When TR Ericsson’s mother died in 2003, she left her only son with photos, letters, and questions. The artist, then a practicing painter, stopped making work for a while; when he started up again, he switched to new media, exploring his mother’s archive to make sense of her suicide. The exhibition “Tom & Sue” gathers three decades of Ericsson’s work in an insightful condensation of emotion and memory.
The forty-seven-minute film Crackle & Drag, 2015, recounts the last years of Sue Robinson’s life by stitching together voice mails she left her son. Ericsson had moved to New York to pursue art and escape the instability of his home life in Ohio. Robinson called daily, if not more frequently. Over time, her struggles with poverty, addiction, and illness became unbearable, and her voice grew increasingly distressed. One day, she stopped calling altogether.
Ericsson shares his grieving process in the silk screen Tom & Sue, 2022. He soaked the raw linen in the bottled Long Island Iced Tea cocktail that his mother loved and then made the darker pigments by mixing her ashes with graphite and resin. Within the image, the artist records his dreams and reflections alongside his mother’s words: “My only purpose in this life was to bring you into this world. I was made for you, just you. Everything else has been a mistake, except you.”
The exhibition features more than a hundred paintings that Ericsson made before his mother’s death and the first he has made since. Angel of the Morning, 2021–22, captures Robinson in an earthy palette and melting brushstrokes, smiling as she holds her only child’s hand. The space is infused with her loving presence. In this new portrait, she seems almost to breathe.