Ana England and Steven Finke’s Imminence

October 22nd, 2013  |  Published in October 2013  |  3 Comments

Ana England and Steven Finke’s Imminence 

By Kelly Moffett

I was able to visit Ana England and Steven Finke’s Imminence with my colleague, Bob Wallace, and I returned a week later with my husband and son.  I felt particularly drawn to Steven’s side of the exhibit, since it relates to much of my recent work as a poet.

Finke, Steven – Balls, 2012 (photo Sly Yeo)


I have been writing about teeth since my mother lost her teeth in a parking lot in Florida, and we had to turn back several exits to fetch them.  I’ve had teeth pulled.  As a child, of course, I’ve had teeth fall out.  And I’ve been writing about strange saints whose teeth drop from their mouths. In other words, I’ve been thinking about teeth as holy objects.  This may be due to the relics I saw growing up Catholic in Pittsburgh.  Relics are parts of saints, what they have physically left behind—the parts of their bodies that have been preserved.  Each chapel has a relic as a way of sanctifying the space.   There is a cathedral in the North Side of Pittsburgh, the Keeper of the Saints on the North Shore, that holds thousands of relics.  Two entire skeletons.  Lots of hair and fragments of bone.  One shard of the cross.  And, of course, teeth.  And since I am a poet, I think of the mouth, too, as a sacred space.  A place that houses language.  So imagine how I connected with Steven’s bowing Buddha decorated in human teeth, titled Tooth Buddha.  Teeth adorn the Buddha; his headdress a helmet of teeth with one white tooth as its crown.   His robe is made of teeth.  Molars, incisors.  And he bows, his eyes not closed fully but nearly so as he looks to the earth that grounds him.

Finke, Steven – Deer Buddha (l), detail, 2013


I visit monasteries often, and one sister told me that they keep the graves close to their home to remind them of their preparation for the next life.  At Trappist monasteries, there is a strong connection to nature and much of the architecture reflects its physical surroundings. When a monk passes, he is placed into the earth with a clean habit, but he is not embalmed and not in a casket.  Nothing interferes with the natural processes of returning to the earth.  I sense this same kind of reverence and relationship with the earth present in Steven’s exhibit that contains two skeletons—a deer and a dog—that passed and decomposed on his property.  The bones act as relic and reminder, and they seem resuscitated, the deer and dog once again leaping—the deer in mid-jump catching an arrow in its teeth and the dog jumping through a hoop.

Finke, Steven – installation view 1, west gallery



I felt inspired by the teeth and bones of Steven’s exhibit, and I responded in one of the only ways I know how, with a poem.


The Afternoon I saw the Doll Virgin of Charity

I tried to make it down the road.  But the woman
who lived there before me opened my mouth
and stepped inside. A tooth fell out then another
and I spent the afternoon searching the lot
for my teeth and over the waves I saw a flurry
of white that at first I thought was a seabird
until it got closer and I noticed that its head
was made of clay and its dress was not wet
even though it was raining. Touch me, I said
to the doll that I thought was a seabird.  Take 
this woman out of my mouth.  But the doll
wouldn’t come close, and somehow,
somehow I knew that the woman in my mouth
would never leave and I would have to carry her
down all the roads and into all the houses
for the rest of my life, forever.  And the doll
was about sixteen inches high and wore a heavy
cloak and had black eyes and a child in her right arm.
Where are your wings, I asked.  But like all dolls,
she did not answer, and even at dusk she hovered
there in the lot by the water in the rain,
and the woman inside my mouth looked out
through the spaces in my teeth and I looked
out through the gaps in my hair, and we were wet,
so wet, and the doll stayed dry and if I had
a gold globe or a cherub or if I were sixteen inches high,
I, too, could become sacred.  I, too, would be able
to rid myself of water, and maybe they would call
me “the woman with four eyes,” or the “woman
with few teeth,” and I could wear the blue cloak
and hover like an angel in the rain.




  1. Diana Trapp says:

    October 22nd, 2013at 7:17 pm(#)

    Interesting image of the mouth house, with the old woman peering between the gaps between the teeth and wet hair. This reminds me of “Eleanor Rigby.”

    Is that a reindeer with its tongue sticking out in the background?

  2. Debbie Smalley says:

    October 24th, 2013at 9:32 am(#)

    Diana, per Kelly, it’s an arrow.

    Kelly, what an inspiring exhibit as evidence in your writing. Lovely.

  3. Kelly Moffett says:

    October 24th, 2013at 10:18 am(#)

    Hi, Diana. Thank you for the interesting comment!

    No, that is a white-tailed deer that died on the artist’s property from an arrow wound (from a bow hunter). This is what the curator told us. What you see in its mouth is an arrow.

    You must check out this exhibit! It’s at the Weston Gallery. Amazing work.