Who are my target readers? Those cleaning out their family homes after a death, or before a big move, or simply cleaning out an attic, a basement, a closet, a barn, a workshop, an office . . . someone else’s or your own . . . and find memories inside that stir up emotions, good and bad, that either inspire you to do something with them or flood you with anger, guilt and regret that needs to be expressed somehow . . . usually a bit of both.
What do I offer my readers? As I said on my home page, this falls into 3 categories: artistic guidance, entertainment, and therapeutic support.
- – artistic guidance with your mementos, helping you turn them into art (yes, you’ll see me create my own, too),
- – entertainment when our stories behind the mementos are rich and wonderful, and
- – therapeutic support for those times when they evoke grief, depression and anger.
Everyone has mementoes, old and new, accumulated bit at a time or in themed clumps, i.e. travels, relationships, adventures, or inheritances. Sometimes, as with me, an entire family home comes to you with generations of things to sort through and memories to relive. In my case, my grandmother’s house contained not only things that represented my own memories with her, but heirlooms, photos and documents that told the story of an old New Orleans family spanning 250 years in French and Spanish Louisiana. There are few tasks in life that stir up such diverse, often-opposing emotions as clearing a family home after a death.
One thing that all mementoes do, no matter how they are loved, is elicit the question, “What am I gonna do with this stuff?” This blog sets out to address this question. Too often our mementoes end up in boxes, where we rarely see them, taking up closet and shelf space that is needed for other things. Or worse, they’ll get thrown away before we realize how important they will someday be to us and those who follow us. We, however, are going to take some of those pieces out of the closet and put them on the wall as art – ‘found-art’ assemblages that are sophisticated and enigmatic, deeply personal to us and intriguing to others, little biographical testaments of ourselves that not only free up our own storage boxes, closets and shelves, but those of our children and children’s children after us.
1) Artistic Guidance – This blog is an interactive tutorial for non-artists who might consider creating a piece from their own favorite heirlooms and mementoes if they had an artist to consult with and help along the way. Lines of communication will be open, photos and histories of the materials will be discussed, as well as design, and then construction issues, with step-by step direction for those non-artists who are truly befuddled about where to start. My help is free and gladly-given, but limited to the parameters of my time constraints.
For the purposes of study, if you want to make the piece yourself, or to find an artist to hire, if you feel your beloved pieces would be better entrusted to a professional artist, there is also a showcase for the works of my favorite assemblage artists who I hope will guest-write tutorials on construction do’s and don’ts.
2) Entertainment – It is my humble hope that the stories that are inspired by my family pieces, saying so much about New Orleans and south Louisiana across 3 centuries, will indeed be entertainment for you. There are stories from turn-of-the-century Bayou Teche in Cajun country, a post-WWI sugar plantation in Haiti, a Menorcan community in the Civil-War era French Quarter, and the mystery of the family tomb whose name across the top no one knows, but whose family documents we have. There are also current stories from my life and my relationship with my grandmother, such as the record my grandmother made of her and a mockingbird, her on the piano and the bird singing just outside, that ended up on radio waves all over the world, and hopping an iron-spike cemetery fence with her, at 86, to see my grandfather after closing hours. To know more about me than you could ever want to know, Click About Me.
3) Emotional Support – In the same spirit as art therapy, I call this a found-art therapy forum. Grief comes in all forms; through the loss of a loved one, a home, a livelihood, or a legacy, through loss of health, of sight, or a limb, loss of memory, loss of freedom. It comes with the loss of childhood before its time, loss of innocence, through abuse or betrayal. It comes when we realize we’ve been our own worst enemy, forfeiting facets of our future by not making peace with our past.
We all carry some pretty dark demons within us. I certainly have… oh, one or two. Working with our mementoes, embracing them rather than running away from them, is a form of self-help, and there is healing potential in re-evaluating old wounds in an atmosphere of solitude and safety, where there is no confrontation to trigger self-deception and cloud our vision of how our childhood coping mechanisms for the slings and arrows thrown at us by the outside world may have turned around to bite us in the ass, sabotaging our relationships and effectiveness in adulthood. It’s all about finding peace from a new outlet.
* Two groups hold a special place in my heart. . . 1) those grieving for lost loved ones while saddled with the enormous job of clearing the family house, possibly in preparation for losing the family home as well, and 2) caregivers losing their loved ones while they are still live, right in front of them bit at a time, to memory loss or Alzheimer’s. Please don’t hesitate to join my little community, whether you have an art project or not.