ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — This book is an imaginative joining of forces – bold linoleum block prints and complementary prose and poems. The result is “O! Relentless Death! Celebrity, Loss & Mourning,” marking the passing of 17 people, listed chronologically, in 2016.
They include many famous individuals in the arts, in sports and in politics. Among them are performers David Bowie and Prince, Cuban leader Fidel Castro, boxer Muhammad Ali, and author Elie Wiesel, who won the Nobel Peace Prize.
The group of prints are identified collectively as “a visual meditation.”
“When David Bowie died on Jan. 8, it was a shock,” siblings Andrew and Lee Fearnside wrote in the introduction of the book they conceptualized and edited. “Other heroes died around then, too – (actor) Alan Rickman, (scholar) Umberto Eco. But when Prince died on April 21, things started to get ominous.”
The block prints referenced carving gravestones in New England and the 1920s woodcuts of German artist Käthe Kollwitz.
The Fearnsides, working solo, created prints for those who died as well as others prints.
For example, Andrew Fearnside, an Albuquerque painter and a psychotherapist who does grief counseling, did the “Momento Mori” image that follows the introduction.
Lee Fearnside, who is director of the Diane Kidd Gallery at Ohio’s Tiffin University, made the print on the front cover.
The Fearnsides split the job of choosing the writers.
“I herded the New Mexico cats,” Andrew Fearnside said, chuckling, about his gathering of the five Land of Enchantment writers in the book. “We both cast as broad a net as we could.”
Added Lee Fearnside: “My brother and I wanted a book to allow people to relate to other people’s grief. … These are not eulogies, but how did this writer react to this person’s death. We hope readers can identify with that. It suggests a common experience.”
Michelle Otero, a South Valley resident, wrote a personal statement on Boutros Boutros-Ghali, (died Feb. 16) who had served as secretary general of the United Nations. “I admire you for standing up to the United States. It couldn’t have been easy,” Otero wrote in part.
Albuquerque’s first poet laureate, Hakim Bellamy, reflected on Ali (June 3): “…Robeson before you./Kaepernick after you./You remind us/that the biggest fights/are outside the ring,/off the field,/beyond the stage …”
The last names referenced black opera singer/activist Paul Robeson and black quarterback/activist Colin Kaepernick.
Albuquerque poet/coach Don McIver “asked” the memory of singer/composer Leonard Cohen (Nov. 7) to help him make sense of mass shootings in America: “…tell me the words to say/how to say it,/how to cast the spell that will let this madness out into the universe in a loud wail. …”
The other two Albuquerque writers are media personality Gene Grant (journalist/newscaster Gwen Ifill, Nov. 14) and blogger/composer Kristin Knaus Satterlee (“Watership Down” author Richard Adams, Dec. 24).
Together, the Fearnsides also created an illustration on facing pages simply stating “November 8th, 2016.” Implied, Andrew Fearnside said, is the name of Donald Trump, who was elected as president on that date. In the book’s afterword, the Fearnsides declare that “if 2016 was hard, 2017 was harder. But in the midst of all the horror, despair and anger, we find hope for the future.”