Inheritance: makers. memory. myth. was accepted as part of the Alaska State Museum's Solo Exhibition Series, so after finishing at the Anchorage Museum this summer, it re-opened on December 7 in Juneau. I was able to travel there and help install the final tricky pieces, attend the opening with my family and conduct 2 youth workshops. It was so outstanding to see the work in a completely different venue, have a deeper understanding of the process and feel like there's a burnish on the work that comes from the privilege of installing it twice. There are 12 pieces in this body of work, one has sold and will be leaving the collection for its new home in Los Angeles.
I've only been to Juneau a handful of times, but never in the winter. These photos were taken at about 4:30 in the evening...not much different than Anchorage in terms of light this time of year, but for those of you at a lower latitude it might take some getting used to. The bright gallery was a welcome sight.
Astrid checking out her handwork. She helped make components for the piece, "Lamb." I paid her by the piece, not realizing she would be able to complete one traditional "yo-yo" form in 8 minutes. "Mom. I'm making WAY more money than when you pay me by the hour."
(Right. So, it's really hard to be 12 and have to come to your mom's "thing." AGAIN.)
Some pieces were hung differently in this space.
Others were hung the same.
"Archers: A Personal History."
Light coming through the arrow holes in this piece. The leather words say, "When words failed, we launched arrows."
It still took several hands to install "River," which is 21 feet long.
I gave a talk and slide show on the evening of the opening about personal history, process and my cultural relationship to materials. I don't have a video of this, but I gave a recorded interview you can listen to here. You can also read a version on the Hand/Eye Magazine blog.
I'm excited to share news that the piece, "Descent," (below) was recently accepted into Fiber Art Now's Excellence in Fibers IV in the "Sculptural Works" category. The Anchorage Museum built the beautiful custom light table for it, featuring a diamond-shaped plexiglass window that fits perfectly below the sheer portions of the piece. The electrical cord is brilliantly hidden in the table leg.
Lastly, I led 2 fabulous (and hilarious) kid-filled workshops at the State Museum where we worked with old linens and inserted our own designs and embroideries into the existing handwork, making this old cloth 100% rescued and 100% our own. Their enthusiasm was over-the-top fun to be with.
Stealing a seat before opening night (the first time I'd sat down all day!), with the beautiful community art project "Needle & Myth" hanging behind me. The piece was made by 72 women, men and children who came together in the fall & winter of 2018 to celebrate the women in their lives.
"Needle & Myth," vintage handkerchiefs, silk organza, embedded found objects.
My gratitude to the many, many people who came together and made this second exhibition and the pieces within it possible. I'm fully aware my work would not exist in this form without the generous donations of rescued or abandoned women's handwork. While the majority of the makers are Unknown and much of their work has gone uncelebrated, I love to think the hours they spent in the making way back when kept those mothers, aunts and grandmothers grounded and sane. I know it's done this for me.
This post is going out right before this exhibition wraps up on February 9, 2019. We'd love for it to come to a venue near you and the Anchorage Museum and I are diligently working on this.
Inheritance is a project I've worked on for nearly 3 years. It began in 2015 when a woman in New York state sent me a box of mystery filled with linens and vintage garments, and based on the response I received from sharing that story online, I officially crowdsourced more household, handmade/hand-embroidered cloth, along with associated stories. I offered to become the final inheritor of it all, even though most of the origins and makers were Unknown.
"Inheritance: makers. memory. myth." installed at the Anchorage Museum.
Also unknown, was what a body of work made from cast off, abandoned, sometimes-unwanted, or even still-loved-but-burdensome objects would look like. Even when I submitted the proposal to the Anchorage Museum in 2016, I had little to show, but must have been convincing in my direction. I gave up so much control over my materials during the course of this project that it's changed the way I work. After 12 years in the clothing industry, I already endure a rocky relationship with clothing and fabric, but after this exercise in mindfulness, strange abundance and deep emotional dives, I have more ways to side-eye run-of-the-mill cloth.
Yesterday, I walked into the fabric store to by 1.3 meters of fabric to back a piece I'm finishing, found exactly what I was looking for, pulled out the bolt, walked 5 steps and stopped. My daughter, age 9, who was with me when I opened that first box of mystery and there for the dozens that followed, said, "I think I understand, mom," and then, "I don't want be in here anymore. Let's go." So I returned the perfect bolt of cloth to the shelf and we walked out the door.
We aren't snobs, we aren't garbage pickers (well, sometimes), but going through this process has put me somewhere in the middle -- somewhere between what can be and what was, between old and new, between shouting and silence, between the beautiful and terrible, between confidence and uncertainty, between hiding everything and baring all.
And always, always existing in the Not Knowing.
Artist Statement, "Inheritance: makers. memory. myth." Anchorage Museum, Alaska. 2018.
Here's something I feel strongly about: theme kills. Entering into a project -- whether writing or visual arts -- with a theme in mind is a mistake. Themes emerge from the Not Knowing and from probing the Living Questions.
"Hysteria," Approx. 105 W x 90 H Vintage potholders, doilies, domestic/household linens, abandoned quilt, 2018.
My work explores the work of women--literal, physical, emotional. Theme emerges from stomping around on this landscape, turning over rocks, lifting dead things to find new growth, or investigating why that thing shriveled and died in the first place.
"Descent," (Suspended component: 9W x 20H x 9D, flat assemblage: 35 W x 53 L) Vintage doilies, silk organza, rubber, wire, epoxy clay, 2017.
These materials could have been debilitating, or narrow. They were. But roaming and poking at every single corner inside those confines is the ultimate freedom.
13W x 43H Vintage Persian lamb coat, vintage “yo-yo“quilt components, satin and men’s ties, rope, wire, epoxy clay, 2018.
I pushed against the confines of form and these surface-bound artifacts -- base items made for the bed, the body, the table, the wall -- elevating and lightening them, while at the same time infusing them with weight.
"Panoply," (8”H x 8” W x 36” L -- installation dimensions vary) Vintage crocheted potholders, adhesive, acrylic, vintage wool embroidery thread, needles, 2017.
I wanted to look at things we generally don't.
"River" (36 ½” W x 20’ 10” L) Vintage domestic/household linens and doilies, abandoned embroideries, silk organza, cotton, linen, wool, 2018.
"Needle & Myth," Community Art Project. (approx 120" x 150") Vintage handkerchiefs, silk organza, found objects.
I met incredible generous people throughout this multi-year process, many of whom I now call friends. Some are traveling to Alaska this summer to see this work installed at the Anchorage Museum.
Eventually I'll share more about each of these pieces -- where the components came from, process images and further thoughts. But the next posts will be about the installation process and museum programming. There are so many things I've learned that will continue shaping how I approach future projects.
I'm so happy with this work, even when I thought it wasn't enough, or too much, or that I shouldn't have started down such a path in the first place.
I'm still wandering around on it, somewhere between lost and found.