Inspired and propelled by the Jewish mantra to “Never Forget”, this project honors my ancestral past through reclaiming its images, traditions and symbols. Through obsessive and meticulous labor, I reclaim, preserve and archive my family history. An alternative family tree, this tree is not about facts and knowledge, but about intimacy and understanding. To know your history is to know yourself.
The antique family photograph is the substrate onto which I embroider. There are parallels between bringing forth new life (offspring) and new thread, which solidified the use of thread as an important symbolic material. With this project, I give life.
A layer of embroidery—symbolic and reminiscent of the identity of my close blood relatives heightens my emotional connection. Cascading down the photographs, the embroidery organically evolves into a mass of tangled life threads with a life of its own. Pushing past research dead-ends, I turned to alternative pathways and material investigations; this resulted in a rich exploration outside of the photograph, incorporating rocks and heirlooms pulled directly from the photographs.
Through obsessive and meticulous labor, I attempt to become closer to my ancestors. Through the repetitive gestures of embroidery and wrapping, I begin to understand the likeness of my ancestors and form a spiritual bond. No longer are they images of strangers. I sought a great-grandmother/grandmother/granddaughter relationship; I gained an appreciation for the history of fiber arts and a respect for the ancient art of “women’s work”.