequented, the last of which was Notsuoh. Notsuoh was the last public location I put the stencil because I got caught and got shamed and threatened with a ban if I didn't remove it by the following afternoon. I was however invited to place a sculptural work within the home of Bao Pham and I utilized the stencil for that. When Patrick Renner was installing Funnel Tunnel on Montrose he and Art League Houston would host public painting parties where the public was able to contribute to his sculpture. I took the opportunity to incorporate Alice within the sculpture as she had previously visited the sculpture.

    When Carrie Marie Schneider had her exhibition at CAMH, she too had a public participation event, however, by this time Alice, Jeff and Brad had all transitioned, all within a period of 60 days. It was then that I made the diamond with the initials A-J-B. I sought opportunities to both address and cope with the loss. It was this that spurred my engagement of Maclean and Makerspace. I was familiar with their initiative and their very large warehouse space and thought I might make a sculpture large enough for people to enter. Unfortunately, Makerspace was forced to change spaces. However, Maclean did reach out to me, offering several large bags of yarn that would not be making the move. These supplies sustained me for 7 years.

    After their move and a little time after settling into the space, I revisited the idea and the space. Still receptive, Maclean made the space available to me. The sculpture was a canopy of yarn, lights, limbs and leaves, titled Framework. The sculpture, made with real limbs and leaves, would gradually fade, dry and fall with time. I wanted to convey that their presence and contributions within the framework of life, at least my own, were not for naught and that they would not go unrecognized.