Tag: pink galoshes portraits

The Story of Women Exhibit: Whispering Bones and Aunt Addie

I told you about Cannonball – a piece in The Rinse Cycle, Pivotal Epiphanies in a Woman’s Life Series –  being on exhibit at the the Milford Arts Council (a.k.a. the MAC) in Connecticut, and today I’m here to tell you about the other two pieces that were selected for inclusion in The Story of Women Exhibit  there . . .

 

The Rinse Cycle Series, Pivotal Epiphanies in a Woman’s Life:
Whispering Bones

About the Series:
We all have them – moments that startle us into utter clarity about the need for significant change. And if we’ve made enough trips around the sun, we know that it’s up to us to create the life we are meant to live, so we grab onto the thread that has guided so many before us – the thread that is being offered to us now – and begin. People – even those who initially quake in fear at how our change might affect their lives – fall in beside us, cheering us on. Ancestors gather round to aid and abet. People we’ll never know grab onto the thread, vowing to live a self-determined life, too. I immortalize the spark and the resolve in art quilts I call The Rinse Cycle, Pivotal Epiphanies in a Woman’s Life.

Size:
25.75” h x 18.5” w

Materials:
Scraps of fabric, commercial fabric, batting, embroidery floss

A Note About This Piece:
The “I Matter” note is tacked open in this photo and in the exhibit. When she finds her way back home to me, I will snip the threads holding the whisper open, fold it back into its envelope shape, and tie it closed using the strip of fabric underneath it.

Artist Statement:
When she needed it most, she heard a whispered sticky note.

 

Pink Galoshes Women: Aunt Addie

About the Series:
Pink Galoshes Women are those who, when confronted with obstacles, pull on their proverbial pink galoshes and tromp on through the mud and the muck to get to where they need and want to go.

Size:
19.5” h x 22.5” w

Materials:
Aunt Addie’s letters (printed, then chopped into chunks and reconnected to create background fabric of top) and photo transferred to fabric; vintage gloves and pearls; beads; embroidery floss; thread; batting; commercial fabric (back)

Artist Statement:
Committed to an insane asylum by six men because “she talked too much,” Aunt Addie found ways to quiet her soul if not her brain.

 

Viewing the Exhibit

The Story of Women is a hybrid – virtual AND brick-and-mortar – exhibit. To view the exhibit in person, visit the Milford Arts Council. To view from the comfort of your home, you have but to click right here.. Be sure to look for Black Wedding Dress, well-deserved winner of Best Story, by Karen Kassap. Right after the exhibit opened, Karen reached out to me via Instagram, and we are becoming the kind of friends I like best: appreciative, supportive, and encouraging. Add her friend Gale Zucker to that list, too. Gale went to see the exhibit yesterday, in support of her good friend, Karen, and afterwards she, too, reached out to me with supportive encouragement. Isn’t it lovely to be friends with so many women who are comfortable and confident enough in their own creative abilities that they feel no need to behave haughtily and be mean? I am blessed.

 

Dates and People’s Choice Award

The exhibit is open through November 19, 2020,. Scroll to the bottom of this page to cast your vote for the People’s Choice Award. Voting closes on November 18 to give them time to count the votes before announcing the winner at the close of the exhibit on November 19, 2020.  (Oh the jokes I could make were I one to delve into politics. But I’m not, so I won’t.)

100: Aunt Addie, a Pink Galoshes Portrait

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She was a formidable woman, my great Aunt Addie was, driving herself around town in the car she bought for herself at a time when most men in the county still hitched a mule up to the buggy to get them where they wanted to go. She was mayor of Woolsey, a small community in Fayette County, Georgia, and when she got her hands on some Works Projects Administration funds, Woolsey got new sidewalks.

She married later in life, and then only when her sister, Lizzie, saw fit to die and leave an eligible widower. Yes, Miss Addie Ballard married her brother-in-law, J. M. (John) McLean on April 27, 1923 and thus became step-mother to the only children she would have: her nieces and nephews.

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Aunt Addie wasn’t talked about much in the family, probably because she was considered an uppity woman, for one thing, and on account of that time she shot Uncle John “under the sheets” in February 1953, an event that culminated with her being declared a “lunatic” and landing her a stint in the Milledgeville State Hospital (originally named the Georgia Lunatic Asylum when it was built in 1883), for another.

It took me decades to pry this much of her story out of The Family Elders. My uncle, perhaps impressed with my tenacity (or more likely, thinking it would make me hush up once and for all), presented me with a copy of Aunt Addie’s commitment papers, and I’ve a copy of her marriage license, her will, her United Daughters of the Confederacy membership papers, and a single photo of her in my possession. To this day, I remain intrigued with this black sheep of the family. Long ago, I began asking everybody who might have known her or known of her, “What can you tell me about Aunt Addie Ballard McLean?”

One day while lunching with Ferrol Sams (Sambo), I asked him about our shared ancestor. “I always wondered what made her sad enough to do such a thing,” he said by way of answering.

He went on to tell me about being called down to Aunt Addie’s house early one cold winter morning. It seems she’d gotten up during the night to go to the bathroom, according to Uncle John, then she came back and got into bed. At one point, Uncle John, greatly annoyed that she was disturbing his sleep with all her moaning and groaning, said, “Addie, be quiet. I’m trying to sleep.”

His slumber resumed, and when the rooster cock-a-doodle-do’ed Uncle John awake long about sunrise, he found Aunt Addie lying in a pool of her own blood. Apparently when she’d gotten up to go to the bathroom during the night, she shot herself in the side before returning to crawl back into bed.

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AuntAddiesThimble

While a patient in Milledgeville, Aunt Addie mailed poems, letters, and a recipe for Orange Pie to Mother. (I transferred every piece of her correspondence to fabric, and that’s what you see in the background.) She even sent Mother her gold thimble in its silver case for safe keeping (something I’ve been assured will become mine One Day).

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I’ve talked to somebody in Milledgeville, who looked it up while I stayed on the phone, and they tell me that they have a card with more information on Aunt Addie – like when and into whose custody she was released. Just as soon as I can figure out what kind of court order is required, I’m going down there to get a copy of that information for myself. I hope not, but it may be the last bit of information I ever get on Aunt Addie, a woman I’ve chosen for one of my Pink Galoshes Portraits of Irrepressible Women.

~~~~~~~

Painted, stitched, written, or performed, stories – even family legends – are fluid, changing and evolving any time a new kernel of perspective, information, or context drops in. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t tell them, hold them dear, or tuck them in with the good silver to pass on to future generations.

Stories unite us and give us roots . . . and wings. Stories bolster us in time of turmoil; buoy us in times of despair; and anchor us in times of doubt. They remind us of who we were, who we are now, and who we can be. They remind us of what stock we come from.

When we gather around the table, ’tis stories that nourish us. When we hold hands around a campfire, ’tis stories tucked into our palms. And when we make a toast, ’tis stories that fill the glass we raise.

Stories are the best gift ever.
Stories are oxygen.

~~~~~~~

For those of you who’ve read shotgun through the 100 days of story, thank you for all the encouragement and support. Despite the typos and mistakes that can’t be blamed on electronics, I’ve made new friends around this digital campfire, good friends have become better friends, and I’ve even been reunited with a friend (Vonnie) from graduate school who I’ll tell you more about later. Many of y’all have gifted me with your own stories, which goes into my daily list of things I’m grateful for every time. However you tagged along in this exercise, I thank you from both my heart and my fingertips . . . fingertips that are now going to go have conversations with cloth and thread for a while.

58: She Really Made a Splash, and I Couldn’t Be More Proud

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Her mother raised her to be afraid of the water, thinking it would keep her from drowning in the creek that ran behind their house. (Sometimes mothers get love and safety all mixed up.) As an adult, she spent one week every summer at the beach, never staying at a motel with a pool and never wading into the ocean over her knees. When the Medford Manor pool was built, she dropped her children off every morning on her way to work, brought them lunch on her lunch hour, and picked them up on the way home from work, having them sit on one of the quilts her mother made spread over the backseat to protect her car’s interior from chlorine-laden swimsuits. She made sure every one of her children learned to swim.

One day she woke up in her fifth decade and decided she wanted to learn to swim, so she did what any woman does when she’s ready to grow fins:

1. She designed a swimming pool.
2. She found a place for it in the yard.
3. She hired a contractor.
4. She found a swimming instructor willing to travel.
5. She bought a cute, flattering swimsuit.
6. She hired the swimming instructor who was willing to travel.

And I want you to know that in less than two months, I attended my mother’s first swim recital. Can you imagine being taught to be terrified of the water as a young child then learning to swim – of your own initiative – some 50 years later? That right there is why Ada Ballard Hewell, my mother, is a Pink Galoshes Woman. (She’s the tall one in the above photo, and the pint-sized one wearing the obviously out-grown, handed-down swimsuit? That’s me, her favorite daughter.)

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Pink Galoshes Portrait: Ada Ballard Hewell
17″ x 21″
cut-up discarded clothing, cheesecloth, seed pearls, embroidery floss
photo transferred to fabric
hand stitched

Oh, and those other words on her Pink Galoshes Portrait – gardening, entertaining, reading, socializing, learning, cooking – those are other things she’s good at.

~~~~~~~

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13: Pink Galoshes Portrait: Maude Hewell

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Allow me to introduce you:
Starting with the adorable little boy in the left forefront
and working our way around:
Crawford Hewell, Jr., who would grow up to be my daddy
Crawford Hewell, Sr., a.k.a. Granddaddy
The woman is Maude (Montie) Gay Hewell, a.k.a. Grandmother
And the chubby little baby she’s holding is the fella I’m named after:
my Uncle Gene

. . . . .

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When it was time to bury Juanita, her one-day old daughter,
she tied a knot and hung on.

When Edgar and Earl, her twin boys, were born dead,
she tied a knot and hung on.

When the tractor turned over, crushing and killing her 18 year old son Gene,
she tied a knot and hung on.
When her beloved granddaughter reached for the Zero candy bar kept in the back of the fridge,
she tied a knot and told her “No” for the first time
because that is the candy bar Gene was going to have for an afternoon snack
after he finished pulling up tree stumps with the tractor.
She kept it as her private memorial to him,
thinking of him every time she opened the fridge to get
eggs
or milk
or just to remember a spell.

When the bank robbers came and held her family hostage over night,
when they kidnapped her husband,
when they put a gun to her five-year old’s head,
when they drank their prohibition liquor and rebel-roused and threatened
her mother,
the midwife,
and her newborn baby boy,
she tied a knot and hung on.

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Meet Maude Gay Hewell,
My grandmother
and the first woman featured in my
Pink Galoshes Portraits of Irrepressible Women series.

. . . . .

This picture was taken in November 1933,
six months after the bank robbery and kidnapping.
As with all my Pink Galoshes Portraits, I’m also identifying how these women remained irrepressible in the face of devastation and hardship. For Grandmother, she had a loving family, and she loved her family. Plus it was 1933, right smack dab in the middle of The Great Depression, so she had no time to wallow and settle herself into the victim chair. She had babies to feed and a husband to love, so she pulled on her pink galoshes and tromped on through the mud and the muck to get to where she needed to go.

. . . . .

Pink Galoshes Portrait, Maude Gay Hewell
20.25″ x 16.25″
photo transferred onto fabric
pieces of a 1930s double wedding ring quilt somebody started but never finished
French knots (36 hours’ worth)
hand stitched

. . . . .

I’m penning 100 stories in 100 days, limbering up to (finally) write a book about that weekend in May 1933 when the bandits came knocking and held my family hostage, including my daddy who was five years old at the time. Had things gone horribly awry, I would not be sitting here today, penning these words – think about that for a minute. Kinda’ makes your head hurt, doesn’t it?

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