Monday, May 31, 2010
Maureen Piggins - E
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.