My 2020 GravestoneMichael Updike
Every year I create a headstone for myself. It is a reflective exercise, often delving into autobiographical, political, or social commentary rendered in the shorthand of a headstone’s distilled information of a life with some chosen imagery.
The year 2020 needed to be about COVID-19 and I wanted to announce my fictitious death in bold type. It is rare to inscribe the cause of death on a headstone. This information humanizes the departed and in a way personifies the tall stone as it is sharing with you the reality of this one particular death. The COVID-19 experience is so varied throughout our population that there are polarized opinions as to its severity, danger, and even its existence. It can be the most tragic loss to a minor inconvenience. I hope that by meeting my stone it will bring a little bit of the difficult reality home.
I chose to adorn my stone with grotesques of mutated beasts. The primary apparition is a cross between a dragon and newt. It is gazing at its own tail about to cannibalize itself. There is a protozoan with an elephant tusk floating forlornly toward a bird and fish that share one eye and a pair of chicken legs. All these suggest nature gone awry into an unnatural world of disparate mutations. These are just suggestions and I hope viewers will conjure their own images of the appearance and meaning of this awful and epic disease.