Portfolio > Theres a Time to Play in the Grass

Artist Statement
Artist Statement
flies, flowers, epoxy
11"x8"x0.5"
2016

There Is Always a Cry

Our failure is one of imagination, of empathy: we
have failed to hold this reality in mind.
—Susan Sontag


When the mother disappears, there is always a cry.

The sculptures I create stem from the survival of my grandparents. Their escape from the Nazis is an inherent part of me through genetic transmission, stories passed down, and childhood fantasies. I connect to their memories through grass. While a single blade is weak and unobtrusive, when dehydrated, preserved, and bonded together, grass becomes alive, beauty that also bears suffering.

They hid in the forest, finding survival in the grass.

By cutting the living grass and sucking out its moisture, I am aging it to its final stage. In coating it with resin I preserve the memory of a life; our oldest memories become clear when frozen in the ember of image.

To tell the story, even decades later, is to make the Nazis chase him again.

I began considering the impact of these memories at a very young age. Dreams of hiding in fear with them made it feel real to me. The desire to empathize, to wrestle with their pain, this is why I shape grass.

The showers were never clean.

The Showers Were Never Clean makes of my family’s terror an image. The shower made of grass is not a shower, was never a shower. The water made of wax is not water, was never water.

I should not exist.

These sculptures exist as artifacts, evidence of survival. While the grass serves as my backbone, scavaging roots and sticks connect me to the way landscape saved them. Immersing myself in collection gives me a chance for contemplation regarding my impossible existence. We are all the dust of love.


—Natalia Petkov