Blog: Grandmother's Shawl

Christine Alfery

Posted on May 19 2021

Blog: Grandmother's Shawl

Featured image: Grandmother's Shawl

I have some things in my house that had belonged to my grandmother. One is a lovely teapot hand painted and trimmed in gold. Some that were my parents such as several old antique lamps that my son calls retro lamps. There's also a very small green stone that my father brought back from the wall of China when he served our country. I have some things that belonged to me as a child that bring back memories of playing as a little girl. I frequently talk about those memories in my blog posts. There are many things in my house that have a history. All of these things are also part of my children’s history.

The very idea that I would destroy any of these memories and objects of affection would destroy part of who I am, who I have turned out to be as an adult. My history is not always rosy. Sometimes it's filled with sorrow and very unhappy memories, but they are all part of my history, and part of who I am and have helped me create the solid foundation that I now stand upon.

We cannot destroy our history. As much as some of us would like to. We cannot rewrite history. But, what we can do is fill in the gaps that might exist because those who wrote our histories did not always include everything from the past. They chose not to include some moments in history because they wrote with a bias, and ideological flare.

Art is an excellent example. Why were there not female artists written about during the Renaissance? Or, if there were, it was because they were part of a family of artists. Recently, art historians are finding that writing about female artists did not suit the male ideology of the time. The same applies to women in the Bible. Women in the Bible take up a very small part of the Bible. It's only recently that Biblical historians are filling in what many of the people written about in the Bible.

We cannot change what has been, we can only live today, learn from the past and write as complete of a history as is possible. Which is why I will pass along to my children the few things that I've kept from the past. It's why I will tell them the stories that are linked to these memories and talk about what we can learn from them.

I painted Grandmother's Shawl for that very reason- to have a story to tell about out memories and how they've helped to make us who we are today. They are part of the foundations that we've built our lives on. We add to these memories and continue the story.

Frequently when I enter exhibitions, I am asked to verify that the work is mine, uniquely mine and that I have not borrowed/stolen from another's intellectual property. I always stop and pause when I read that question. Why? Because we build upon the past to create the present. If we have destroyed all the history, we would never be able to know if we have stolen another’s intellectual property.

Again, we need these histories to build upon the present – not to copy them but to create our own new and fresh ideas and moments to remember.

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