Thursday, January 03, 2019

Anonymous Ancestors at the Gadsden Museum of Art

(Above:  Me ... after a long but utterly wonderful day installing Anonymous Ancestors in the Gadsden Museum of Art, Gadsden, Alabama.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Before New Year's Eve my husband Steve and I started gathering all the furniture, garments, framed pictures, hand tools, packing blankets, and everything needed to take Anonymous Ancestors to the Gadsden Museum of Art in Gadsden, Alabama.  By the next morning, it was all near our back door.  On the morning of New Year's Eve, we packed the cargo van.  We do this in order to have enough time to "remember everything".  In a rush, "something important" might get overlooked.

Apparently, taking our time didn't quite work either.  We accidentally left four folding chairs.  They were by the back door with everything else ... but behind a shelving display that wasn't making the trip.  Today, we boxed and shipped them via FedEx Ground.  Even without these four folding chairs, the installation looks great.  Yet, it will look better with them.  I encourage visitors to sit awhile, read the altered books, and sort through the dozens of loose vintage pictures sitting on the marble topped table.  Thus, more chairs are better, and these really are wonderful.  The four folding chairs feature photos from my Grandmother Lenz's photo album.  CLICK HERE to see them. 

Only about 220 of the framed pieces were hung.  Sixty-five came back.  Believe it or not, the more I have, the easier it is to make nice arrangements on the wall.

To hang an exhibit like this, I first place the large pieces on the various walls.  Then I work up and out.  Steve is indispensable.  He functions like my "third and fourth" hands.  He's always there with a hook-and-nail, to hold a piece while I'm hammering, and to fetch the ladder. Plus, he does all the driving.  I couldn't do it without him!

I think of my wall arrangements as "linked vignettes".  Pieces are generally selected by size and orientation.  For this long wall, I also had to work around the wall mounted thermostat.  I love the challenge.  Working this way means that some of my favorite pieces didn't make this show ... like "Virgins on their Honeymoon Night".

 (Above:  Neighborhood Children Thought I Was A Witch.  Antique frame and hand-colored antique photograph altered with letters clipped from vintage ephemera.)

On the flip side, this piece was finished just last week.  It did find a place on the wall. I don't think I'll ever get tired of inventing phrases for anonymous photos from yard sales and auctions.  The people depicted seem to look out begging to be used.

The statement for this show hangs on the the short wall to the right of the photo above.  Between the two is the entrance.  The show is the first exhibit just inside the museum's main door.  I am truly honored to have my work in this incredible place.

The statement reads:
To stand within Susan Lenz’s installation, Anonymous Ancestors, is to become immersed in the myriad of family stories handed down through generations. Each snapshot is a frozen moment on life’s time line. Letters and words clipped from vintage print material allow one’s mind to wander, envisioning forgotten friends, past holidays, ancient occasions, former cars, and hilarious fashion trends. Yet, all the images are anonymous. The photos come from yard sales, auctions, and abandoned locations. Who are these people? Who really knows? They are distant aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents, siblings, and in-laws. They are society’s family tree, our collective wall of ancestors.
Susan invites visitors to sit for a moment, browse through the scrapbooks, albums, and altered images. Please use the provided white gloves while contemplating your own, precious heirlooms.
This installation was made possible through the support of family and friends, including Ray Wetzel, Blake Dodgen, and staff at the Gadsden Museum of Art; Springboard for the Arts and the Hinge Art Residency program, Fergus Falls, MN; Forrest and Grant Imaging, Columbia, SC; Bill Mishoe’s Estate Services, Columbia, SC; all those who have donated vintage materials to Susan’s studio practice; and the many anonymous individuals who stared out of their half-forgotten pictures with inspiration.

 Scroll down for more pictures from the show.  The exhibit officially opens on January 6 and runs through February 22.  There's a reception on February 1 from 5 - 7 but unfortunately I will not be making the trip back to Gadsden.  If you go, let me know what you think!

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