A breezy brief bio might read...
Holly Morse received an N.E.A. Fellowship in video at twenty-five and, a little later, built a brand of toys sold from Hong Kong to Paris. Morse spent the first half of her creative life in the art world. She has an M.F.A. from The California Institute of the Arts. In 2018, she completed an epistolary collaboration, I Say Hello, with her husband, Michael Lipson PhD, on love, loss, and the nature of time and is currently at work on a novel.
Here is something a little closer to the bone.
I have survived the following events...
- As an infant, I fell through a crack between the cot and the wall, terrifying my mother who briefly couldn’t find me.
- At seven, I attempted to walk through walls.
- My parents divorced and remarried their best friends, a couple with whom they often celebrated a fairly drunken Easter.
- The decision by these four adults to divide their children into two households, with the youngest staying with their mothers and oldest with their fathers.
- My fascination with nuns, saints and martyrs despite the fact my mom was Quaker.
- My stepfather’s alcoholism.
- At fifteen, distributing the Black Panther newspaper in New Haven.
- The late 60’s generally.
- My stepfather’s transformation into a woman before the word “transgendered” was in use.
- My mother’s devastating neurological disease.
- The art world.
- Giving birth with various complications. Twice.
- Four years of treatment for a devastating neurological disorder of my own...that it turned out I didn’t have.
- The diagnosis of a milder disorder that, nevertheless, claimed the use of my right arm and hand.
- Studying Italian with my husband and watching him crack jokes in it after only two classes.
- While planting lilies, falling over a bank and landing headfirst on a rock .
- My older son learning he had a rare cancer the first month after his graduation from Harvard.
- His death two weeks after his twenty-fifth birthday, in October, 2014.
- My own breast cancer.
Like all biographies, my life has been different from either version. But that is the essence of narrative, a story built from selected events with an aim. What is it that I mean to convey here? That the way has not been straight. That humor has been a companion, running alongside the inescapable truth that we will lose one another. What is impossible to hear, within either the breezy or personal report, is how these events have helped me develop a deep sense of the pervasiveness of good will in the world. Disasters come and go. Evil reigns in many quarters. As well as ordinary folly. But in any given moment for most of humanity, striving toward the good remains a driving force. For everyone, at all times, it is a possibility. I have witnessed so much tenderness and wisdom, so much kindness. I have been up close to extreme bravery and held in my arms the essence of love. If we stop and reflect, we can appreciate how we all have. This can redeem the worst tragedies.
Every artist’s work arises from the ground of her experience. The bedrock of biography is transmuted to a targeted refraction that shines a light for its audience. I hope to illuminate something for you.