Posts filed under "genealogy"

Work-in-progress: the other side of the story

Thank you for hanging in there until I could come back to update you on my collages. Things have settled down for the moment with my family; hoping things improve quickly there.

Back to the far past, and my great-grandfather Taylor. You remember he fought on the Union side in Kentucky after either being freed, or escaping slavery. (I chose to paint over this image, since I have no actual photo of him).
After the war, Taylor worked as a farmer and hired hand. I imagine he really needed the work: he and his first wife had three children. Then with his second wife (my great-grandmother), Taylor had eight more kids.
So when a farmer refused to pay Taylor for his work, Taylor must've been thinking he couldn't go home empty-handed.
Instead, Taylor went home with three bullet wounds: on his neck, shoulder, and hip/groin. So the farmer who shot at him was telling Taylor -- who was probably "worth" between $800 and $1500 when he was considered property -- that his labor was of no value.
What a horrifying -- and horrifyingly common -- irony. And yet Taylor hung on, working around the bullet still left inside him, working around chronic pain his doctors recorded in his veteran's treatment record.
Courage was once honored with a crown of laurels. But since he lived and died in tobacco country, I've given my great-grandfather a crown of tobacco leaves. I've also ordered him a medal or two. Once I've added the finishing touches, you're invited to the medal ceremony.
Posted on May 13, 2014 and filed under "collage", "genealogy", "portraits".

Work-in-progress: one side of the story

Not having any photos of my great-grandfather Taylor, my imagination fills in the gap to build these collage portraits. I've taken this (copyright-free) image...
and turned it into these:
At the end of the Civil War, my great-grandfather Taylor returned from Texas to Kentucky, to his wife and two daughters. At some point, he worked for a man who refused to pay him after Taylor had completed the labor. When Taylor called him on it, the man fired shots at him -- hitting him in the neck, the shoulder and groin.
So as a Civil War veteran, Taylor looked for medical help from his local veterans' hospital. They told him since he didn't receive the wounds in battle, there was nothing they could do for him.
The pain drove him to two more veterans' hospitals in Ohio and Virginia, where they told him the same thing: sorry, buddy. I imagine him guided by the North Star, in search of relief.
On Monday, I'll wrap up the story with more about the other half of this collage pair. Hang in there!
Posted on May 9, 2014 and filed under "collage", "genealogy", "portraits".

Work-in-progress: Looking forward, looking back

If you follow me on Facebook, you might have noticed an evolution going on...
.. two collage portraits in progress.
The Janus faces I've been working on are inspired by one of my great-grandfathers. The family story is that Taylor escaped the person who owned him (either in Virginia or Kentucky). Near the end of the Civil War, pension records show he became a private, then a sergeant in the United States Colored Troops (later known as the Buffalo Soldiers). But the records indicate it wasn't until after the war that Taylor was seriously injured.
His doctor filled out the above diagram, with pointer fingers to show where Taylor was shot three times: once in the neck, once in the shoulder, and once in the hip near the groin. (P.S. That's a fig leaf in the diagram.) He lived with those half-treated wounds for years, searching for relief while trying to support nine children as a farmer or farm hand.

I'll tell you more of the story behind the gunshot wounds tomorrow... I promise...
Posted on May 8, 2014 and filed under "collage", "genealogy", "mixed media", "portraits".

New art: "Give Us A Hug"

Did you get a chance to see my latest assemblage in May while my solo show was on exhibit? No worries: this way I can tell you the full backstory of "Give Us A Hug." Here she is... by day:
... and by night.
You might remember my great-grandmother inspired this piece -- or rather, I was inspired by explanations that might illuminate why Mickey became a mean drunk and a neglectful mother. I don't have those reasons, or even a photo of her as a young woman. So for this piece I painted a stand-in for Mickey...
... and explored the possibilities of why she spent more time drinking than parenting. Speaking of drinking, I created a faux-mercury glass effect in a glass from which I could imagine Mickey drinking whiskey.
Into the cup she went. And when I turned the glass on its lip, the image of Mickey-as-a-jellyfish fell right into place.
I wrapped her stinging tentacles around the wrist and fingers of baby doll arms, which stood in for Mickey's two daughters. Although Mickey is trying to drift away from her children, she can't: the tentacles anchor her to the children.
And the children are tethered to their mother as well. Barnacles and the crusty, sandy edges of the piece underline their unyielding bond to their mother.
Remember that Twyla Tharp quote? "Art is the only way to run away without leaving home."
I think that's why I sympathize with Mickey, even as I still wish I could time-travel to protect my grandmother from the fallout of Mickey's behavior. (And if I did, would that action create a Grandmother Paradox?) How do you run away without leaving home? Tell me in the comments or on Facebook.
Posted on June 21, 2013 and filed under "art and motherhood", "assemblage", "genealogy".

Work in progress: barnacles and clinginess

My great-grandmother had both of her children by the time she was 22 years old. I got to thinking about that, and which direction my assemblage about her should go, on a gray day at the beach...
... and then I noticed the barnacles. They'll cling to whales, to rocks...
and I imagine Mickey found her kids clinging to her about as appealing as barnacles are to a boat owner. (Remember: she was not a Mother of the Year candidate.) I created my own using a papier mache recipe, and scattered them along doll arms.
Everything I've heard about Mickey sounds like two children were too early, and too much, for her. Her relatives told me Mickey constantly stashed the kids with her siblings or her father, to go out drinking. I'm going to add a drinking glass to the assemblage as well, one that I gave a faux-mercury effect.
But as I mentioned in the last post, I don't have an image of Mickey as a young woman, sober or not. So I'll use a stand-in image I painted over. More on that in the next post...
Posted on March 22, 2013 and filed under "art and motherhood", "assemblage", "faux-mercury glass", "genealogy".