-ING Part 2

Newton’s Second Law: Acceleration is produced when a force acts on a mass. The greater the mass (of the object being accelerated) the greater the amount of force needed (to accelerate the object).

Travel – INGIMG_1967

This is the itinerary from March through October. This is not an exhaustive list and does not include all the #weavethetent events. I would say, however, it is an “exhaust-ING list.”

From the Firehouse Studio in Maryland to Colby College in Waterville, Maine (intermittent stop to eat some hot out of the oven bread prepared by Cheryl Hobart – a weaver and owner of Nomad Breads) http://www.nhmagazine.com/January-2015/The-International-Breads-of-Nomad-Bakery/ )

IMG_1897From Waterville to Portland, Maine (intermittent stop – Biddeford to see Mom – coffee at Elements)

From Portland to Peaks Island and back for 5 months on the ferry (DAILY stop for coffee at the Peaks Cafe) IMG_2401

From Peaks Island back to Waterville (intermittent stop – Maine Sheep and Wool Festival  http://www.fiberfrolic.com/  ( Coffee at Dunkin Donuts http://www.dunkindonuts.com/)

From Peaks Island to Union Bridge, Maryland (intermittent stop – Northfield Conference http://northfieldconference.org)  Not sure where I will find coffee…

From Union Bridge to Kennebunkport for a Kayak Self Rescue refresher class at Coastal Maine Kayak  http://www.coastalmainekayak.com  (Usually drink tea there due to being near frozen after the class.)

Kennebunkport to Peaks Island in time for July 4th!!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQUq9p7pgkc

Keeping a community-based art project that involves many people and many events moving forward requires lots of energy and of course, lots of coffee.

Consum – ING

Global consumption of caffeine has been estimated at 120,000 tons per year, making it the world’s most popular psychoactive substance. (This amounts to one serving of a caffeinated beverage for every person every day. YIKES)

‘The first coffeehouses established in Oxford, England were known as penny universities. The coffeehouses would charge a penny admission, which would include access to newspapers and conversation. In a society that placed such a high importance on class and economic status, the coffeehouses were unique because the patrons were people from all levels of society. ” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coffeehouse

Following the Boston Tea Party, Congress passed a resolution against tea consumption and coffee became part of the economic development of the country. Some historians believe that the introduction of coffee contributed to the overall advancement of Western society – since caffeine is a stimulant vs the consumption of alcohol – a depressant. https://www.nytimes.com/books/first/p/pendergrast-grounds.html

It seems that most of my discussions and meetings about Welcoming the Stranger (not to mention caffeine consumption) have taken place in coffee shops. It seems appropriate since the journey that coffee beans take to the U.S. often mirrors the countries represented by many of the new immigrants arriving in Maine including El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Peru, Honduras, Guatamala, Colombia, Brazil , Ethiopia , Zimbabwe, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda Sumatra, Sulawesi, Papua New Guinea, Timor, Java.

Like the early ‘penny universities’, my coffee shop conversations were educational – political – and critical to creating my artwork. (Tho’ no longer costing a penny for a cup.) Over a cup of coffee, I discussed with Alain Nahimana the issues confronting the Maine Immigrant Rights Coalition. http://www.aclumaine.org/meet-alain-nahimana.

Our conversation was the first of many in which I became more educated about the ongoing needs of New Mainers and the politics of changing minds and hearts of Old Mainers. http://www.ilapmaine.org/advocacy.html.

I learned about how the arrival of Somali refugees (some from villages in which she had worked in 1987-8) transformed the cities of Lewiston and Auburn when I met with Catherine Besteman, Colby College Professor of Anthropology.

In a meeting held at Arabica, http://www.arabicacoffeeportland.com/ Jen Hutchins and Jess Lauren Lipton, Creative Portland invited me to hold the first Weave the Tent event as part of their series: “Integrating New Mainers into the Art Community.” https://www.facebook.com/LiveWorkPortland

IMG_1912The event took place on First Friday at the Portland Public Library where I learned of ethnic-based places of worship in Portland from a Serbian security guard who learned to weave from his grandmother.

Art in a Cup

My mom is a coffee connoisseur (or maybe she just likes the ambience – conversation and news.)

Before moving to her assisted living facility, she walked from her apartment to Hilltop where she poured a ½ cup of ‘regular’ coffee and mixed in half and half and a package of sugar. She chatted with the baristas; knew their names and listened to surrounding conversations. http://www.hilltopcoffeeshop.com/

After moving her to a Biddeford assisted living facility, I discovered Elements. It is my place of respite and a go-to place of entertainment for Mom: books, music, coffee (and beer…. ) http://www.elementsbookscoffeebeer.com/

IMG_1920 Like coffee houses of old, Elements seems to be a place to learn about local happenings. Like my mom, I talk with the baristas, learn their names and listen to surrounding conversations.

IMG_2358

That was how I met Tammy Ackerman of Engine  http://www.feedtheengine.org, heard about Heart of Biddeford http://www.heartofbiddeford.org, and learned about the first mosque in Maine.

 

Art in Mills

To artists, empty brick buildings signify affordable studio space; to economic development officials, artists mean the introduction of the “creative economy.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_sqYD3vskc

The textile history of Maine is reflected in the abandoned mills of Biddeford. Located along the Saco River, the York and Pepperell Mills took advantage of the hydro power. By the late 1800’s, the boom in textile manufacturing required an influx of much needed workers. By 1880 almost 50% of Biddeford’s residents were foreign-born. When the mills needed fabric dye experts, they brought in Muslim Albanians. It is now believed that a room in the Pepperell Mill housed the first Mosque in America. The workers died during the 1918 flu epidemic. Their graves face east and are marked with the crescent. http://www.muslimsinamerica.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=17&Itemid=28

Walk – ING

Since returning to Portland, I walk more. Most of my forays are along the same streets that immigrants have walked since the first ships landed at the Portland docks: Map 1914 I walk from the cottage on Peaks to the ferry; from the Casco Bay Lines terminal to my studio space. On the way, I walk along India St. past the synagogue that my great grandfather built and where I will install Welcoming the Stranger.

I continue onto Smith St. past Union Bagels (organic) and down Anderson St. towards the heart of Bayside. During the 1960’s, there was an urban renewal effort to eradicate the “slums” of Portland thereby creating a need for low-income housing. (This need is once again exacerbated – due to the gentrification currently taking place.)

My mother worked on housing issues as well as civil rights issues. Many mornings we would wake up to find neighborhood activists strategizing at our kitchen table – drinking coffee. One hard hit area was Bayside. Bayside

 

 

“Most of Bayside today was in a section of Back Cove filled with debris from the Great Fire of 1866 — which burned most of the Old Port. “Over the decades, Bayside established two identities. It was an industrial center of Maine — connected to immigrant labor and a relatively large and active rail line and seaport. It was also a burgeoning melting pot of new Americans — a diversity that is still reflected there today.

Bayside, which has also become known as West Bayside, was the industrial zone, with foundries, lumber companies, soldering shops and junkyards. East Bayside was a lower middle class neighborhood where immigrants settled. It spans from Franklin Street to Washington Avenue. The Irish were among the first to settle there, followed by Scandinavians in the 1880s, Eastern Europeans in the 1890s and more recently African and Middle East refugees.” http://www.pressherald.com/2015/03/03/portland-approves-long-planned-midtown-project-in-bayside/July Blog?

 I walk pass multi-family dwellings, children waiting for school buses, men repairing cars, young girls in hajibs. The past feels very present to me and the present feels a great deal like the past.

This once nearly abandoned area is now considered to be thriving with co-operatives, collaborative, and creatives. Euphemistically referred to as Brewside or Yeastside, Bayside is now headquarters for Welcoming the Stranger. http://www.pressherald.com/2013/12/09/bayside_poised_for_a_project

PortFiber 

Since Casey Ryder took over PortFiber, “the focus of the shop remains the same–to support and inspire the fiberarts community with quality supplies and amazing classes taught by local instructors.  Fiberarts is in our collective blood.  It’s a connection to our past, to our ancestors, to the earth and it’s fiber producing creatures.  It is the aim of PortFiber to embrace those connections and make new ones with those who share the love of wool!  “ http://www.downeast.com/fiber/IMG_2292

Casey took less than a minute to agree to be the collection site for Welcoming the Stranger yarn donations. Her weekly spinning group is weaving a panel for the exhibit using the yarn they spin at PortFiber. http://portfiber.com/calendar/2015/2/26/portspinners

Running with Scissors http://www.rwsartstudios.com IMG_2330 …is a diverse artist studio collective thriving in the industrial and eclectic East Bayside neighborhood of Portland, ME.  A dedicated work space, it serves over 50 artists working in various mediums sharing equipment, space, community, ideas, support and tools. … It is also the home of The Bayside Clay Center, a branch of RWS dedicated to clay with 11 resident members and 12 associate members.

After my first Creative Portland #weavethetent event, Kate Aker invited me to establish a studio at RWS . Everyone there has been supportive and best of all – my Journey Looms can fit through the doorways.IMG_2336

Gathering of Stitches http://www.agatheringofstitches.org

“A Gathering of Stitches is a maker space for fiber and textile artists. Its a place for those of you who like to work with your hands, with fabric and yarn, to use shared equipment and resources, learn new skills, or hone old ones, and join in a community of folks who love fiber.”

After speaking at a 2 Degrees http://www.liveworkportland.org/connect-visit/2-degrees-portland event held at A Gathering of Stitches, I met with Samantha Hoyt Lindgren and reserved a sewing machine and a table in July and August to create the installation work.IMG_2458

Bayside is also a ‘caffeine corridor.’

Coffee By Design http://www.coffeebydesign.com Coffee By Design Headquarters is located in Bayside just off the bike trail. They purchase from more than 30 growers around the world. They give back to the local community through their Rebel Blend Fund. Tadim makes great “art in a cup.”

IMG_2515 Tandem Coffee http://www.tandemcoffee.com Tandem is not only is located between Port Fiber and Running with Scissors but shares a parking lot with a local mosque. Owner Will Platt has okayed a #weavethetent event there.

 

Creat-ING

John Adams wrote: “I am a revolutionary so my son can be a farmer so his son can be a poet.

Sometimes it takes years for the disparate pieces of an idea to weave themselves into a full-fledged cohesive work of art.

Some artists are disciplined and labor daily to practice their craft – improve their skills, develop a style, master a material.

Others are driven by deadlines, available materials or a competition. Environments influence their output – large studios, large work; etc. Alma Thomas created works all the same size due to the size of her kitchen table… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alma_Thomas

Some of us wait for the Flash – the aha moment.

Welcoming the Stranger appeared whole cloth – a conversation in a taxi cab, a tour of a former synagogue and kayaking around an island formed the nucleus of an exhibition and a community-based art work. But I have lots of work to do….

I have materials.

I have a space.

I have community.

I have a deadline.

And I have gratitude for all those helping me along the way.

I will continue on the stone path….as long as there is enough coffee.

 

To keep up with my daily exploits, Like me on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/welcomingthestrangerart

Or

Follow me on Instagram #weavethetent

No Coincidence – No Story (Part 2)

Bashert…meant to be.

 Who were the immigrants held in quarantine on House Island in 1923??

I am a long time mystery reader. Following in the foot steps of my favorite detectives: Detective Porfiry,Sherlock Holmes, VI Warshawski, Kinsey Millhone, and my latest Flavia de Luce (an 11-year-old amateur sleuth), I begin my ‘investigation.’ I contact everyone in Maine who might have information about the immigration history of Portland.

Many of the early immigrants coming to Portland, Maine settled in the Munjoy Hill area. Italians settled on India and Middle Streets and started businesses such as Amato’s bakery (1903.) http://www.amatos.com/

Munjoy-Hill-Map

Aside: Mystery of the Black Dahlia

One of the greatest unsolved mysteries involved a woman who had grown up on Munjoy Hill and moved to Hollywood where she was brutally murdered. http://mainetoday.com/profiles/the-black-dahlia-lived-on-munjoy-hill-an-unsolved-murder-from-the-vaults/

 The Irish immigrants congregated in two main neighborhoods and the streets connecting them along Portland’s waterfront: the west end, later known as Gorham’s Corner, with its Saint Dominic’s parish (the oldest Catholic Church in Portland, dating from 1833); and the east end, better known as Munjoy Hill, with its Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (1866). Michael Connolly http://www.amazon.com/They-Change-Their-Sky-Irish/dp/0891011102

Book Cover

I contact the Maine Irish Heritage Center www.maineirish.com and Italian Heritage Center www.italianheritagecenter.com in Portland. They generously send out my request for anyone whose relatives were detained or were processed through the quarantine station on House Island to contact me. No positive responses to date.

 COINCIDENCE: I went to school with the Maine Irish history expert as well as the editor of the Italian American Heritage newsletter. Both are from long standing Munjoy Hill families.

The other immigrant group that may have entered Maine via House Island were Jews.

Documenting Maine Jewry is a collaborative genealogy and history of Maine’s Jewish communities. MaineJews.org is a kind of crowd source web site for gathering and posting pictures, articles, oral histories, music, etc. related to Jewish history in Maine. www.mainejews.org

As an artist, I unravel my ‘art-related mysteries’ by spending hours in library stacks. Most of my ‘clues’ are obtained in face-to-face interviews and through personal networking.

This investigation will take place in on-line archives. There is so much information to wade through. It is daunting. The study and practice of organizing, preserving, and providing access to information and materials in archives is called archival science. Science is the operative term. Finding information requires thinking like a scientist – not necessarily like an artist. Fortunately, archivists (and librarians) are incredibly helpful individuals who are generous with their time and expertise.

Harris Gleckman knows the content of the MaineJews.org site – both catalogued and still to be catalogued. He directed me to an out-of-print book published in 1954.

COINCIDENCE: My aunt babysat for the web master when he was a child living in Forest Park. (Seriously.)

 Band, Ben,  Portland Jewry: It’s Growth and Development , Jewish Historical Society, Portland , Maine, 1954

Written in celebration of 300 years of U.S. Jewish settlement, Band wrote in his preface:” Jewish communities were asked to compile a record of their development and growth.” His book was a collaborative approach – an example of early crowd sourcing. There were 17 chapters that outlined the history of Jews in Maine beginning in the 1800’s. It is only available on line.

I read.

Looking in the past

Maine’s earliest Jews came from Germany in the late 1880’s.

They learned English and established “religious services, supplies of kosher meats and a burial ground. They often earned their living peddling, the junk trade and the second hand clothing and tailoring.“

tailorASIDE:

The skill listed by most immigrants coming to Ellis Island was “tailor” due to the great need for garment workers. Most had no training. They learned through word of mouth during quarantine that it was the skill to have to gain entrance to the US.

Most of the 2 million Jews that came to America in the 1920’s were from Eastern Europe. Often less educated and less affluent than their earlier counterparts, they came to America hoping for a chance for a better life.

In the 1920’s, the City of Portland struggled to assimilate the influx of Eastern European Jews and other recent immigrants. One of the largest anti-immigrant Ku Klux Klan rallies (by some accounts, 10,000 Klansmen) gathered in Portland in 1923 to protest the presence of these new “foreigners.”

I read more.

….When immigrant ships landed in Portland in 1923 and 1924, 218 passengers were detained on House Island. The Council of Jewish Women set up kosher kitchens there under the supervision of Mrs. Lena Perry. Chapter X: New Social and Fraternal Organizations-Band

Looking in the present

The names of the original settlers of House Island also appear on the gravestones at the Peaks Island cemetery. So, I send out my request to the Peaks Island list serv. Responses were supportive of my efforts but yielded no leads. Then a photo attachment appears in an email from Kim Mac Isaac.

Kim, a historian and archivist herself, is the former executive director of the 5th Maine Museum. Kim’s family has been on the island for generations. She even remembers rowing over to House Island to explore the old quarantine station before its demolition. She had a photograph. (So far, it is the only one I have seen.)

quarantine-lge

COINCIDENCE: While sculpting a memorial bench for my dad and creating a native plant garden on Peaks Island in 2008 -10, I was able to support myself by cleaning the 5th Maine Museum. http://www.fifthmainemuseum.org/

 

The Maine Jewish Film Festival features films that ‘explore the Jewish experience through drama, comedy, documentary and short film formats.’ Works are screened at multiple venues and in multiple cities throughout the state.  http://www.mjff.org/

I create a postcard to hand out to each attendee. I distribute the postcards in hopes of finding anyone who had family members that were detained on House Island or allowed to immigrate into Maine after being processed there.

ASIDE:

My short film – Chorus of Stones – that chronicles the creation of the memorial on Peaks was rejected by some of the best film festivals including the Maine Jewish Film Festival. https://vimeo.com/2999812

pcback500 postcards later, I had not received one solid lead. Everyone thought it was an interesting mystery but could not provide any additional clues.

COINCIDENCE: A researcher who works at the US Holocaust Museum in DC picked up my postcard while she was at the festival. She thinks she can help find the names of the immigrants who passed through House Island quarantine station. I work a few blocks from the Museum.

Looking in the Archives

I continue to delve into the archives of the Maine Historical Society, the Memory Network, the Portland Room of the Portland Public Library, the New England Archives in Waltham, the Osher Map collection and Judaica Collection at the Glickman Library, University of Maine. I read books about immigration and U.S. immigration policies of the 1920’s including those cited in the Congressional Record. The rhetoric and debate reflects the immigration concerns of today.

As the implementation date of the 1924 Quota Act approached, passenger ship companies worried about the loss of business that would result. So, they doubled the number of ships leaving for America. When Ellis Island and Boston could not manage the deluge of immigrants, some ships were re-routed to other quarantine stations: House Island.

Immigrants allowed to remain in the U.S. could then be sent by rail to New York or Boston. Others were returned to their country of origin.

  • What I didn’t find were all the names of people who were held there.
  • What I didn’t find were the names of Portland residents whose family members came into Portland through House Island.
  • What I didn’t find were the names of those returned to their country of origin.

What I did find were the names of the women who established the Portland Council of Jewish Women (later the National Council of Jewish Women) who set up the Kosher kitchen. *

A friend once described the State of Maine as a small town. If that is true, the Jewish population of New England must be a neighborhood. I have just enough postcards to send to synagogues from Maine to Boston.

It is Passover week in which Jews commemorate the exodus of the Jews from Egypt more than 3000 years ago. It is an 8-day holiday in which you are obligated to tell the Passover story. This year, I listen with a new perspective: Passover could be thought of as a story of immigrants.

It is also a week of consuming symbolic foods. We eat matzo rather than leavened bread as a reminder of the haste in which the Israelites fled Egypt. There was not enough time for the bread to rise. http://homecooking.about.com/od/foodhistory/a/passoverfoods.htm

MatzohA week passes. Passover ends.

I arrive home one night and listen to the message on my answering machine:

My name is Jim Waldman. I am the Controller at the Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Our secretary was out today and I had to open the mail. http://tbewellesley.org/index.aspx

Imagine my surprise when the first 2 names on the list of the founders of the Portland Council for Jewish Women were my great grandmother Millie and her sister.

Millie’s great niece  (Bunny) lives in Maine. She is 94 years old and has a perfect memory.

Bashert?

I had just purchased a ticket to Maine to visit my Mom. I guess now I am going to visit ‘Aunt Bunny,’ too.

 

 

*Portland Council of Jewish Women, 1920

Name First Name Home Address Husband’s business
MRS. Eldar MARKSONb. 1879 –d. 3/10/1925 Portland ME) Jennie 237 State St. Markson Bros. Clothing504 Congress Street
Mrs. Maurice MARKSON(b. 1880 – d. Feb 10, 1966) Mildred S. 100 Neal St. Markson Bros. Clothing504 Congress Street
MRS. Jacob SCHIEBE(b. 1873 – d. 12/12/1964) Jennie 94 Vesper St. Tailor22 Monument Sq #402
MRS. Jacob ROSENBERGd. 5/12/1949 Helen 48 Western Promenade. Rosenberg Brothers real estate85 Exchange St. Room 305,
MRS. Benjamin PRESS Molly 224 Eastern Promenade Real Estate
MRS. Jacob SAPIROd. 3/13/1968 Anna D 93 Morning Street Husband worked9 Plum Street
Mrs. Eli PERRY Lenna 170 Cumberland Ave. E. Perry and Co Junk117 Lancaster St.

Lying Fallow

lie fallow  Lit. [for farmland] to exist unplanted for a period of time.

I am the empty cup.

While attending a workshop on Creating One’s Own Sabbath Experience with Tom Bassarear and Yvette Yeager, I was asked to select from a table of items the object that represented myself – in that moment. I chose the empty cup.

http://www.amazon.com/Sabbath-Finding-Renewal-Delight-Lives/dp/0553380117/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1378156657&sr=1-1&keywords=muller+sabbath

Long-term projects – raising children or maintaining a house or recovering from an illness or caring for a parent or making public art – consume personal, physical and spiritual resources. Juggling 2 or more of those activities at the same time can deplete us.

 I am the empty cup.

 Nature Abhors a Vacuum

According to the ancient philosopher Aristotle, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” Aristotle based his conclusion on the observation that nature requires every space to be filled with something, even if that something is colorless, odorless air.

 I am the empty cup.

At my core, I am a maker: I make sculpture. I make movies. I make food. I make time for others. I make plans. I make decisions. In this moment, I want to make time to ” fill my cup” with whatever comes along.

What if that involves picking up a friend at the airport and then taking a 10-hour drive? What if that is living with 100+ people I have never met? What if that is honest and authentic sharing – with strangers. And what if that is a week of really good food someone else has prepared?

Indra’s Net in Massachusetts

I was invited to be a Conference Speaker at the 2013 Northfield Conference. The Northfield Conference is an annual week-long event that has taken place in western Massachusetts since 1893. http://northfieldconference.org/history/

It’s difficult to explain a place that is an intentional multi-generational community for individuals and families. It takes place on a small private school campus along the Connecticut River. The conference is all-volunteer.  The program originates from the participants and throughout the year planning meetings take place.  I was invited to speak about my art work – specifically the Invisible Legacy Series

The theme was Indra’s Net  – a metaphor that demonstrates the principles of Interdependent Origination.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indra’s_ net. Indra’s net is conceived as a net, or web.

•     at each juncture there lies a jewel;

•     each jewel reflects all the other jewels in this cosmic matrix;

•     every jewel represents an individual life form, atom, cell or unit of consciousness;

•     each jewel, in turn, is intrinsically and intimately connected to all the others;

•     thus, a change in one gem is reflected in all the others.

My friends think of me as a consummate networker. Whenever they need to find specific help, borrow something, know something, or find someone, they come to me. I am often less than 6 degrees of separation from anyone I meet – no matter where I am. I am the Kevin Bacon of my circle of friends and associates. http://oracleofbacon.org/

I decided to “disconnect” for the week- no cell phones or internet. I wanted to be fully present at the event.  (My friends took bets on how long I could stay unplugged. I lasted the week but the first 3 days of withdrawal were tough.)

We now have the ability to be connected and interconnected with friends, family, even strangers. We believe that we have more intimacy in our lives. We believe that being accessible 24/7 make us less lonely. There is a Toyota car commercial featuring a young woman sitting behind a computer worried that her parents only have 19 “friends.” Her parents are shown going off on a bicycle adventure. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUGmcb3mhLMhave She is depicted sitting alone, inside, accompanied by her laptop.

In his article: Is Facebook Making Us Lonely, Stephen Marche writes:

Yet within this world of instant and absolute communication, unbounded by limits     of time or space, we suffer from unprecedented alienation. We have never been more detached from one another, or lonelier. In a world consumed by ever more novel modes of socializing, we have less and less actual society. We live in an accelerating contradiction: the more connected we become, the lonelier we are. We were promised a global village; instead we inhabit the drab cul-de-sacs and endless freeways of a vast suburb of information. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/05/is-facebook-making-us-lonely/308930/

Loneliness and being alone are not the same thing, but both are on the rise. We meet fewer people. We gather less. And when we gather, our bonds are less meaningful and less easy.

For an hour each morning at the Northfield Conference, a conference attendee is invited to give a scheduled talk that pertains to the theme. The talk is intensely personal and allows listeners a glimpse into the lives of others. Sometimes speakers reveal secrets; sometimes a life- altering event; sometimes a struggle in the moment.

Whatever is shared during this special hour is held in deep respect and provides the topic for small group discussions following the presentation.  Invisible Legacy examined the lives of my great grandmother and grandmother who lived most of their lives in the Augusta Mental Health Institute in Maine. (AMHI)

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI never had a conversation or a connection with either. I learned about their lives in the papers of the AMHI archives. I learned my grandmother was an entrepreneur, consummate salesperson and seamstress. My great grandmother was self-reliant. She raised 9 children while her husband sold surplus goods from a wagon.  I learned about how their lives were reflected in mine in ways I could not have predicted.

pcfront Invisible Legacy is an installation of antique furniture reupholstered in canvas upon which images, stories, medical reports, interviews, photographs, drawings related to the lives of women I never knew are printed. The work creates a conversation about, not only their lives, but the lives of others like them. http://www.joisraelson.com/Sculpture_Invisible%20Legacy.html

The invisible legacy continues even in death. It is estimated that there are 300,000 unmarked graves on the grounds of former and even current psychiatric hospitals throughout the US. http://www.pressherald.com/news/forgotten_2012-05-27.html?pagenum=full

In shutting down an upstate New York institution thousands of empty suitcases from patients were discovered in the attic. Each suitcase was a testament to a life restrained – disconnected.

For several days after my talk, many Northfield participants would talk to me about a mother – a father – a sibling – who suffered from mental illness. More often, they would reveal their personal struggles with this ‘invisible’ disease.

These were conversations about anger and sadness – loss and change – hope and survival. Each conversation was a reflection of another. “A change in one gem creates a change in another…”  I was changed – by the depth of interactions – and the forging of new connections.

Indra’s Net in Maine

I walk across the island to the ferry, take the 20-minute boat ride across Casco Bay and then walk the mile+ to my mom’s apartment on Munjoy Hill.

There have been many changes along the street that leads to the ‘Hill.’ Dark bars have given way to upscale coffee shops and organic bakeries; used furniture stores to high end yarn shops and strip dives to a pizza place with so many topping options it makes decision making almost impossible. http://www.ottoportland.com/

At the corner of North and Congress – in the window of a former bakery – hangs a very large stained glass mosaic made of jewels and silver wire. It is a physical manifestation of an Indra’s Net.

I opened the door to the shop and felt genuinely welcomed from the moment I entered. Laura Fuller has been working with glass for seventeen years. She began putting three-dimensional objects in her stained glass panels while still in school. Although discouraged by her instructors from pursuing this innovative technique, she continued to incorporate found objects into her complex glass reliefs.DSC_0005

There is a pixie-like gentleness combined with a deep intensity that emanates from Laura when you are in conversation. That combination of lightness and strength belies, or maybe reflects, the loss of her child to a rare disease. http://laurafullerglass.blogspot.com/

Each unique piece expresses not only her story, but also that of the objects incorporated within. For Laura, each object is a reflection of the complex narrative of life — past, present and future:

Objects are our representatives. ‘Living’ solid, fruitful, domestic, useful lives: independently functional. These objects, having given 2 to 200 years of faithful service, became hidden. In drawers, closets, dumps, underground, and in the ocean – waiting.

I will send Laura objects to use in a piece that will reflect my interconnectedness with others and myself. I am the empty cup that is now being filled with intimate and heartfelt conversations with strangers.

I am part of Indra’s Net.