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Artist Celia Rumsey Dies in Santa Fe

Illness is the night-side of life a more onerous citizenship

Susan Sontag

Artist Celia Rumsey died in Santa Fe on March 11, age 67, of a longtime illness.

While I was trying to find images this morning of her art installation, Chronic, that made such an impression on me when I saw it (at Center for Contemporary Art, in 1995), I had a strong sense of memory entwining forgetting and even amnesia, felt states that Rumsey deeply, furiously embedded into her white iteration of the isolation of chronic illness. Not only could I not find a single image of Rumsey’s chronic installation online, I found that my memory of chronic went to fragments: a soaped window (barring access to within; or barring the egress of those within, to citizenship without.) Was Rumsey commenting on the decontamination impulse that, as Susan Sontag noted, is companion to a practice of shunning the ill?  In her installation, as I reflect on it with the imperfectness of memory, I want to say I remember cribs, and a rendition of a condition that was as much a refusal as a refused, part of illness’s countering to dyadic interchanges. Rumsey was courageous as an artist . She followed on chronic, with two other installations starting with “c”: craving, on our food addictions, and cash, on guess what. (Per her obituary, on “the trappings of birthright.”) She was the granddaughter of Charles Cary Rumsey, sculptor and polo player, and Mary Harriman Rumsey, sister to Governor Averill Harriman of New York.

Always a devoted patron to Center for Contemporary Art, donations may be made in her memory to: Center for Contemporary Art, 1050 Old Pecos Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87505.

Featured Image: Tilda Swinton in the art of sleeping (an evocation, but not a representation of the work of Celia Rumsey.)

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