“And now, my beauties, something with poison in it, I think.
With poison in it, but attractive to the eye, and soothing to the smell.
Poppies. Poppies… Poppies will put them to sleep. Sle-ee-p. Now they'll sle-ee-p.”
–Wicked Witch of the West, The Wizard of Oz
Yesterday in my studio, while Wayne and I were testing out how to hang my first of two poppy walls, I received a tweet about the conviction of Insys executives on charges of racketeering and bribery. The timing of the completion of my first wall and the conclusion of their trials is uncanny. Not that I need reinforcement for what I am doing with my project, but it does energize me and gives hope for change.
My wall of remembrance poppies is a memorial for all those lost tragically to an opioid related death in the prime of their lives. It is a 2-sided, 12 foot wall consisting of plush black velvet blanketed with poppies made from clothes donated by all who I came in contact with and spent time talking to about this project and the opioid epidemic. The resulting array of patterns, colors, styles and materials represents all people no matter their age, gender, relation, ethnicity, etc. The poppy centers are empty and stitched open with bright red to represent individuals. The void in the center reveals the black velvet that is funerary, adding gravity and personifying the loss.
According to National Institute on Drug Abuse, every day more than 130 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids and it is estimated that there are approximately 720,000 deaths to date related to opioid related substances.
It is striking to me that this monument is a moment in time, especially since it requires so much of my time and labor to create. The sad truth is that when I finish this project, or even while writing this post, these numbers become obsolete. The crisis is ongoing, and the casualties are mounting. My hope is that the growing awareness about these immoral sales tactics by pharmaceutical companies will initiate legislative efforts to regulate the marketing practices of this industry.
My project is yet to be titled. This work is in response to the personal story of the family I’m working with, a single mother who lost her son to a fentanyl related overdose. In her grief she keeps a journal of poetry that she shares with me. Her expressions are honest and real… I will use her words as inspiration.