Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Ancestor Project

Some years ago, my late husband and I spent an extended time in England and Europe, touching base with our roots, to some extent. During that time we stayed with my aunt in England (Gwen) and my aunt in Germany (Annelotte).........I discovered that both aunts had photographs of my grandparents that had all been taken at around the same time: ca 1917. I made quick little sketches in my travel sketchbook of all four of them for no particular purpose other than that I felt some connection to them. At the time the pictures were taken, they were 18, 17, 16 and 13 years old.

Time rolls on, loved ones die and one starts to think a bit more about mortality and the transience of our time here on earth and where we come from........hence the birth of The Ancestor Project. I resurrected  the little pencil portraits (I have to say, they are all good likenesses) to try and do something a little more permanent with them. I enlarged and transferred them onto silk organza and mounted them onto canvas using a special acrylic medium that encases them and preserves them forever. Here are the first two "Ancestor" pieces.: the first is 20" x 20" and the diptych is two small canvases - 6" x 6".

There is some acrylic overpainting on both and red stitching on the larger piece.



You'll notice that my English grandfather, Bertram Johnston, is wearing a British soldiers' uniform and my German grandfather, Heinrich Klatt, is wearing a German Red Cross uniform (he had a club foot and couldn't serve as a regular soldier) They were on opposite sides at the Battle of the Somme and I sometimes fantasize about them meeting behind the battle lines. Didn't happen, of course, but I often wonder what would have transpired if they had. I think they were both pacifists and hated war and would probably have got along quite well!

My English grandmother, Gladys Barnes (far left in the larger piece) was only thirteen at this time. The story goes that just before this picture was taken, she'd cut off her long hair and had got into a lot of trouble! Rosa Mohr was my German grandmother - apparently she had a very sunny disposition. I never got to meet my German grandparents, but when we were growing up, they used to send fabulously exotic Christmas parcels to us that were stitched into linen covers that had to be unpicked.....all sorts of exotic aromas were released when the box finally disgorged its contents.....cigars, marzipan, dark chocolate.......just the thought of those scents evokes feelings of great nostalgia.

There may be more to come in this series.....I have a few ideas fomenting. 
 

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