Memory Map: Roof Line, State Street
Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts
Grand Rapids, MI
28 September 2019 - 26 January 2020
Curated by Juana Williams
Braids of re-purposed textiles are strung into planes floating in space. The planes are a memory, how I remember the roof line of the dilapidated rental house I lived in from kindergarten through seventh grade.
The braids of textiles, link more memories, the connections to the six women that raised me, who sheltered me, my mother and five older sisters, apron strings and braids, ties that bind. "Women’s Work" was something that I was drawn to from a young age. I learned how to crochet and embroidery and macrame and sew.
The reuse and re-purposing of textiles is another memory. Most of our home was hand me downs from furniture to clothing, the threadbare and worn being given one more use before being discarded. I was taught how to "make do" with what was around me.
The fabric used to make the braids comes from several sources.
Some was produced in Autumn of 2016 as part of the performance piece Yardage at The Fed Galleries at Kendall College of Art & Design of Ferris State University. The piece utilized waste t-shirts donated by Goodwill of Greater Grand Rapids. The piece focused on the waste created by excess consumption. Volunteers worked to disassemble the waste t-shirts and reassemble the shirts into new bolts of fabric.
Another source is Public Thread, a local company that upcycles industry waste fabrics into new products while creating local living wage jobs. Public Thread donated a combination of remnants and unusable fabrics to the project, moving them closer towards their zero waste goal.
Another source was from a community engagement piece, Re-Fabricate, at the MSU Broad Art Museum Art Lab in the winter of 2019. Community members donated waste t-shirts and then participated in the disassembly of the t-shirts and the reconstruction of the material into new bolts of fabrics.
The braiding of the fabric included community based participatory braiding sessions held during the summer of 2019. Friends, family, and supporters gathered on warm, dry evenings for plein air braiding.
Memory Map is a mash-up of processes and materials, excess versus scarcity, privilege and misfortune - focused through my memories of growing up in poverty. As a Society we consume greatly and dispose greatly, we generate a great amount of waste, yet we choose not to take care of our people as a whole. As a Society we have more than enough resources to take care of every member but we choose not to. My experience growing up in poverty I was led to believe that I was less than, that poverty was a condition that I created, that the poor created. As an adult that was able to escape the cycle of poverty, I now understand poverty as a Social Failure, not an individual failure.
The images here are of the house before it was demolished, captured by Google Street View in 2009. Digital models courtesy of Nicole Beaudry.
This is the first of a series of Memory Map projects, reconstructing the places that I lived from zero to 18, all of which no longer exist.