Thoughts in Passing: What the Dying can Teach Us
Thoughts in Passing is a project about embracing our shared condition of impermanence as a means to live deeper and more meaningful lives. Over a period of two years, Claudia met with hospice patients in Northern California and asked them to reflect on life and mortality. The culmination of these conversations is a series of nine life-size graphite pencil portraits. Using the content of 40+ hours of interviews, Claudia transcribed her subjects' words onto their clothing in the drawings and created three-minute audio edits to accompany each portrait.
One of the portraits, 'Jenny', toured with the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery from 2016-2018 and the full series was featured on the front pages of The Journal of Symptom & Pain Management throughout 2017. Thoughts in Passing has been featured in The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle and The Boston Globe's STAT News and has been shared in hospices, hospitals, community centers, senior living centers, universities and schools across the US and UK. Five of the nine portraits will be on permanent exhibition at UCSF’s new Cancer Care Center from mid-2019. For the full project including audio interviews and background stories from the nine subjects, visit www.thoughtsinpassing.com.
When I met Jenny through Pathways Hospice, she was living in an SRO building in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. Surrounded by a lifetime’s work of stunningly intricate paintings and sculptures, Jenny would monologue for an hour, stopping only to light another cigarette and slurp on her grape soda. Jenny was an artist in the purest form: she was compelled to create and she did so in order to heal herself. Jenny explained that all the way through her life – through physical and sexual abuse, hospitalization, mental illness and homelessness – art had been the thing that saved her. In September 2015, Jenny’s portrait was selected be exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. When Jenny and I went out for lunch to celebrate, she told me that participating in this project had validated her life.