While cleaning, I stumbled across a container of clay I had collected from my grandparent’s property as a child. It was unnerving to realize that, while I knew where the clay had come from, I had no actual memory of collecting it. As my loved one’s age, I am confronted by the unsettling fact of both their, and my, memory loss.
I believe that the lens through which we explore loss becomes an important tool in the articulation of narrative. My experience growing up on grandparent’s property on the edge of the Allegheny wilderness played an important role in shaping who I am today, fostering a personally important connection to landscape. I am attempting to find meaning in my loss of place through the exploration of my relationship to place and the interweaving degradation of place and memory.
I collected clay and glaze material from their property. This raw material is processed into a clay body, a colorant, and a glaze and formed into objects with specific uses made to act as a trigger for a memory linked to the object. Material, intended use, form, and imagery coalesce to act as a trigger a memory of a precise instant in time.
Things that we integrate into our everyday lives become a synergist for memory triggered by use of the object. By creating an object that holds a specific purpose, is created with material from a specific location and contains imagery of that place, I create an object that acts as a memory catalyst and, while not celebrating loss, finds beauty and meaning in loss. Ultimately, I am finding agency in the preservation of my memory and the re-articulation of my narrative.
Transitional structures These brick-like structures are in the process transitioning from human habitation to plant habitation. They are the most suitable habitat for roadside flora of North Western Pennsylvania and can typically be found residing along back roads. They may be difficult to identify at first as wild flora has since taken up residents in these abandoned structures, sometimes hiding the structure completely, as the plants adapt to this new environment.
The First, and Last, Sighting of the Scarlet Tanager The second of two vestigial memory objects representing a specific instance in time. This object crystallizes four seconds of memory in which a Scarlet Tanager was sighted among the Eastern White Pine. The elusive migratory bird made no appearances later on.
Thermos for the First Day of Deer Season A Thermos for the specific purpose of transporting coffee on the first day of deer season in Chapman’s Dam State Park. The Thermos includes a map to the deer stand with keys. This is helpful in the event of rolling the incorrect gully. The Thermos is to be used after one reaches the Deer Stand and is to be shared by all present. During the latter part of the morning, sometimes early afternoon, the Thermos will be depleted of coffee.
The Escapee of Chapman's Dam This Object is used to serve the very first rainbow trout one catches with specific stipulations as to how the object functions. First, the trout must be a rainbow trout which had escaped over the dam of Chapmans Dam State Park. Second, the trout must be caught in a bucket by means of “fish herding”, without the use of traditional fishing gear. Lastly, once caught, the trout is cooked in a traditional manner.
Teapot for the Preparation of Pine Needle Tea A tea set for the preparation of white pine tea. The leaves of the Eastern White Pine are are collected from Chapman's Dam State Park and steeped in boiling water. Set is typically used by a single participant in early spring.
Dishes to Wash while Identifying Birds of Western Pennsylvania These objects fulfill two primary functions. First, they are washed after consuming a family meal in which two to eight participants have engaged. The washing is typically performed by two to four participants while drinking coffee. During this washing ceremony, the participants pay close attention to the birds outside of the window adjacent to the event. The dishes are used, as their second function,to identify bird species.
“The Day I Communicated with a Doe” This object can be identified with ease, as it is one of two vestigial memory objects representing a specific instance in time. One will notice the White-Tailed Doe peering back at you. If you listen carefully, you may even hear the noise of a curious white tailed deer trapped within the object.
Found Frying Pan for Cooking Crayfish Over the Campfire The origin of the object is still under investigation. The flood swollen creeks of North Western Pennsylvania often carry objects far from their point of origin. The object is used to boil the native crayfish over a small campfire. In order to engage with this object, participants must harvest crayfish from the adjacent stream. Typically, a small waterproof containment device is used to house the crayfish while creek water is boiled.
Berry Basket and Drainer for Foraging Berries in the Allegheny National Forest A berry basket and drainer dish for harvesting the red raspberries that grow prolific in North Western Pennsylvania. This object is typically put into use during the mid to late summer, when the raspberries are ripest. Care must be taken when using this object as thorns present a common complication to the berry harvesting process.
Pitcher set for Drinking Peach Tea on the Porch in the Evening This object is used to serve peach iced tea on the front porch while overlooking the forest. The object is typically used by two to six participants during the evening hours of the late spring and summer. While using this object, participants will simultaneously engage in conversation and the observation of Ruby Throated Humming Birds