Thursday, June 17, 2010

Maeshelle West-Davies (49)

In 2004 Maeshelle wrote:

"frigive release" is a series of 6 photographs exploring suicide.

Upon hearing the words, "I’m not ready." I thought I was going to die. My body shut down. But I lived. Then I just wanted to die. Even 6 months later I am wrestling with thoughts of not wanting to live. I’m scared to kill myself. I don’t know if it would improve things. I just know that most of the time I don’t want to be here or anywhere. I just want to be with him. without him I can find no existence. I feel as though a portion of me is missing. It’s the portion that holds joy, laughter, motivation, happiness......the good things I used to soul.

So, at the moment death seems very appetizing. That’s why I chose to make the photos pretty, like a fashion magazine. My emotions keep trying to sell it to me. I could escape this never ceasing pain. I could stop being a drain on my friends and family. My head keeps stopping me from buying it.

The images are designed to draw you in and then to disturb you. Kind of wake you up and bring you back to reality. Suicide is the cause of more deaths in Germany than car accidents. In the States it ranks as one the higher than murder. And yet, it brings such shock. It is a taboo subject. Feeling isolated is one of the biggest triggers of suicide. Because it’s something not to be discussed, you end up feeling even more isolated because you can’t talk to anyone about it. When it is mentioned, the looks say it all. I’m not trying to normalize it or promote it. I’m just trying to show how it can look like the answer. On the contrary, information shows that women in particular, more often than not, fail, leaving them with new traumas to deal with. Not all of these traumas are physical. There’s also the stigma to deal with, some of it external, but a lot of it internal. How could I be having these feelings? As my father said to me, "That’s not an option," thinking that would stop me. Perhaps for him, it isn't an option. I never thought it would be for me. All he did was reinforce years of conditioning of how damaged I am. After much searching, I now know that wanting to die is really just wanting to end the pain. When the coping mechanisms aren’t keeping up with the pain, sometimes suicide results. If someone comes to you and says they want to die, part of them wants to live. This is the part that’s calling out. Sometimes just admitting the feelings can give some strength to the coping department.

Even when I was working on the project, I tried to hide these feelings from myself. I suppressed them, finding loads of other reasons why I had to do these particular images. One of the reasons was I was killing off the part of me that feels. The part of me that loves and wants to be loved. I know I will never find another love like this. So I figured if I could kill this part of me, it wouldn’t hurt so much. I could pick up what was left and carry on with my life....strong in my art. If I am truthful, it is the knowledge of how very special and strong this love is and the hope of his return that keeps me alive.

All of the images were shot in my sublet in Berlin. I have left the place where people know me. I can choose to tell or not to tell people about my depression and they can accept me or not. I am in limbo.........effectively homeless......having lost everything.

-frigive release-


I have never wanted children......until this man. With him it seems an extension of our union and perfectly natural. Also having children seems part of life in Denmark. In my culture i saw it as an end to life, a burden......something to hold you back......something an artist couldn’t afford. This is shot from my balcony. The, whatever that thing is that kids play on, is a constant reminder of what I’ve gained and lost. I have difficulty walking down the street and seeing happy families. My gut wrenches when I see a father and child, knowing he will never play with our children.

The fallen leaves are not only the obvious......oh, how the mighty have fallen, but symbolize the oncoming winter... hibernation my only respite. I am unable to hold a job because of the lack of concentration and the inability to handle even the slightest stress..........symptoms brought on by the depression. My loss of self and my constant thinking about how I could have foreseen and prevented this........guilt, another symptom...........keeps me from interacting with people for any period of time.


Of course the most glamorous is the overdose...just ask Marilyn or Judy. One Sunday I was walking down the street and I came across a pile of glass from a car windshield. It was glistening in the sun, like diamonds. I knew then that was what I should vomit. I later read that when you od on Tylenol, you throw up green, luminous vomit. You don’t die, you just pass out. Someone finds you, rushes you to the hospital. You awake, having changed your mind, only to discover irreparable organ damage. For 5 days you and your family get to sit around and suffer until you die. How’s that for an exit?


I shot this on the fourth month anniversary of the breakup. I had fully intended to pamper myself. I got a bottle of wine, some flowers, and some special food. All of it was left untouched. I felt I had to do this piece. Open communication was the cornerstone of our relationship. On the wall are texts sent during the last year. Such beautiful words. Such comforting, uplifting, empowering words. I love you. Jeg elsker dig. Just three of the many words that meant so much........and then from nowhere...knus..... Danish duality. A warm greeting of rubbing cheeks........I used to love it because it was so intimate and yet so innocent.........and it doesn’t exist in my culture......then a new crush. Words that had been so wonderful now turned to stabbing pain. The object I am using to stab myself is a part of a wind-chime made from metal and ceramic. Each piece has words sent to me in text. It used to hang in the bathroom window. When the wind would blow, his words were renewed. It always brought a feeling of warmth and a smile to my face when I heard the sound. Now it is in the sublet bathroom. Some pieces are on the wall, placed so as not to touch. Others in a glass vases. It lies dismantled..........silenced. the particular piece reads rest of my life.


The same scarf, given as an anniversary gift, that used to keep out the cold, is now choking the life out of me. The items I surrounded myself with to close the distance now only magnify it. I can’t put them in a box, as suggested. I can’t snap out of it. I can’t accept that he is just young and doesn’t know what he is doing. I can’t stop my heart from feeling. Each heartbeat flows with warmth and love. If unbroken, the love would fill the veins and nourish the body, but instead broken, it floods out, poisoning all it touches.

Gift means both marriage and poison in Danish.

-wrist slit-

Again the gift and the poison. In old times and even today in some cultures, it is customary to bleed off an illness. Many times bad blood was replaced with new in an effort to cure. The candles glow in ritual while the clean lines of the bathroom tiles mimic the clinical nature of a surgery. If I could I would cut myself and bleed this poison, the bad blood gushing out in ribbons, adorning a wonderful present, my life back.