Pre-Occupied 12 for web

In this series, I challenged myself to confront something that terrifies me.

I have had death panics since I was eight years old. The minor ones often come just as I am falling asleep; after the initial surge of adrenaline, I manage to trip my internal denial switch and suppress the panic. Major waves seem to arrive every eight years: the denial switch stops functioning, and the resulting fear of death is paralyzing.

Ironically, the only real estate I am ever likely to own is a parcel of eight cemetery plots I inherited from my grandfather, which seemed like the logical place to begin. And so each drawing in this series is based on the map of a different Jewish cemetery, including the ones where my own relatives are buried. (I am not religious, but the historical and familial connection was important: these are all places I could be buried, even though I remain completely unreconciled to the idea of my own death.)

I can’t claim that drawing the maps allays my panic. Death remains entirely unknowable terrain: the map can never be the territory. And yet, stripped of identifying text, the cemeteries’ abstract forms are mysteriously compelling, grounding me in the universal human drive to create beauty and order and ritual in the face of our own mortality.