Witness Chair: A Memoir of Art, Marriage, and Loss
by Sherry Horton
1st Place in the Relationships Category
The poignant story of a marriage as well as a gallant journey into loss, Witness Chair is both a beautifully written personal memoir and a compassionate guidebook to the art of living in the face of suffering and death. In his last years, artist Christopher Horton, the author's husband, worked on the design of sixteen "chair" maquettes in preparation for an art installation to commemorate the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. In reflecting on her long marriage and the difficult months before her husband's death from leukemia, author Sherry Horton draws on the unsettling yet powerful significance of the various chairs, seeing her life and the death of her husband through the concepts of accusation, displacement, rumor, captivity, and heaven. Leah Leatherbee describes Witness Chair as a "quietly searing account of the unspoken," and Bernie Siegel soberly remarks: "In love’s service and the process of life and healing, only the wounded soldier can serve. Read Sherry's words and understand why."
ART / General
ISBN: 978-1-941830-36-9 (print; softcover; perfect bound)
Sherry Horton is a retired English teacher. At the University of Hartford (Connecticut), where she was director of the Center for Reading and Writing, she taught in the writing program and co-authored a textbook challenging traditional approaches to composition entitled Reading Our Histories, Understanding Our Cultures (Allyn & Bacon 1999; 2003). A co-founder of the East Hill Writers’ Workshop (www.easthillwriters.com), she is currently working on her mother’s oral history of the 1920s and ‘30s in the remote Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Mother of two sons and twice a grandmother, she spends as much time as she can outdoors. She lives in Unionville, Connecticut.
"Married twenty years, I already look back with some regret at missed opportunities to connect and at patterns of communications we have let develop. This memoir is a call to open up to those chances. Witness Chair is an account of a bittersweet journey through a lifelong marriage and a husband's illness—with art and love as the salve to heal all."
"Chris and Peter’s chair models reflecting the 1692 Salem witchcraft crisis are shrouded in invisible layers of fear—fear of the unknown, fear of isolation, and fear of dark nights. These fears spread like an epidemic ruling over villagers’ behaviors in an area where different cultures collided. As anthropomorphic objects, chairs play hide and seek between reality and illusion."
"Author Sherry Horton's Witness Chair is on one level the story of her marriage and journey into loss as her gifted artist husband is diagnosed with and ultimately dies of leukemia. But just as the 'chairs' of her late husband's Salem Witch Trials art installation—which launch each chapter—point to a broader exploration of the cultural and interpersonal dynamics of 'that strange history,' so does Horton's narrative of what 'happened' bear a much deeper and universal witness. Horton's memoir is a beautifully written, poignantly honest study of the interplay of layers: foreground and background; the explicit and the implicit; drama and restraint; matches and mismatches. It is a quietly searing account of the unspoken—what takes place in the spaces—and the 'challenge of anchoring the truth about anything historical or personal.'"
"Witness Chair has so much I appreciate and admire, mainly, a compelling narrative clean to the bone
and measured with the true sound of the visceral heart. The story breaks and heals and
breaks again, like waves crashing over the granite rocks artist Christopher Horton loved so
much and his wife, memoirist and teacher Sherry Horton, comes to honor and respect. Witness
Chair refers to the sixteen maquettes tenderly made by Horton and his colleague Pete
McLean based like stations of the cross to commemorate the Salem Witch trials. In the memoir, each chair opens a chapter of the book, and the chairs reveal much about this couple, married for
forty years and thrust suddenly into the unsafe place where there are no easy conclusions to the
messy business of loving and dying; to the patient art of making art, of articulating what has been
buried and forsaken; to the practice of living fully in the face of suffering and death. We are all
witnesses by the end of this wonderful book, a book to cherish when the long day is done, and,
yes, when the dawn appears again each new morning."
"Natives understand what tourists do not. In love's service and the process of life and healing, only the wounded soldier can serve. Read Sherry's words and understand why."
Woman Finds Strength from an Unusual Source During Her Husband's Fight With Cancer (press release, 8-18-2016)
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