I Wear Her Memory Like a Crown

Amy Gelb

2019 - Ongoing

Miami Beach, Florida, United States; Miami, Florida, United States; Jerusalem, Israel; New York City, New York, United States; Key Largo, Florida, United States

When I take a photograph in the present I am aware of the future me who will see the image from the past in that new present.  The image is witnessed in the future. It is the marriage canopy of the past, present, and future realities. In this work I have used photographs to attend that wedding. In certain pieces, I have printed images of nostalgic objects from different periods of a woman’s life onto sheer fabric and then hung the layers of fabric one in front of the other. I can now see through time. In others, I have handwoven printed photographs of the women in my family together with articles of clothing, fabrics, and photographs of flags and trees from my ancestral homeland, as well as ritual, religious and personal objects. Weaving the images together made me aware that we are a culmination of stories that ripen into the fruit of the female collective born with the first woman, Eve.

Recently, both of my grandmothers passed away and with them gone my mother has become the matriarch of the family. I have moved up in the hierarchy and I am now sandwiched between my mother and my teenage children. As I approach fifty, I am more aware of my mortality and of all that disappears with age. I am in the process of the public fading that happens to women of a certain age, when we become members of an invisible community of unseen and unheard aging women.

In today’s climate of hostility toward women, socio-political divisiveness, and the war against female aging, this work is a protest against all that tears us down, weakens our resolve and aims to dilute our worth. The avenues of information in modern society seem to focus on the differences between us, dividing us from ourselves and each other. We feel so individual, separate, when yet we are actually all interconnected. I believe that by creating a collective net, a network of experience, we fortify our inner lives, homes, and communities. I began this work to explore how intergenerational stories give meaning to a woman’s life and I now wonder how they impact the world around us.

In my series and monograph, "As Is: Women Exposed", I was able to interview and photograph hundreds of women and include their stories about the relationships they have with their bodies in modern society. If awarded, I would use this grant to continue developing "I Wear Her Memory Like a Crown" beyond my own personal narrative. I hope to include the stories of a myriad of women (anyone who identifies as a woman) from diverse backgrounds. I would photograph them and the objects that represent their stories: passports, their children’s birth certificates, books, jewelry, recipes, wedding gowns, diaries, diplomas, heirlooms, keys, letters, and photo albums, to name a few. I would print these images on paper and fabrics. Once each woman’s story is woven I would weave her to another woman’s story and on and on to create a new fabric. This installation would hang together as a proud flag to be waived in the revolution of female empowerment.

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