Beginnings and Endings Feb 2, 2018

by Eric Pitsenbarger

A response to Tamara Saulwick: Endings (Feb 1-4, 2018 at On the Boards)



Photo: Prudence Upton


We’re anticipating the evening at OtB, tentatively approaching the performance with the wounds of recent loss still raw and Wade describes a movement gesture: “You can’t have endings without beginnings.” 

This analogy plays well for me across every form. It’s the natural order, this pattern of life and death, the beginning and ending of things.

Always fascinated with the existential question of infinite vastness and finite awareness, with the eternal question of what happens to us after our comfortable bodies stop, W and I have chosen the front row. Tamara Saulwick’s Endings is yet another beginning for us, abstract witness to the subject that holds deep meaning.

The intimate and simultaneously fathomless gulf that is left when a loved one passes, the “meanderings” of your own mind and heart, of what is then revealed and how your own spirit emerges to bolster the journey forward, of how a once immortal figure (now gone), transforms into…the beginnings of awareness and the connectedness of all things, of how my wisdom is still the incomprehension of a child. 

As I read Tamara’s opening program notes to W, I found myself choking up. The searing, perfect brilliance of her child’s question was a javelin to my heart. I find myself once again balanced on the line between deep sorrow and joy. Losing someone so dear while remaining to grieve, to witness the world we make beyond, it goes on and on and on. All that from a note. Vulnerable and yet strong, we’re here to further access the transcendent spirit that art can provide. This is our church.

I’m observing the stage decorated with the hanging weight of many lights (their cords disappearing into the ether, connected to the mysterious source of power). My analogous eye also sees the construct of my own awareness, of what we take for granted here on earth, our brief but seemingly permanent selves. Shine a light on the outmoded reel-to-reel tape, to a moment, a phantom of memory enshrined and sacred, informing and failing, speaking and then fading, scratched and crackling as if broadcast from another dimension. 

Shiva-like, Tamara and Paddy Mann nimbly traverse the space between pockets of recorded recall. Their arms poised to pluck a strand of tape from the reel-to-reel, hovering over spinning records, dropping the needle at the poignant recollection of Tam’s father passing. 

I’m guided across the fragile “in-between” place, the place that cradles my own still delicate heart. Paddy’s dulcet, warm honey voice conveying the lifting, intangible spirit. I can see her father. His wind swept grey mane of hair, his suit and tie, the briefcase and pipe. There he is appearing in a lit telephone booth to tell her he’s OK.


Eric Pitsenbarger is an artist and writer based in Seattle.