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© 2016 by Katelena Hernandez Cowles. Proudly created with Wix.com

Comfort sessions

Comfort Sessions are an outgrowth from my larger Lullaby Project, in which I am invited to homes to sing: for crying babies, for those who have insomnia, for those who are sick, for those who are dying, for those who are lonely, for those who are perverts, for those who are frightened, for those who need something but don’t know what.

This work came out of my early years as a mother to two children, in which the daily grind of motherhood wore away the edges of my own identity. I found myself again at night, by the sides of their beds: I sang songs my mother sang, I sang songs from Disney movies, I sang songs I learned from Muppets.  I sang Prince and Madonna and Cake, I sang Broadway, I sang 40s love songs and 60s pop songs and hymns and sea shanties and cowboy ballads and early American folk songs and songs in other languages. Unlike most of my day’s activities, those were moments when my own pleasure in giving was equal to the pleasure they had in receiving.

During that same period, I stopped being able to sleep myself. Following a brain injury, I developed insomnia that eroded my hours of sleep to the point that I was sleeping almost not at all. Sometimes watching my children fall asleep to my voice was as close to sleep as I could get. So, it’s not too hard to see why I would relish my role as a sandman.

When I started my work based on lullabies, I wondered if I could let myself make work that is so sincere, so utterly uncynical, if anyone would take it seriously. But I find it’s transgressive to actually sing by someone’s side; it’s not the same as singing a concert. It’s an act much closer to the work of a courtesan or prostitute: there’s a line to the level of intimacy one is supposed to have with strangers, and to sing in this way is to cross it.

Comfort Sessions is currently available for installation and performance at events, museums, or galleries. 

The artist thanks the following for their help with this project: 

Presentation Partners: Sean Gaulager of Co-Lab Projects;  Mary Mikel Stump of the University Galleries at Texas State University; Connie Swann of the Lullwood Group, 107 Gallery