Friday, June 14, 2024

Linda mapped out prayer in honor of her grandmother.

This body of work was made after the death of my grandmother in 2017 and serves as a memorial to her. There are four things to know about her: she was an Armenian immigrant from Istanbul who emigrated to Massachusetts in the 1980s; she was fiercely devout; she was a talented seamstress; and she had a collection of prayer books that she would often read from. After her death, I inherited a couple of these books.


This work was partly inspired by medieval reliquaries, in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, known for their ornate decorative details and their devotional appeal. In my sculptures and collages, I’ve incorporated reproductions of imagery from the prayer books, as well as certain words: “Lord,” “God,” and “Holy” (in Armenian). As I contemplate the placement of words within these compositions, I feel like I am mapping out a prayer in her honor—the repetition of words like a spiritual incantation.


Other elements complete my portrait of her. I collected metal scraps from a local lighting factory, which I employed as ornamental flourishes, but they also reminded me of the metal hardware connected to her vocation: the old Singer machine with its steel parts, the bobbins, thimbles, and other tools. It also seemed fitting to include some sewing pins and velvet scraps. For what could not be found, I modeled small clay elements to represent plaited fabric and trim and sewing notions. In the collages, I include prints from postcards of the village she was from originally in Turkey, from which her family survived the Armenian genocide and lived till they made their way to Istanbul decades later. The mannequin hands in Her Hands My Hands were a way for me to conjoin our labor together over time as craftspeople--she as a seamstress, me as a sculptor. 


Through composing and constructing, cutting and gluing, I invent a sacred landscape as a way to channel my grief—creation as an antidote to loss. One of the reliefs, Map of Her Prayers #3, actually contains her worry beads in the central compartment. Touching the objects she had once touched transports me across the divide between us. But beyond that, I feel she is with me when I make this work; I keep a small photo of her in my studio and hang it high on the wall above my desk to actualize this feeling.

Map of Her Prayers #3, (metal pieces, board, paint, vintage prayer book, plastic jewels, velvet, prayer beads in pill capsule, on wood), 13'' x 13'' x 4'', 2019.         

          Detail, May of Her Prayers #3.

 Detail, Her Hands My Hands.

Detail, Her Hands My Hands.

Amasya Heart and Bones, mixed media (ink, watercolor, origami paper, patternmaking paper, giclee, old postcards on paper), 22’’ x 30’’, 2023.

 Detail, Amasya Heart and Bones.

 Photos of artist with her grandmother from 1970.

 Photo of artist with grandmother from 1990.

 Photo of artist’s grandmother in her hand (later was hung on wall).