Marlene Dumas

Measuring your own Grave

I am the woman who does not know
where she wants to be buried anymore.
When I was small, I wanted a big angel on my grave
with wings like in a Caravaggio painting.
Later I found that too pompous,
so I thought I’d rather have a cross.
Then I thought, a tree.

I am the woman who does not know
if I want to be buried anymore.
If no one goes to graveyards anymore.
If you won’t visit me there no more,
I might as well have my ashes in a jam-jar,
and be more mobile.

But let’s get back to my exhibition here.
I’ve been told that people want to know,
why such a somber title for a show?
Is it about artists and their midlife careers,
Or is it about women’s after fifties’ fears?
No, let me make this clear:
it is the best definition I can find
for what an artist does when making art.
And how a figure in a painting makes its mark.
For the type of portraitist like me,
this is as wide as I can see.

Measuring your own Grave. Written (together with Homage to the Polaroid, Framing and Naming, Southern Comfort, North Africa (Woman of Algiers), Beaches ain’t what they used to be and Expiring Dates) for and first published in Marlene Dumas, Measuring your own Grave, (cat.), The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2008, p.194; and included in Marlene Dumas, Sweet Nothings. Notes and Texts, second edition (revised and expanded) Koenig Books London, 2014.