Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Memory: Strength and Fragility #3

"The Grandmother I Never Knew"
  14"x 30"x 12"
  Dowels, twings, wire mesh,   photographs, threads, acrylics

April 2011

     This is the time of  year when I remember a lot of things about both my mother, who died in February, 1992 and my father, who died in March, 1983.  In rummaging through old pictures after my mother passed away, I came upon two of her mother.  One of them I had seen before, and it showed a vivacious woman in her thirties, then living in Dallas.  The other, older and somewhat faded, I had never seen.  It showed a young women dressed in a way that most women would have dressed who lived in rural Texas. She was holding a child.  Turning the picture over I was shocked to see my mother and her mother's name scribbled on the back.  I had only ever seen the other picture of Helen, my grandmother, who looked fairly sophisticated for her day, and had never seen any childhood pictures of my mother, partly because the family farmhouse burned, when she was a child, destroying any pictures that might have been there.  I would never have guessed this was my grandmother at eighteen, when she gave birth to my mother, still living in the farm community in which she was born.  What transpired in the fourteen or so years between the pictures, I know a little of, but find myself speculating more about as the years go by.  My mother didn't speak often of her mother, except to say that they were very close, that she married and divorced three times, that she had a younger son, who died at eighteen, that she changed her name from Ella to Helen sometime in her twenties, and that she, herself, passed away from a brain tumor at forty five, a few years before I was born.  My mother always said it made her sad to talk about it.
    This piece grew out of all the things I've wondered about my grandmother. Two of the images on the piece are the two pictures of my grandmother.  The other two impose half the faces of the different images onto the faces of each image, creating an eerie effect, one of mystery and wonder, just as I try to understand this enigmatic person, who loomed large in my mother's life.  The twigs are metaphorically part of the complexity of one's family tree.

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