I now have a new page on my website especially for the Inheritance Project. There you'll find the ever-growing list of contributors and makers.
If you have sent vintage linens to me, you'll have received one of these right away:
From Russia, with love.
Thank you artist, Natalya Aikens, who was so inspired after sending her first Box of Mystery that she sent another! Now her cupboards are neat and tidy.
This package featured a thrift store dress that I need to be 5 pounds lighter to wear. Okay, 10 pounds lighter. Make that 20 pounds lighter. And a crocheted handbag that I'm full-on using. Plus one of the ubiquitous pansy doilies that I now LOVE, after a number of years of not loving so much. (More on those below).
Thank you Lynne Bateson, a friend of mine for 23 years, who rescued these items from a thrift store Richmond, British Columbia, Canada.
She, too, sent a second envelope filled with further rescues.
(The cat, of course, is also rescued with remarkable provenance -- Makers: Unknown; Origin: Bethel, Alaska; Circa: 2014).
Down the Pacific Coast from me, in Oregon.
Thank you Tess Wentz, who also sent 2 boxes of mystery, plus three handmade crocheted Valentines, which we displayed on our seasonal tree. Tess rescued these items from thrift shops over the course of about 35 years and kept them for various projects of her own before contributing to the Inheritance Project.
So I'll leave you with this on my design wall. I'm all over those cupcake-y pansies and have some in my collection from my Mormor in Sweden that I'm turning to with interest -- there is power in sheer mass.
Then there's this haunting embroidery. I can't stop thinking about how it appeals to that dark, sinister part of me that did pretty well in art school.
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If you have doilies or linens you'd like to contribute to the Inheritance Project, please send a note through my contact page and I'll reply with an email including a list of specifics. Someone recently offered to make new items -- a lovely, generous gesture! -- but no, this is not the purpose of this project, which is an opportunity to collect, revere, re-consider and question the value in the valueless, uphold lost and forgotten histories, and look our disposable world in the eye and say, "There is another way." Because if we continue disposing of things, it's too easy to dispose of history, culture, community and people.
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"Inheritance" is currently on exhibit at the Paul Robeson Center for the Arts in Princeton, New Jersey. It's one of four works I shipped for the fiber art invitational "Every Fiber of My Being," curated by Diana Weymar and including work from Maira Kalman, Cassie Jones, Caroline Lathan-Stiefel, Danielle Hogan and Katie Truk. Let's just say I'm blown away to be in such company. Check them out.
This post is a brief exploration of the visual dynamic and thought process behind the making of "Inheritance," which I started in the summer of 2015, abandoned for many months, then completed in the winter of 2016.
Plus, I'll explore some misunderstandings.
Like this one: old, dated, even poorly made items of unknown origin and/or maker aren't worth salvaging.
Here's another misunderstanding: imperfections in one's handwork should be ripped out and re-sewn.
And this is what I do understand, deeply: Sometimes we have to circle around the heart of a problem many times. Sometimes the right words aren't the first to come. Sometimes you have to put work aside and be patient.
Then one has to figure out how to apply those words to a situation, and this can take a long time, too.
And then there is the misunderstanding of the words, themselves. Like when your daughter, age 7, has worked out the language on the wall and comes to you all wobbly chinned and eyes flashing, fists at her sides, hissing: "You made that art because of us, didn't you?"
And then one has to clear up the misunderstanding of voice: "I could say this to you, right?"
"You have," she says, wiping her nose.
"Okay. But what if you said it to me?"
"What if a man said it to a woman, or to an old woman?"
"What if a child said it to an old man?"
And then, "What if I said it to the cat?" she says.
There are messes she can't even conceive of. And misunderstandings that lay in her path, hidden, waiting for her to stumble over.
And the fears I have as a mother, the things I possess and need to pass on to my children -- the tangible and intangible parts of myself and my history, the living questions and my own misunderstandings, that Inheritance -- how can all this be best shaped for clarity?
How can my intent and my will be made relevant?
How do you create a work -- a body of work -- that prods at this from all angles while striving for purity and emotional resonance?
And how do you use old fabrics, old skills, in ways that feel contemporary and vital? How does the valueless become valuable?
And here's a final misunderstanding: How do you convince people that the needle really is supposed to hang there like that on the finished work? I picked up this piece from the last gallery and some well-meaning art connoisseur -- or a very tidy sewer -- had stabbed it into the canvas.
Mess. Even the idea of it provokes the muscle's response.
If you are interested in other posts like this (note that I don't lay out step-by-step how tos because I believe we're all really smart people around here and can figure things out visually) please scroll through the How To or Process categories there in the side bar. Any of the posts in the Histories category will take you to other artistic backstories if you're curious.
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(I promise no flooding of inboxes).
Artist in Anchorage, Alaska, sometimes blogging about the collision of history, family & art, with the understanding that none exists without the other.