the grateful chair

A multimedia exhibit about the end (and what happened next)

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The exhibit the grateful chair will open at the Grand Theatre for the Arts in Tracy California on Saturday, March 25, 2023 through May 26, 2023. It will tour to the Muckenthaler Center in  Southern California in October 2023 and will be in the Pence Gallery, Davis California in October 2024. The exhibit is my response to the illness that came to our house.

In 2014, Melinda Welsh — the founding editor of the Sacramento News & Review and my spouse of 40 years — was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer, one that attacked her salivary glands. The diagnosis progressed to terminal in 2015. Following a novel treatment at UC San Francisco that included immunotherapy (the “Jimmy Carter” drug), she was declared cancer-free in 2018. A journalist, Melinda began to write in late 2015. Following a series of essays on the subject for the Los Angeles Times, she wrote “The Big Sick” for Sactown magazine, a cover story that won a prestigious Folio Award in 2019. Longtime PBS producer Merrill Scherwin produced a 7-minute segment about Melinda’s cancer battle for the PBS NewsHour. You can see all of her work here.

I fused my experience in three disciplines—image making, music, and the written word– into an art form I call slidesongs; the grateful chair is my third such work. Part love note, part meditation on mortality and part unsolicited advice, the grateful chair is a five-and-a-half-minute multimedia work composed of 127 iPhone images, music and text. As metaphor, as witness, as a point of view that fluctuates between aspiration and despair, the grateful chair considers how, of all the different chairs we each occupy over the years, none will be as misunderstood as the grateful chair.

As with much of my work, the images in the grateful chair move between the photographic and the painterly, between rural to urban, between evocative images of an empty chair to standalone photographs evoking themes of loss, and loss narrowly avoided.  The hypnotic quality and pacing of the slidesong is intentional, as is the tension between the concreteness of words and the implications of image.

For these gallery presentations, the grateful chair expanded from the slide song/video format into a full gallery exhibit with over 60 images printed on metal. All images are captured on iPhone.

the grateful chair is sponsored by Thanks to for their generous sponsorship of the grateful chair.