"Inheritance: makers. memory. myth." will be a solo exhibition of contemporary mixed media work created from donated/abandoned/rescued/crowdsourced domestic linens, which I've been willing to inherit if no one else will. It is an exploration of my own literal inheritance and relationship to materials and makers. It is a vessel for emerging themes such as valuing the valueless, honoring the hand and revering the fragility of memory. It is an interpretation of the narrative of inherited cloth, and because so much of this history is unknown, much of it is myth.
"Project" indicates that it involves other people, and it does, all of whom will be accounted for in some way beyond the thanks they've already received. When the small exploration of my personal collection of domestic textiles started running down the road without me, a "project" framework helped define its boundaries without shackling it to the post. I already use old linens for my work, but I didn't predict the power of the relationships that would emerge from this act of inheriting and corresponding.
The Inheritance Project is the gathering and documenting of narratives, objects, materials, with the most unexpected gathering being that of (mostly) women from all over the world, who feel they have no one to pass these items on to. Can I take something unwanted and make meaningful, contemporary work from it? The effort is the Project. The journey is the Project. The questioning is the Project. The act of inheriting is the Project. The Not Knowing is the Project. And now an exhibition will be the culmination of all this.
Here's an update on the 11th Boxes of Mystery -- the name I attribute to the items I've inherited. If you are curious about the other 10 posts, check out the Boxes of Mystery blog sidebar category. The shipments are mysterious in that I never know what each parcel will contain, who has made them, or why. Sometimes they are mysteries to the contributors, but sometimes the only mystery is what they will become.
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Grandmother and granddaughter.
Our Swedish neighbors at the time, The Grebergs, were renting a basement suite one house over and their little girl, Rebecka, then 5, was allowed to walk down the back lane and visit when I was in the yard, often appearing with no warning, a halo of white-blonde hair and rapid-fire Swedish, hands gesturing, eyes sparkling. "Rebecka," I'd say, looking over the fence towards her house,"does your mother know you've come visiting?" We'd point and name the colors of flowers, compare the sizes of birds, describe all the good things cooking for dinner. My Swedish still exists within the realm of home and childhood; hers was the taut line that slowly pulled the language from the depths of my memory.
Rebecka visited us in Alaska last summer, at age 20. Her parents and I have kept in sporadic touch over the last 15 years with Christmas cards, Facebook and a visit in 2003. These Swedish grytlappar were made by her great grandmother, Alfhild Brogren. Rebecka and her grandmother, Marianne -- who knew about the Inheritance Project from Instagram (!) -- were going through old things and wanted to contribute. I am deeply grateful for their thoughtfulness.
Rebecka and I still hold a taut line to the past, to memory, and now one that extends into the future. In 10 or 15 years, I'll be sending my children, alone, to visit her in Sweden.
Lunch and a green tub.
"It is fascinating to me how even a fragment of cloth can evoke the soul of a culture; the way in which, in the midst of their struggle to survive, a people can produce utilitarian objects of a beauty that transcends their function. It is a testament to the universal need to create beauty in one’s life and to the spiritual connection that comes from making art."
Excerpt from Susan Schapira's Artist Statement
Before I left to pick up kids from school that afternoon, she slid an enormous green Rubbermaid tub my way, filled with mysteries. I later hired a Studio Assistant for a dollar an hour to sort its contents, and over a weekend that 7-year-old girl cleared 5 bucks.
My thanks to you, Susan. I owe you lunch and a visit here.
Beer lover's dinner.
Many thanks to Nancy, for the conversation, the linens and for taking the floppy cat from me at one point (I think ... I think it was Nancy who took the floppy cat. I'm a little hazy on that).
Don't take Your Love to town.
The resulting conversation might go something like this:
You, waiting in the hot car with the boy: "You bought potholders? On vacation?
Your Love, with Studio Assistant, each carrying a small bag out to the shade-less parking lot: "Hey man, give me a break, it could have been a mule deer or a Little Bo Peep lamp."
Studio Assistant: "...and her calves were too fat for the red snake boots, so you should be happy, Papa, because they were made from real snakes!"
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Thank you, everyone, for your effort, your Boxes of Mystery, stories, emotional downloads and support. This is one of those "started-out-small-and-got-big" kinds of things and wouldn't have happened in the same way without you.