LeeAnn Mitchell

all fall down…

1997

Mixed media

Losing someone to HIV/AIDS related complications involves retro grief.

I was actually relieved when my cousin Mitch died because he had become both blind and deaf during the last few months of his life. He was able to communicate with my Aunt Nancy and Uncle Gene through a system of hand taps and signals. Finally on June 15, 1995, four days after his thirty second birthday my cousin let go.

Two years in the making, “all fall down…" is my way of finally saying good-bye. I tried to realize this piece outdoors for the University of Tennessee Sculpture Tour but the program was canceled. No one else wanted to deal with the hassles of a multi-part exterior installation, so Robert Lowery was good enough to let me invade his space and get this installation out of my head and into the three-dimensional world.

The title, "all fall down…" is taken from the nursery rhyme ‘Ring Around the Rosies', which is actually a children's game chant about the plague. The sounds you hear today are the work of Eric Peacock of Olympia, Washington. My only request was that he use the nursery rhyme in some aspect of the work. We have communicated through the wonders of e-mail, voice mail and the U.S. mail and have aesthetically trusted each other.

During the long drive from Memphis, Tennessee to Hobart, Oklahoma and then seeing my cousin in his coffin looking like he was sixty-five at thirty-two was hard enough, but what was far worse was what I heard on the radio on the way back from Mitch's funeral. Senator Jesse Helms (R. North Carolina) was on the radio blurting out that people with AIDS have their own "deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct" to blame for their disease. I have never been kicked so hard when I was down, so, for the past two and a half years I have been trying to come to grips with that anger. Mitch was one of the warmest, funniest, happiest people I have ever known and he did not have "deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct", so the Senator from North Carolina can respectfully kiss my ass.

There, I feel a little better. Mitch we miss you, hope this was wild enough.

Love, LeeAnn

P.S. the goat is all of us

Goat at Penland