This is the antepenultimate post about the Boxes of Mystery sent to me from all over the world, the materials gathering phase for the Inheritance Project -- what became a year-long crowd-sourcing effort -- during which contributors from many countries sent boxes of domestic linens they either found or were ready to pass on to me as the final inheritor. The process has been beautiful (love process), the narratives have been moving (love stories), sometimes sad (love a good cry), and the administration for this effort has been overwhelming with all the organizing, laundering, pressing, photography and correspondence (love staying on top of things, but this has been tricky). Did I mention I made every contributor a teeny tiny doily as a thank you? And some got two?
BUT. The effort has been worth it. Not only have I met wonderful people from all over the world (thank you, Instagram), but I've also been awarded two 2018 solo shows based on the work I plan to produce from these items, and I just found out I received a Sustainable Arts Foundation Grant, which will help cover studio expenses and/or childcare for the next year so I can actually...you know...have something to hang in a gallery (besides laundry).
A friend of mine recently joked that I could always hang that 30-foot dragon in the gallery (a different project I've been deep into for the last 2 months, and will be installed in a week...more on that soon). It's been busy around here.
Meanwhile, below are the contributors for the 20th Boxes of Mystery.
Thank you, Boel Werner from Sweden -- long time friend, children's book illustrator and artist. Boel was one of the first people to send a Box of Mystery to Alaska and I have a stunning collection of hand-crocheted Swedish grytlappar (pot holders) to work with as a result. You can see the contents of her previous Boxes of Mystery here and here. While the Americans have thrift stores and the Australians have op shops, the Swedes have loppis and it's not unusual to receive a photo from Boel with the message, "Can you use these? How about this?" She has just as difficult a time walking away from unwanted domestic linens as I do. She's my Swedish Rainbow Connection.
This Box of Mystery held an additional "Envelope of Mystery"... inside a tiny silver grytlapp pendant that Boel made for me. She's since gone on to make a doily pendant using the teeny tiny thank you I made as the mold. I feel like my friendship with Boel -- a woman I met in 2004 at a children's book conference in L.A. -- is such a beautiful example of how symbiotic the relationship can be between women and their work. It should always feel this easy with people.
History & Treasure.
Thank you Lynette Fisk. This is the second group of items she's sent, the first were included in The 17th boxes of mystery post. As before, she carefully documented the provenance of each item as best she could. Thank you for your time, Lynette. These items are wonderful, zany and make me smile.
"...I love old crochet pieces, but my absolute favorite 'doilies' are knitted. We have 5 including one large (36" diameter) antimacassar my mother used to put across the back of the couch. During and after WWII, my mother and her mother-in-law-sent care packages of coffee, chocolate, clothing and other necessaries to relatives in post-war Germany. The relatives sent back photos, letters and gifts of hand-knitted lace! This week we found the folder of letters, photos of children and notes about what they sent. That is a treasure!"
Many thanks to Suzanne Williams from West Virginia for sending embroidered dresser scarves and doilies of various origin, most unknown and some very large. She layered the items in a box with descriptions on pastel sheets paper carefully rolled around each colorful, sweet group. Many thanks for your time Suzanne. These old things deserved your consideration and care. I'm so happy to receive them.
Antepenultimate is a word we should use more often. I'm happy to throw it around a bit more: antepenultimate, antepenultimate, antepenultimate.
Go use that word today.
Boxes of Mystery posts, on the home stretch....my gratitude to everyone who's hung in there with me.
“I hold with those who favor fire.
I'm going through photographs, sorting them into themes -- Fire, Ice, Blood & Bone. These images and words pull me into contemplation for the work that lies ahead. Some of it is literal, but the deeper work is personal. This far North, at this time of year, I descend into myself. Every time.
It's a seizing, clamping rhythm.
But it's seriously productive.
Most of these images are somewhere in my Instagram feed. Follow if you're hanging out there, too.
Obviously there are times when something's gotta give and for the last several weeks, among other things, it's been tending this blog. The large public art project I'm finishing will be installed in December, so I've temporarily put personal work aside to focus my attention there. The boxes of mystery I'm sharing here arrived in Alaska at the end of August and beginning of September and there are about 4 more posts about the crowdsourced vintage linens I received for the Inheritance Project, so if you haven't seen your shipment profiled yet, please hang in there.
It's been a little intense around here.
If you didn't know me and you didn't know my mom, you'd probably look at this picture and think there was some kind of crazy argument going on here. Actually, it's two Swedes getting into some serious crowdsourced domestic linen organization. When my parents visited Alaska in August, a bunch of shipments for the Inheritance Project needed to be gone through, the correspondence filed and the laundry picked up where I'd left off a few months before.
And when I say laundry, I mean laundry.
And then I found out my mom was staying up until 10 pm ironing linens each night in my studio after we'd all gone to bed, so it was time to stop all that nonsense and produce an actual Alaskan vacation for her.
And a bear.
Having my parents here was a huge help -- they also helped install a piece of public art in a library (different from the one I'm currently working on).
Below are the boxes of mystery that arrived at about this same time. It's been good to go back and look at summer photos since, hey, it recently snowed.
My gratitude to Tracie Savo-Bolack for sending this one doily. It is the size of my hand, fingers outstretched, but she wrote so much about her grandmother, Lena Scinto-Ferraro, that the small work may as well fill an entire room. A bit of what she shared:
"...She and my grandfather would wake each night around 2 am, have a sandwich together and return to their separate bedrooms. When you looked into her small, perfectly round brown eyes, you saw kindness. For every mile walked, there were equal miles of thread run through her fingers, doily after doily. The rhythmic movements taking her someplace else, or maybe within? I wish I'd asked her when I had the chance...."
"...Now that I've had my own children, I cannot imagine handing a three-year old a needle and thread, but she did. And that afternoon, which I can still see so clearly, showing me how to sew buttons onto an old sock for a hand puppet (God, how I wish I still had it), she set me on a course to keep needle and thread in my hands (and life) forever, to pass on and awaken in me what was already in her, a stout Italian woman, a needlewoman."
I am honored to inherit such a legacy. Thank you Tracie for your generosity of object, narrative and spirit.
I have a strong connection to libraries. Our main branch in Anchorage is under renovation so our normal every-other-week jaunt has been a disrupted over the past several months. Our family is looking forward to the dust settling and we aren't alone.
Many thanks to Sherri Douglas, Assistant Director for Public Services for the Anchorage Public Library for this box of mystery. She and I have worked an many projects together over the years, from poster artwork, to painted kiosks, to 30-foot dragons. When my children were small they always looked for her at the Youth Services desk, shyly whispering, "Oh, there's our librarian," or hanging on my pant leg asking, "Mama, where's our librarian?"
She shared an enormous holiday tablecloth crocheted by her paternal grandmother, a hand embroidered apron from Russia (?), a tea towel she embroidered with mushrooms in 1968 and an unfinished cross stitch made by a dear exchange student from Thailand. I'm honored to receive such things from a friend.
More to come soon.
Artist in Anchorage, Alaska, sometimes blogging about the collision of history, family & art, with the understanding that none exists without the other.