Alchimie de la Douleur


Titled after the poem by Baudelaire, these paintings were created by mixing my blood with concentrated industrial contaminants found within my body. To begin this series I had my hair, teeth and blood analyzed for levels of anthropogenic chemicals. My body, along with everyone else alive today, contain numerous pollutants ranging from radio-nuclides, xeno-estrogens, heavy metals and the list goes on and on.  The brushstrokes were modeled after my fingerprints and painted on amassed layers of ephemera from daily-life. The resulting works are my attempt at post-industrial biological self-portraits.

Alchimie de la douleur

L’un t’éclaire avec son ardeur,
L’autre en toi met son deuil, Nature!
Ce qui dit à l’un: Sépulture!
Dit à l’autre: Vie et splendeur!
Hermès inconnu qui m’assistes
Et qui toujours m’intimidas,
Tu me rends l’égal de Midas,
Le plus triste des alchimistes;
Par toi je change l’or en fer
Et le paradis en enfer;
Dans le suaire des nuages
Je découvre un cadavre cher,
Et sur les célestes rivages
Je bâtis de grands sarcophages.

-Charles Baudelaire,

                     Les Fleurs du mal (1857)


Alchemy of Grief

One puts all nature into mourning,
One lights her like a flaring sun —
What whispers “Burial” to the one
Cries to the other, “Life and Morning.”
The unknown Hermes who assists
The role of Midas to reverse,
And makes me by a subtle curse
The saddest of all alchemists —
By him, my paradise to hell,
And gold to slag, is changed too well.
The clouds are winding-sheets, and I,
Bidding some dear-loved corpse farewell,
Along the shore-line of the sky,
Erect my vast sarcophagi.

         -Translation by Roy Campbel      

                   Poems of Baudelaire (1952)