When you say you'll take a box of mystery, you relinquish control over what will be sent. You also relinquish control over old memories you thought were long gone, like that memory about playing at Annie Comstock's* house, and how you kept asking to go back and play, despite the way she ignored you at school, despite her older brother's Stretch Armstrong toy that extended across the hallway and whipped heavy when thrown at you, despite her mother who wasn't as warm as your mother (or very warm towards your mother), despite the birthday party when all the other 2nd or 3rd grade girls held you out of the locked-arm-circle game. Despite all this, Annie had a sun-filled pink bedroom, with a white-framed bed and gingham cover and canopy, a white dollhouse, expensive toys, and a Barbie "bed doll," so you knew exactly where to go hide during the mean-girl birthday party.
You probably also forgot about the student art show in undergrad when everyone spent a lot of time considering all the melted Barbies in the toasters, liquified in blenders and paninied beneath domestic irons. That experience was, after all, utterly forgettable.
What isn't forgettable is that this Friday, September 30, 2016, I will no longer be able to accept items for the Inheritance Project. Now, it might seem like I'm still accepting Boxes of Mystery since I currently have 4-5 unpublished blog posts stacked up like Barbies on a wood pile and they'll be forthcoming over the next couple of months. But really. After the 30th...no more quizzical looks from our mailman.
Below are the contributors to the 17th boxes of mystery for the Inheritance Project, all electrified probes for my own memory:
Many makers in the family
Thank you Lynette Fisk, for the large box of mystery and for taking the time to document the provenance of each item. I love that your mother saved all these things, all created by the women in your family. I'm honored that you've shared this with me for my work.
Thank you Debra Steinmann for the linens left by your Grandma Eva Baker, I'm so happy you've been able to use her handwork for your own creative work as well. I'm also touched by what you wrote about the linen sleeve you included in the box of mystery:
"The sleeve with crocheted trim is from a wedding gift purchased by a friend's brother in Istanbul, Turkey (...) the wedding was between my friend Martha and her partner of decades, Anne. Love is love is love...
Thank you Nancy Frazier for sharing your family history with me for this project. Nancy is the only grand daughter of southern aunts, grandmother and a great grandmother, so she inherited "a great treasure" of crocheted items. Her lineage also includes a "courting quilt" that her great great grandmother and grandfather worked on in the mid 1800's (pre-Civil war) in the hills of Arkansas (it's stunning, she shared a photograph with me via email). She tagged almost everything with red tags.
I am so grateful for everyone's willingness to ship items to Alaska, to a complete stranger (me). The outpouring of generosity far surpassed anything I ever envisioned a year ago and speaks to the reverence we have towards the women who paved the way with flying fingers and poor lamp light.
If this September 30, 2016 deadline sneaked up on you, despite the fact that you were considering contributing to the Inheritance Project, I apologize -- but I have more than enough material after a year of gathering. I hope you'll continue to follow and see where this work goes from here.
On that front:
One of the works I created from a box of mystery has been invited to Quilt National, 2017 (!!!) and it wouldn't have happened without this old cloth and the unknown women's work that inspires me so. Big gratitude from Alaska.
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*names have been altered to protect mean 3rd grade girls.
Artist in Anchorage, Alaska, sometimes blogging about the collision of history, family & art, with the understanding that none exists without the other.