Some people say that their mom is their best friend. My mother and I managed only a grudging tolerance of each other. But my grandmother was an illiterate peasant (born in a thatched hut in Poland) my mom had to drop out of high school to help support the family, and I worked my way through the local state college....so we're doing a little better with each generation. While my mom and grandmother struggled to survive, I have the leisure to analyze my family story, and sew it.
Altering the Family Fabric is one of my early efforts, which a friend (rightly) labeled 'creepy'. Here's what's going on:
The vintage photo in back shows my grandparents with a few of their eleven children. My mother is the little girl sitting near her feet. So...I picked up my mom, turned her around and sat her in her mother's lap, wrapping her in her mother's arms. And sewed smiles on their faces. Look - see? Happy Family.
In the newest version of Photoshop, you can electronically lift up mouths into smiles. Not as an artistic effort, but as an Orwellian rewriting of family history. THAT really IS creepy.
My Mother (28"h x 18"w) Constructed with a few beautiful vintage linen dishtowels (I found a big bunch of them at a garage sale for $1. They had never been used, and the original starch had turned brown, making them look awful. But they were easily washed ).
Now, you need to know something about clotheslines to appreciate this. Old clotheslines were hung on pulleys, and had devices to keep the upper and lower sections from pulling too far apart. I only know the Polish word for these things, thriska. In this picture, there are 2 thriskas holding the line:
Thriskas can be metal, plastic or wood. I used an old wooden one, gently white-washed, on the top of this piece.
Around the edges, I embroidered some of my mom's admonitions, seen in this composite photo:
These sentiments sum up her attitude toward life, and they frame this piece.
In the very center is a photo of my mom (about age 65?) Her arms and legs - her abilities - are flooded over by the minutiae of her life. How can you run or reach out when you're overwhelmed by the many tasks of daily life? And all that is tightly bound up in a rosary (for any young atheists reading this, a rosary is a loop of prayer beads used by Catholics. You had to say a rote prayer on each bead). The Catholic church was the foundation of her life, but it also kept her walled in.
At the bottom, 2 crocheted gloves represent hands folded in prayer, holding the end of the rosary. Instead of a row of candles, we have a row of clothespins. And a small photo of my mom...
I can almost hear her telling my Dad "Oh Ted, not NOW!" She's standing by our back door, hanging laundry. Right under the pulley, you can see the clothespin bag. Every mother had one. They were all shaped like little dresses - you can just about make out the ruffled bottom edge. There was a big opening in the middle, so you could reach in and grab clothespins. Like these:
One other thing. The Newark Museum has a wonderful Tibetan section - go see it, if you can. I loved their Thangka scrolls, like these:
When I first saw them....they reminded me of my mom's clothespin bags. What can I say? Something about the shape, the widening at the bottom, and the one I liked most had a round image in the center.
Anyhow...now you understand the thinking behind this piece.
This is the first in a series of pieces I made about my mother. More coming!