Ashley Edgerton Oates
For 25 years, I considered binary concepts when making art:

fragility and strength
absence and presence
conflict and peace
masculinity and femininity
kindness and cruelty
destruction and reparation
fear and fortitude

Now I am intrigued by the spaces that live in between these binaries. This curiosity also coincides with a longing to know more about my maternal grandfather, James Monroe Edgerton. He was called Rabbit. In the past year, I began researching and reimagining Rabbit’s short life, which ended in his death during the second World War in the Battle of Hürtgen Forest. Only weeks earlier, he had celebrated his 25th birthday. He left behind his daughter, my mother, who was 2 ½.

Of course all military conflicts – not only World War II - leave many without a partner, parent, friend. Why do I need to explore such a topic?
Louise Bourgeois said:

Art is restoration: the idea is to repair the damages
that are inflicted in life, to make something that is fragmented - which is what fear and anxiety do to a person - into something whole.

Through the lens of a personal, familial loss, I want to explore more than the standard dualities but all that exists between them, since the space between seems to be at the core of what it means to be human. By exploring one man of many who died fighting against fascism almost eighty years ago, I hope to gain insight into how we see war today. What are the long-term consequences of immense loss --- generation after generation? Perhaps it is a way for me to understand the macro nature of violence, since I have spent twenty years processing the micro nature of it – after witnessing the murder of my neighbor at the hands of her ex-boyfriend.

With my grandfather’s letters to my grandmother and hers to him, photographs from the 1940s, and research into the lesser known Battle of Hürtgen Forest, I hope to piece together a visual interpretation – both personal and political. I began this series in the summer of 2018 through various sculptures which were translated into photograms (photogenic drawings), charcoal drawings, and small watercolors. The photogenic drawings are particularly poignant to me as I see each one as a ghostly rendering - made when the sculpture is placed on light sensitive paper. As light moves through and around the three-dimensional objects, I am left with traces, outlines, and abstractions of what was once there. I see this work as a metaphor for lives lost in war. Lives lost to violence. Can beauty or anything good come from it?