Artist: Madison Nicole May | • 
Host: Rylee Thomas

Face-First, Lithograph on Rives BFK


I am both a first year student at SAIC and a new resident of Chicago, which, layered on top of living through a global pandemic, has culminated into a deepened longing for comfort and connection. After being given the opportunity to participate in the Crosshatch Project, I wanted to reflect on this concept of comfort and connection through my prolonged encounter with Face-First, a lithograph print by Madison Nicole May.

When I received Face-First, I placed it right above my desk, opposite my only window, where most of my life seems to play out. As I hung it, I imagined the way it would look in the peripherals of my Zoom meetings and skincare routines and phone calls. The replicated texture of a familiar mattress pattern—unclothed and bare—prompted a slew of melancholic moving-related memories. Face-First has been my embodiment of displacement and comfort over the past few weeks, taking on a personified life force that beckons me closer, asking if I’d like to lie down. If I feel like I need to cry. Stroking my hair in the moments of silence and loss. Face-First is an uncannily apt title, articulating my movement towards this piece before my neurons even have time to connect to my thoughts. It looks just large enough for me to rest my cheek on; perhaps if I close my eyes, it will bloom into a full mattress, naked and ready to be moved, as a gesture before a long goodbye.

Now that Chicago is starting to defrost and the end of the pandemic is seemingly in sight, Face-First has begun to take on the hopefulness of new beginnings. A fresh start, a flipped mattress, the cool side of the pillow, a deep breath of fresh air after a long and lonely winter. As my time with this piece draws to a close, those memories of moving and homesickness just remind me that the only way to go is forward; sometimes we must part ways.

—Rylee Thomas