Catherine’s Garden

Work by Nichole Rathburn

September 20th - October 14th

Opening Reception:
Thursday, September 20th from 6-9PM


Catherine’s Garden

Twice a year I go home to visit my family in Sacramento. Inevitably, my dad will pick out decorations appropriate for the closest holiday and suggest we go have lunch with grandma. While my parents arrange a tiny bouquet to fit in the sconce attached to the plaque with her name on it, I go inside where the ashes of hundreds of others who bought their plots early are held and look around.  A picture of a man and a woman always jumps out at me - sitting practically on top of each other, she eternally drinks a cup of coffee while he smokes a never-ending cigarette as they smile from ear to ear for the camera. Framed by some quote about soul mates, my suspicions are confirmed that even if you find happiness with another person, you’re going to die anyways.

After my grandma passed in 2010, my grandpa sent me boxes of her things from their home in Arizona without telling me what was inside. Instead of photos or knick knacks or jewelry, I was surprised to find what I’m assuming was almost every personal item of hers that was still in usable shape - nylons, socks, shower caps, embroidery floss, shoes, sweatshirts and a fanny pack emblazoned with the word “Canada.” Since then I’ve accumulated scraps from other people in my life, some who were gone too soon and others who will hopefully stay awhile. They act as their own small memorials, thanks to the special power of inanimate objects to collect memories and regrets and wishes.

Floral arrangements, seen everywhere at a funeral or cemetery or sent in sympathy, seem to be a symbol of the known and unknown at the same time. When we lay a wreath on a grave, it’s for the memories you have and the ones you never had a chance to create. I don’t feel like I knew my grandma well, but still couldn’t bear to part with the content of the boxes my grandpa sent. Knowing that one day everyone I know will be gone makes it almost impossible for me to part with objects they’ve given me, no matter how mundane, so it seems fitting to pay tribute to the intricacies of loss with their things. My grandmother and I have created all the memories we’re going to together in this lifetime, but her new home is nice. The weather is warm, and visitors stop by often. The smiling couple are her neighbors, and the little bouquets for every season are her own tiny garden.

Bio ~

Nichole Rathburn is an installation artist and sculptor residing in Washington who uses her artistic practice as an opportunity to make connections. Hoping to encourage a sense of awareness and communication, she aims to draw the viewer out of the fog of the modern world and divert their attention to the unobserved. Visually, she is interested in enlarging small patterns and subtle movements found in nature, using these textures to evoke a sense of empathy.

Nichole earned a BFA in Fine Art with an emphasis in sculpture, printmaking and video from Cornish College of the Arts in 2010 and is currently employed as a foundry artisan, which has greatly influenced her artistic practice by granting her access to new materials and processes.