LittleLady / Little Man is an exhibition reflecting on the deaths of a husband and wife through the use of lullaby, vintage photographs and life-size deathbed portraiture. The exhibition acknowledges the dichotomy of life’s seemingly simultaneous endurance and fragility, and challenges viewers to consider concepts surrounding their own mortality.
Little Lady / Little Man is inspiredby two lullabies sung to the children in my family by my grandfather who recorded them secretly before his death. Little Lady Make Believe and Little Man You’ve Had a Busy Day are the two songs he deemed important enoughto leave behind. Over time, these songs served for me as a beautiful, albeittragic, metaphor for the fleeting nature of physical power and youthful beauty, conventions that society closely relates to concepts of masculinity andfemininity. With my grandparents representing the archetypes of male andfemale, the life-size documentation of their final days mirrors the surrender we will all inevitably face.
The images of my grandfather represent a relinquishment of the physical. As the layers of his clothes are removed, the viewer is ableto see how time has ravaged his body. The scars and wrinkles are not strictlyevidence of man’s physical fragility; they are a contradictory testament to ourphysiological ability to endure.
The photographs of my grandmother reference our fleeting beauty. A combination of vintage images captured during the height of her magnificence, including three portraits taken by Ottawa’s master photographer Yousuf Karsh, contrast with images taken in her final hours. Afound photograph of my grandmother as a bathing beauty sprawled across the sandechoes a contemporary life-size image of her lying on her deathbed, clinging tolife. Gallery visitors are permitted to peer over her bedside and observe heras I did, just hours before her death. She is frail. The photograph renders her lifeless, freezing her lastmoments in time. Similar to the post-mortem daguerreotype photographs of the Victorian era, this image was created in memoriam but free from the confinesthat had traditionally kept the nineteenth-century images in miniature scale.The delicate skin of my subject is presented in true-to-life size enabling the metallicsurface of the polished aluminum to imply a mirror, a reflection of things tocome.
In1941, two historic Canadian families were united when William Horace Merrillmarried his high school sweetheart, Marjorie Ann Cory. He was the son ofNational Canoe Champion, Ottawa Senator, Stanley Cup Winner and Hockey Hall ofFame inductee Horace Merrill. She was a beautiful three-time subject of famedCanadian photographer Yousuf Karsh and granddaughter of the former Minister ofthe Interior and Commissioner of the North West Territories, William WallaceCory. Their love affair lasted morethan 70 years before the death of William Merrill, affectionately known as Pop,on May 23, 2006. Marjorie Ann Merrill, also known as Grammie, died on January 27, 2010.