The Image: Susan Worsham, "FROGS BLOOD AND SPINAL CORD"

© Susan Worsham, FROGS BLOOD AND SPINAL CORD, 2012

Susan Worsham: When I was 18 my brother took his own life on his first visit home after severing his spinal cord in a motorcycle accident. I had already lost my father to a heart attack when I was in the third grade, and finally in 2004 I lost my mother as well.

Shortly after my mother passed I came across a set of antique veterinary slides. They were some of the most interesting things that I had ever seen. They seemed to hold beauty and death at the same time. I framed 90 of them in a long wooden frame resembling the shape of the slide itself. It was the first piece of art that I made after my mother died.

I called the piece a watercolor because of the collection of pastel colors, but it was also a sort of poem when you got close and read the titles...Rabbit's Lung, Fowl's spleen, and even Human Umbilical Cord. I began to collect the slides with the intention to photograph as well as frame them. I then went on to photograph my old childhood home as well as my oldest neighbor, Margaret Daniel. She was the last person to see my brother alive, and has become a large part of my work.

The story came full circle last year when Margaret brought out her dissection kit and microscope slides to show me. I had forgotten that she had been a biology teacher, and here she was holding the same sort of slides that I was so fascinated by. Margaret's microscope and slides have since become a metaphor for my own desire to look deeper into the landscape of my childhood. From the flora and fauna to the feelings, Margaret calls it "blood work."