The role of caregiver, predominately assumed by women, is the inspiration and basis for my artistic practice. While creating my newest works, I was thinking about my role as a female caregiver and what that means to me personally, but also what that might look like for the mothers of medically fragile children that happen to be so similar to myself. With this identity, I was absorbed in the daily labor both physical and emotional for these women.
I tend to collect objects over a measured and set amount of time, and I enjoy giving myself specific time restrictions for my practice. With the specifics of time and volume, my photographs for the One Day Project refers to a 24-hour period of collection from thirteen different mothers and their disabled children, that are located across the United States. The ceramic installation, 52 weeks, is a nod to the weeks of a year and this piece was created by my personal weekly collections as a memorial to the year gone by.
The subject matter of my work is the daily detritus or waste material that comes with the life of a medically fragile child. The female caregivers, mothers in most cases, fight for these supplies on numerous levels and use this material in hopes that it will be part of the puzzle to keep their child alive one more day. Without these mundane daily rituals, their children and mine would not survive. And with this subject, I’m left to think about the moment to moment that ends up being a tremendous weight in this type of caregiving.
The materials that I use are rooted in the daily care for children with multiple disabilities. By using photography as a material to transform what would be considered in most cases trash, I’m able to document a moment in time that is fleeting for the families involved. With the use of ceramic sculpture for the installation 52 Weeks, the forms offer a fragility and softness that the source plastics cannot achieve.
There is an elegance in this type of caregiving that most don’t see. There’s a light in its brokenness. After all, this is a parent and child relationship. The images of Light in Nurture reference the collection of source material in a unique way. My intent with these images is to add beauty to the perceived brokenness. Society and politics often view disability as a tragedy or a drain on resources. A life lived atypically is often related to strain and stress, but there is a calmness, strength, grace, and resilience that come from this community of women. For myself, I’ve had the same routine for eleven years with my daughter, so the daily practice of this core group of women is fiercely important to my artwork.
Best known for her contemporary photography and ceramic sculpture installations, Gray’s materials are chosen and rooted in the act of daily caregiving with a soft female aesthetic. Currently located in Dallas, Texas, Holly D. Gray will receive her MFA in May of 2019 from The University of Texas at Arlington.