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Patricia Cronin, “Memorial To A Marriage”, 2002, Carrara marble
A few years ago Grand Arts, the Kansas City based non-profit art projects institution, invited me to make my dream project, Memorial To A Marriage. They would pay all the fabrication costs, but this grant had one stipulation: the artist’s project had to be in a material she had never used before. The result was Memorial To A Marriage, an over life-size 3 ton Carrara marble mortuary sculpture is a double portrait of my partner (the artist Deborah Kass) and me.
Since the Federal Government won’t accept any individual states’ Civil Union or Marriage Certificates for same sex couples we’ve had lawyers draw up legal documents (wills, health care proxies and power-of-attorney, etc.) in an attempt to simulate some of the legal protections of heterosexual marriage. These documents are depressing because their only usefulness is if one of us becomes incapacitated or dies.
I wanted something that celebrated our life together and so, decided to make an elegant and dignified monument to our relationship. I chose a nationalist form, American Neo-Classical sculpture, to address what I consider the federal failure to give gay Americans the basic human right of legal marriage.
I studied the Western history of sculpture, which is pre-occupied with death and remembrance, the cemeteries of Paris, and the history of dying in the United States. Memorial To A Marriage was installed on our actual burial plot in Woodlawn Cemetery, designed as America’s Pere Lachaise, in Bronx, New York. (A bronze version is there now.) The statue addresses issues of lesbian invisibility, gay marriage, love and loss, and power and status. In death I make official my “marriage” which is still not legal while we are alive.