Monday, May 31, 2010
unique artist book
photograph of my father, Erwin Hegenberg, credit unknown, circa 1948
3-panel folded and hand-sewn handkerchief, inkjet transfers, waxed string
closed: 5.5"w x 7.5"h; open 15"w x 7.5"h
My father, Erwin Hegenberg, died in 2005 from health complications related to vascular dementia. As time and memory became tangled and transient for him, I saw a person that was, and was not, my father – a brother who mistook me for a sister, a soldier who witnessed unspeakable acts, and a man who spent countless hours behind an office desk. The moments when he remained my dad were precious and tragic in their clarity, and brought close the mundane that we often treasure too late. His old, stained hankie (kept crumbled in a pocket and used with a sounding blast that always startled me from any corner of our small house) is a symbol of this – a piece of cloth that attains the relic status of grief, which time and acceptance can eventually transform back into a simple object.
The cover shows a drawing of my father during his illness, while a length of string encircles his monogram "E" – an act of remembrance, a tied piece of string around a finger, an attempt for him to maintain his identity and mine to remember it. The loose, tangled string alongside is an unravelling of this – a loss of memories and the premature loss of a loved one to dementia.
The text on the inside front cover refers to the sound that I can still hear, the forceful blow that always accompanied the use of the hankie. "A sound startling and stong..." The words face a photograph of my dad as a strong and confident young man in his prime. When fully open, the final text is revealed alongside another drawing of my father, this one faint and fleeting, like memory "... your mind stained in habit even as you forget me." Unravelled string snakes in and around the words and image. The verse recalls the habits that often remain during dementia – the daily, repeated actions of living – while loved ones and time are forgotten.
Alexander Walter Sharam (18.3.1935 – 10.3.2009)
It is not until you have a child of your own that you realize what your parents have done for you or even the depth of their love for you. My father didn’t teach me how to drive, he didn’t teach me to cook, he didn’t even give me the sex talk. What I learnt from my Father was through the example he set in his own life. I learnt about integrity, honesty, generosity and concern for others. These are the things I hope to pass on to my three sons. If people were ever to say of my boys – they are just like their Grandfather - then I will be very very proud.
Denise lost her grandmother, Jennie Mae Rall, in 1999. But the loss is still felt every day. At 16 years of age, Jennie Mae saw some women marching for the vote in her small town in Arkansas, and her mother said, "Those women are right!" Jennie Mae never forgot the power of women acquiring the vote in the United States. She campaigned tirelessly after the age of 50 for women's rights, African American rights, and the rights of farmworkers in California (the campaign of Ceasar Chavez). She was proudest of her opportunity to serve as a delegate to International Women's Day in Mexico City, Mexico in 1990. At age 65, she campaigned for the rights of senior citizens through the group, the Gray Panthers.
We met immediately before I migrated to Australia. Sadly, in 1999, I returned to the US for her memorial service. At her service, I said, "while I miss Jennie Mae Rall, my grandmother, the under privileged of the world miss her even more." The UN, the League of Women Voters, and many others were recipients of her funds and her volunteer work. So at her death at 89 years, she held membership in 25-30 separate organizations, each championing the right to be heard. The world still needs her, and women like her, today.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Remembering how I was sent off to school with a hanky pinned to my uniform every day makes me very sad for that little girl who felt like her world had come to an end when she came home from school to find her mother being taken off to hospital in a coma. Mum pulled through, but she was away long enough to make me feel like my childhood had come to an end. Pinning my own hanky to my uniform in the mornings was an awful reminder of her absence.
My mother died suddenly from a heart attack aged 64. The arteries leading to her heart were completely blocked. I remember as a child first reading on a cigarette packet that smoking was a health hazard, in those days I used to get her cigarettes and I dramatically announced it was the last packet; I would ever buy.
With her cigarette came black coffee…her lifelong love of coffee inspired me to use the Turkish proverb about it “ black as hell, strong as death, sweet as love…” the words seem to reflect her bittersweet life.
While working on my hankie, I realized that I was remembering not only my mother’s life but also my grandmother and great-grandmother’s. The three women were very close and had much in common.
All were Catholic, had very little but loved and cared for their families taking great pride in cooking, sewing and cleaning. They each had unfulfilled marriages and dreamed of a better life for their children.
I have wooden cooking spoons; buttons and embroidery passed down from one mother to the next and treasure these domestic icons.
The buttons sewn at the top come from this collection, the fabric buttons were made for doona covers
so they wouldn’t snap in the wringing press when washed. Here they symbolise snowflakes falling on my mother at her mother’s funeral in Prague.
The coffee spoon features the Glasshouse Mountains, a view my mother enjoyed from her garden.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
"Comfort Me" Ink on a vintage hankie. 2010.
One of the enduring memories of my late Grandma is of her hankie tin. Every time I went to visit, she would send me to fetch it from the airing cupboard that smelled of household soap and burning coal. She would allow me to choose a hankie from the tin or sometimes she would have saved one especially for me. It was an affectionate and comforting ritual that never lost its charm. It carried on long after I'd stopped using hankies and only ended when Grandma was too ill to even remember there was such a thing as a hankie.
They weren't new hankies mind you. Grandma would pick them up from the pavement, the gutter, wherever she found them, bring them home, boil wash them and press them into clean little rectangles. Waste not, want not was her motto.
On a personal level, hankies represent caring and comfort and little shows of affection. Here, I used a vintage hankie that once belonged to a stranger in the same way my Grandma's hankies had. The hankie may bear the stains of others' pains and grieving, almost a palimpsest of pain, and I just added my own. It describes my overwhelming sense of dread in the face of the reality of death.
Monday, May 24, 2010
My dad BEN SHULMAN was not a Hankie man! But, my amazing 93-year-old mom found a few for me to use. I thought about what I would do. I thought about making the shapes of fish out of them and photographing them. But, I do not do sculpture. I thought about making a collage with fish hooks but I do not do assemblage, I also thought about doing a collage, but that did not feel right either. So, I chose to treat it like a painting. It is mixed media: Oil sticks, conté, pastels, pens, pencils, markers and charcoal. A mix of those magical tools I love. Extensions of my soul, expressing my love for my dad
In this work you see my dad as a fish wearing his beloved fishing hat. He loved fishing and I loved to go fishing with him in the middle of the lakes and rivers. Fish are my creative alphabet. My mantra. So, it is only fitting that he be one with fish. And, in this sea of brilliant colour, he is surrounded by schools of loving and colourful creatures from all dimensions and universes. Below him is the ocean. And above him is the music to “MY YIDDISHE MOMMA”. My father loved music and all styles but thought this would be the perfect song for this voyages.
THIS IS THE TALE I WOULD LIKE TO SHARE.
My father was not religious but a was a very spiritual man. He had visions throughout his life. He would dream and always saw his Father, his Mother and his brother Oliver He shared these experiences with me.
He was a man's man. A big strong warrior who was invincible named Dad.
He grew up at the age of 12 when his mother passed away. When his mother was brought home from the hospital after dying from childbirth, his father told him to grab his mother's feet. My grandfather told my father that by doing this he would never fear death or anything for that matter again. A story he was proud to tell me many times throughout the years. At the age of 14 he started to work to help support his father and two older sisters. A street smart tough guy who worked with his father in the plumbing business and later took it over. He was always there 24/7 for his customers.
His hobbies were wrestling, bowling, fishing, card playing, cooking and he loved to sing and dance.
He was the most powerful man I knew. My first memory of my father was he carrying me on his broad and muscular shoulders. His hands were so large that I thought he could carry the world like Atlas. We had a country place in Joliette when I was young. Not only would he unpack all the belongings from the city, connect the pipes for the water after the long winter, chop the wood for the stove because the nights were very cold but also prepare his rods to go fishing all in the first day. Then with enthusiasm run down the steep red sand cliffs to the river with all his equipment in hand, catch many fish, run back up the incline to then clean and prepare them. The best fried perch and rock bass one could ever eat.
He would climb mountains to pick blueberries with me on his shoulders to protect me from the poison ivy. This was a recurring theme and later on in my life he continued to shoulder me with his love, support and encouragement in all my endeavors especially my art.
He was a tough, independent and just man who always came to the rescue of all.
When his mind started to go in 2007 he was upset and angry. This was absolute torture to an independent man who drove a car, paid his bills on time, shopped and cooked the best gourmet meals for his wife and family. The pain he went through when he knew something was not going right in his head was heartbreaking.
I watched my father fight for 7 months at the hospital daily. He did not want to forget, he did not want to be drugged up, and he did not want to be manhandled. He did not want to be treated like a mixed up person. He did not want to be treated like a second rate citizen. And, he did not want to be treated without dignity and respect. He fought for that every day he was there. I fought for him as well. It was the only time in my life I had to shoulder him. All he wanted was to go home. It was not to be. My father tried to live life to its fullest until his body started to retire from a bacteria gifted to him.
When he passed away at 3:45 PM Sunday March 30 I was the only one left in the room. My mother and brother who had also spent seven months caring for my father every day had left. So did my aunt and for some odd reason even the evening sitter was out of the room at that time too. Even the nurses and doctors making rounds were at the other end of the hall. My father took three huge breaths like a newborn baby arriving to this world except my father was leaving to return to source.
And, yes the gift he gave me was that I was privileged to hold his feet as he had planned! And as his father had previously revealed to him, my father was now empowering me to never fear death or anything else again. That was his final legacy to shoulder me for my future. When I told the story about his how he held the feet of his mother to my family, they looked blankly at me. This tale he shared with me many times over the years, was only told to me! My destiny. .
And, now, he is finally reunited in the sea of peace and love with his YIDDISHE MOMMA!
I have his spirit and passion for life illuminated in my heart forever. I will always be able to talk to him because now he is part of the infinite universe and all its molecular structure.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
There's a hole in my heart,
There's a hole in my heart,
Dear Mummy, dear me.
Then fix it,
Then fix it,
Dear Becky, dear me.
Dear Mummy, dear me.
Friday, May 21, 2010
Sunday, May 16, 2010
fifty years ago, through the eyes of a six year old child, i see my grandma, rosena mclarnon. to me she was pretty and kind. and from what i remember she could tell a great story.
she came from ireland, to canada and then to brooklyn, new york. i remember her when she and my grandpa lived on greenway circle in syosset, long island.
we took the subway, then the railroad out from "the city" to visit. sometimes we had to change tracks in jamaica and instead of going up and down the stairs to the next platform, my dad would grab our hands and run through a waiting train to get across. it was scary and exhilarating all at the same time. on the train you could pull the backs of the green leather seats back and forth so my brother and i sat across from our parents and watched out the window on our ride to "the island". the conductor would shout out the names of the towns along the route, holding out the first syllable of each one: miiiiinnnn-eola, hiiiicks-ville, syyyyyy-osset. it was an adventure.
my grandma was a smoker. it didn't seem unusual then. she died in 1960, it was my first experience with death.
i can see her clearly, sitting on the couch in her living room, in a black and yellowish patterned house-dress, her skin was so white you could see the veins in her legs. there were louvers on the windows and the smoke drifted out. like my memory.
This triptych is a homage to my father, my father-in-law (both born in 1926 within three months of each other, and passed away in 2004 within three months of each other), and my first pet Pluto (Plutonium) who passed away in 2008 just a few months shy of 16 was born on my father’s birthday and cremated on my mother’s.
This piece, which hangs vertically, (my father at the top, my father-in-law at the center, and my Pluto at the bottom) incorporates items that symbolize who they were. At the center of each piece is real hair, mine (for my father), my husband's (for my father-in-law) and Pluto's.
Each of the three pieces is created on one of my father-in-law's used handkerchiefs (courtesy of my mother-in-law Sylvia) and cross-stitch fabric, stitched together with needlepoint threads, and covered with organza fabric. The threads hang from one piece into another, as a connection or bonding or symbolizing the threads of life.
There is a veil-like quality to them, a kind of melting together of objects and ideas. I believe that these three souls were connected even if only in their connection to us. But their deaths touched us so much and so deeply and in our grief we were expanded to something more, something deeper... or perhaps just a deeper understanding of the experience of loss… of life... and death... and they gave us a new beginning.
I still feel my father's hand on my shoulder, guiding me and grounding me… feeling a full sense of him (even if I didn't feel it while he was alive.)
My Pluto sits in our home still (in a beautiful blue and white porcelain vase), and whenever I hold her close to my heart, she vibrates her love and her essence to me.
Thank you, Alojz, Yechiel and Pluto for adding such a fullness to my life, even in your death.
"Alojz" My Father: my hair (at center), dress patterns, tools, piece of cloth from man's suit, button, german, bible, slovenian, white cord from large spool, lesters saucisses fumees wrapper, wine bottle cork foil, fortune-cookie fortune: "nature, time and patience are the three great physicians"
11"w x 13.5"h
"Yechiel" My Father-In-Law: my husband's hair (at center), music, german, aldo shoe wrapper, brail, large print readers digest, hebrew old testament, kepa skull cap, lace female head covering (kepa), fortune-cookie fortune: "if your desires are not extravagant, they will be granted"
16"w x 17.5"h
"Pluto" My First Pet: my dog's hair (at center), tim hortons sandwich wrapper, used medical gauze, mesh onion bag, rabies vaccination heart tag, vaccination certificates 2004 & 2005, safety pin, checkerboard sandwich wrapper, hair from Satchi Sasquatch (our pet cat) and Halle Bop (our pet dog), fortune-cookie fortune: "you get what you want through your charm and personality"
11"w x 12.5"h
Mary Bogdan, Triptych, mixed media assemblage with handkerchiefs, 2010. Total height approx 46 inches (not including the hanging threads at bottom).
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Hankies softened to comfort
Lack containment of collective emotions,
Slipping through noticed,
Not always understood.
There are the tears,
The deconstructive emotions,
Bearing the burden.
Wired, numb, immobilised.
The initials of the possessor,
He is beside me day and night,
In the shadows,
Crossing my path, cowering, waiting,
Always the opportunist.
Stitched with childhood freedom,
Acceptance, warts, and all.
Photoetching with handcolour and wrapped in scarf with hatpin, 2010
It was in my beloved aunt’s passing and the family ritual of packing up her belongings that provoked memories of her and her stories, other losses in my life, thoughts on the transience of being and the history and memories embedded in the objects remaining.
I wrapped one of my aunt’s scarves around a photoetching. Every day she wore a scarf right to the end of her long life. The photo in the etching is of my aunt in that classic pose that a man often takes of his loving girlfriend leaning against his beloved car.... the wrapping and packing of this etching prolonged my fading memories by the ritual of making objects as part of my acts of remembering.
Paper, fabric, carbon
When i was young, my father placed a hankie card into the top left pocket of his suit coat whenever he went out. I saw it as a symbol of his strength, as one who doesn't cry.
It wasn't talked about.
I guess I may use it when he dies.
The boy was beautiful, funny, caring, loving,
Wild, reckless, adventurous,
He whispered, “I wish you were my mother.”
Numbed then dead.
The mother clung to me, knowing, I knew, the treasure that was lost.
It felt like the saddest thing in the world.
Tears will dry.
Only the salt remains.
A tribute to my father, Yechiel (Hili) Lang.
This piece shows him in deep thought.
It was his last birthday and he knew it perhaps better than all of us - his family around him. We were all in denial while he was making himself ready for his next big adventure. He was well aware that the advanced cancer that took his lung has now travelled to his brain. There seemed to be no fear of death, rather deep contemplation and reflection.
The two mirror images are printed on two pieces of canvas and sewn together with coloured threads to form a pillow, filled with fibre stuffing to make it soft to the touch.
I used a handkerchief that belonged to my father as the surface on which I drew a composite image representing key subjects in his life.
Concentration camp fence
Violin and musical notes
Cobbler’s tools, nails and a shoe
Concert stage performance
Ship sailing into the distance
Five human silhouette figures (our family)
I tore the handkerchief into four pieces and attached each piece to the shaped pillow, each hanging at different distances from the pillow. These represent the varied distance in the past of each event as well as it’s importance as it diminishes due to the time passing.
I have also attached a small toy violin and a piece of genuine leather, both representing his two skills, violinist and cobbler, both of which saved him when the Soviet army liberated his camp and deported all unskilled prisoners back, into the cold deep east of Russia.
For almost 3 days I tried many ways to assemble my Nana's hankie in a way that would remind me of her. I gathered pieces of material, buttons and thread in colours that she liked and attempted to make landscapes. Nana loved to be in the garden. I miss Nana the most and when attending her funeral I was speechless. I could not utter one word when asked to stand and express a poem. I could see Nana in her coffin and I could not stop thinking that Nana is not there, Nana is missing.
My Grandfather past away about 18 months before Nana. The following Christmas after my Grandfather past away, Nana gave me a photo of him, the best Christmas present ever. Nana is also in the photo but in the background and I have placed this photo in a frame with my Grandfathers favourite colour. I will treasure this photo forever.
The hankie has been dyed in a cup of tea. When visiting Nana, we always had a pot of tea and sat around the dining table drinking our cups of tea. I have not had the courage yet to display a photo of Nana on her own in a picture frame. I miss Nana the most and I miss having cups of tea with her. Nana is missing and I wish she was not. I could not add all the colours to the hankie that Nana would like. The colour is missing too.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
I used a handkerchief from my childhood and dedicated it to the memory of my parents – the most loving, caring parents there could ever be. I wrote “ a life that touches the hearts of others goes on forever” because I will certainly never forget them, and neither will my children. The hankie is creased into 16 squares in memory of the way my mother used to neatly press my handkerchiefs four times so they fitted into my pockets.