I have a spreadsheet. I'm tagging items. I'm sending teeny tiny gifts and thank you cards. And while much of this makes NO SENSE in terms of what the final outcome will or may be, it feels like a vital part of this process. It's about mark-making, acknowledging, listening, communicating and naming what I can, even if much of it is "Unknown."
The items that arrived a few weeks ago from Helen Geglio are ladened with details. She took the time to sit with each object, to remember and document the life around each item as best she could. The notes are beautiful to look at and I've gone back a number of times to re-read her thoughts while holding each object.
I've never met Helen, but I first discovered her work through the video series Quilt National produced this year*. I watched her speak eloquently about her inspiration, her use of clothing and old fabrics and the conceptual quality of her work. She is a seer and a noticer, and from this -- most wonderful of all -- she is a producer. All qualities I admire.
Part of this kind of mark-making speaks to my own fragile memory and need for written reminders. A friend in undergraduate school said, "See, I know I'm taking enough notes in class if I look over and see I've got exactly half of what you wrote." I still don't know how I feel about that comment 2 decades later. Here are Helen's contributions to the Inheritance Project (yes, it now has a name...fitting, yes?), the headings are mine -- they're how I think of each of these items -- but the excerpts are from her writings.
The Bathing Beauty.
"...Joan (pronounced Jo Ann) was well known in our community as an advocate for justice and peace, and worked tirelessly to make a better world (...) Joan is standing at the left with her friends. They are at one of the Lake Michigan beaches near us -- maybe Indiana Dunes, New Buffalo or Warren Dunes. By the swimsuits I would say late '40's, early '50's?"
"... Aunt Alyda was the 4th of 12 children born in to an immigrant family from the Netherlands. She was very close to my father, who was also a teacher. She married in her 40's, to a widower whose children had been in her class (...) The real keepsakes were the Valentines she saved from her long career as a 3rd grade teacher..."
Maybe Grandma LeVett.
"...I had a whole stash of little domestic linens that I took to my mom's assisted living facility to show her. She cheerfully told me she had 'no idea where that came from,' to which my dad piped in, 'we got a lot of that kind of stuff from Grandma LeVett' (...) she loved beautiful things, so this may be something that drifted through time to me..."
"(...) the voice of this cloth is so strong I wanted you to have a piece of it. Amelia was incarcerated in the Detroit House of Correction (known as DeHoCo) for killing her abusive husband. My mom was involved with an AAUW prison visitation group and commissioned this tablecloth so that Amelia would have some money when released. She had a sharp attorney who went to work on her appeal and she was released from custody on the grounds of self defense. My father was called to DeHoCo and drove her to a relative's home. I don't think she was in touch after her release and the tablecloth met with a "laundry accident," but was not thrown away..."
*This is Helen Geglio speaking about her work exhibited at Quilt National 2015.
If you are new to this blog and aren't sure what's going on but would like to learn more, please check out the category Boxes Of Mystery there on the side bar. You could start with the first Box of Mystery, or a post called Splitting open the idea. That'll get you up to speed.
You can also now follow the #InheritanceProject on Instagram: @amymeissnerartist.
It's kind of fun.
And lastly, a year ago, I wrote this.