Project Statement for i’m alive, it’s winter

a short essay by Grace Makuch

January 6th, 2019


I’ve always felt captivated by the sun—not necessarily the science or reasoning behind it, but by the fabled beauty of it. I was born in it’s heat on August 10th in the early 90s in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The sun was my chosen icon as a kid; I’d repeatedly scribble a bright yellow sun wearing a pair of sunglasses on almost any page given to me. My TV program of choice was The Weather Channel; I remember at a young age feeling compelled by the fact that the weather, the sun, changed every day-- and that we had access to that information before it would happen. It all felt like magic. It still does. I wanted nothing more than to be a meteorologist before I realized that the green screen wasn’t real. In middle school, I started paying attention to the UV index after a friend said “if the UV index is above 8 you can get a good tan, otherwise there’s no point in going to the beach.” Nowadays I don’t leave the house without checking the UV index and impact that the sun will have on my day. Last year, at age 23, I had my first ever Tarot card reading—if you can even call it that! She only pulled one card. It was, of course, the Sun. 


The irony of feeling cosmic leanings towards a literally distant cosmic object isn’t lost on me. 


When considering the content of this show, I asked myself, “What should a show at an artist-run space called the North Pole in the middle of January look like?” 


Well, obviously, not what it sounds like. 


i’m alive, it’s winter is a False Flag.


It’s meant to deceive, but not to hurt. I’m alive, it’s winter is a ceremony through which I want people to feel the brightness of the sun without actually ever feeling the brightness of the sun.  We all have a winter routine, it’s biological. But there comes a point when you’re sitting at home for the 4th day in a row, the sun hasn’t shown itself in 16 days, when you think, as my mom often does, what’s the point


But do you remember the warmest you’ve ever felt? Not ‘hot’ because ‘hot’ is sticky and uncomfortable. I mean the warmth that kind of makes your spine tingle? 


The warmest I’ve ever felt was when I was in seventh grade, wearing short-shorts and a spaghetti strap tank top. It’s about 95 degrees the middle of August in northern Illinois, just after my 12th birthday. I’m with my best friends, Katie and Jane, using my birthday money to buy us all ice cream. We’re all shivering in the over air-conditioned Walgreens holding our respective treats by the plastic wrap so as not to make even the centimeter of skin on our fingertips cold. As soon as I fork over the cash at the register, my best friends and I step out into the August sun and suddenly I feel so warm that I shiver for three minutes straight.


That’s the warmth that I’m talking about. And it comes in a lot of different ways—it’s iconography of warmer times, it’s a meeting of friends, it’s a meeting of strangers, it’s putting on a song and having the chord progression climax right as you take the first step out the door of your apartment-- completely blinded for a second by the transition, it’s Kelly Clarkson winning the first American idol, it’s following a car that looks like the one that your mom used to drive, it’s having a 3 hour long conversation with your roommate on the couch yet being unable to remember what you talked about the next day, it’s dancing at an empty Danny’s Bar on a Wednesday night, it’s my roommate Lauren serendipitously singing Luxurious by Gwen Stefani in the mirror to herself, it’s that breakthrough moment with someone where you suddenly feel like you could say anything, it’s the way my friend Bailey calls me “Gweece” and I call her “Burl”, it’s the fact that while I was writing this Maggie came up behind me at the coffee shop and how I, in my startled state, screamed ‘how are you, you damn bastard!’,  it’s people who drink iced coffee in the winter, it’s being in a car with 4 other people on the highway that want to stop at the scenic overlook, it’s everyone I saw biking down an unplowed Milwaukee Avenue yesterday, it’s having a skip in your step on a busy street, It’s being lucky, it’s a day where you wake up grateful instead of resentful, it’s feeling cosmic anguish in the middle of the night only to wake up to a text message from your crush the next morning asking what you’ve been up to, it’s Nordic dance music, it’s the public library system, it’s “I’m at farmers pride do you need anything?” it’s my mom in the morning, before going to the bathroom, saying “you’ll have to excuse me I’m going to make my daily contribution to the republican party” it’s my dad last week in the hospital telling me that he doesn’t give up because his dad never gave up, it’s familial resiliency, it’s finding the strength not to be righteous about what’s fair, it’s finding the nobility in pursuing peace in spite of suffering— it’s believing that maybe happiness is attainable in the next 5 minutes, it’s allowing yourself to be stupid romantic, it’s Kate and Ryan getting engaged, it’s someone walking a great dane and a wiener dog at the same time, and it’s the feeling of getting to know someone new and knowing that person will stick around for a while. Warmth is created by us, here, right now. 


Recently, at the recommendation of a new friend, Melissa, I was reading the novel Too Much and Not The Mood by Durga Chew-Bose. There is a passage where she articulates the ceremony of meeting with her friend monthly to get their auras photographed. She says, “At any rate, some ceremonies exist so long as they aren’t solicited for profound meaning. They are as is, hardly ceremony but what we repeat in order to make sense of how disentangling personhood is. They are nothing to effectuate. A lozenge doesn’t do much but taste like honey. We get our auras taken in order to blueprint the week or consider why we’ve been emotionally congested, or, for kicks, plot some emotional solvency. We play with life in order to play life, and often all a dark patch means is a dark patch. Figurative, literal, neither, both. Take what you want from it.” 


i’m alive, it’s winter is a ceremony that exists simply to celebrate that despite the physical absence of the sun and everything that comes with that lack, we are alive, and it is winter. Sometimes all a dark patch means is a dark patch.