Who Will Catch Them When They Fall? is my largest scale work to date, and was debuted at the New Wight Gallery in Los Angeles, CA from November 21st - December 12, 2019. This work was featured on Spectrum News and aired across Southern California.
Parachute 1 (olive green): 30’ diameter | Acrylic on nylon blend cargo parachute | 3,814 footprints | Inner Rings (L) Outer Rings (R). One pass contains 1,032 pairs of footprints (there are 3.6 layers of footprints).
Parachute 2 (off-white): 26’ x 27’ | Acrylic on nylon-cotton blend cargo parachute | 3,705 footprints. One pass on this parachute contains 468 footprints (there are 7.9 layers of footprints).
In June 2018, the U.S. Department of Veterans Administration released statistics regarding the death by suicide rate for active duty military service members and veterans from 2015. The data was staggering: 1,387 active duty service members and 6,132 veterans, totaling 7,519, died by suicide in 2015. I come from a military family: my grandfather and father served in the Army and my brother in the Marines. I have seen the interconnectedness and bond among their fellow service members, while seeing the stark disconnect from the services intended to support them. There is a deep chasm between the verbalized supports offered and the reality of attempting to access those supports; an obstacle course to get appropriate medical care, timely appointments and adequate pay after discharge. My father spent several years advocating on behalf of black and brown veterans who were not rated appropriately for their disabilities from service, which allowed them to receive higher pay than what the Veterans Affairs Department was initially willing to provide. The inadequacy or absence of mental health and overall well-being supports for military service members and veterans is blaringly reflected in the suicide rates. With numerous politicians, companies and various entities vocalizing the importance of supporting our troops as a demonstration of patriotism, it is tragic to see the gaps in mental health and social supports for our military service members and veterans persist.
"Who Will Catch Them When They Fall?" engages with the weight of the lack of support for military service members and veterans by visually depicting the number of deaths by suicide via military boot footprints on two military issued parachutes. My Marine veteran brother offered me his boots from his time in service to execute the 7,519 pairs of footprints using a camouflage paint palette to demonstrate the lack of visibility of service members and veterans with mental health issues who are shrouded under the cloak of patriotism and honor, yet beleaguered with the traumatic impacts of service. The scale of the parachutes is intended to be as overwhelming as the 7,519 deaths by suicide. Parachutes are universally understood as the final rescue option for those in distress or the last-ditch effort to save yourself if it’s available to you. With this installation, I am asking, “Who Will Catch Them When They Fall?”
Suicide is preventable. If you are a Veteran in crisis — or you’re concerned about one — free, confidential support is available 24/7. Call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1.
Reference: VA National Suicide Data Report
Active Duty: 3.8/day x 365 = 1,387 Veterans: 16.8/day x 365 = 6,132 Total: 20.6/day x 365 = 7,519