“A Boat to America”

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“A Boat to America” • 5’hx11’w • oil paintings on canvas, wood, rocks, paper and words

All In the Family

In this piece, I used my family story as a record of immigration in the United States. “A Boat to America” was originally created as a proposal for a library display. Part of the concept was to have an art piece people could “read” in a library. At the time I only created the four paintings of my family and the rock assemblages. Since then, I have been consistently adding to and refining the piece. I later added the interactive wall display for my Open Studio in Santa Cruz, California. The interactive display is shown below.

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“Hope Is the Anchor of Our Lives” • 5’hx24″w • wood, chain, hemp cloth, paper, ink, shipping tags

The oil paintings are renditions of family members taken from old photographs. They were Italian citizens living in allied occupied countries in North Africa and put in internment camps during World War II. After the war, my mother’s family relocated to America looking for a better life. My father left as a young man on his own for the U.S, where he later met my mother.

In the image below, my father is in the blue suit, next to the fellow in the pink suit.

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“A Boat to America” painting 2 of 4 • oil on canvas • 24″hx27″w

Rocks, Paper, Ink

After creating the paintings, I wanted them to be grouped in a cohesive way. The assemblages were a vehicle for pulling the works together. I thought about Plymouth Rock and how permanent it is to write something in stone, an analogy for leaving your home and never going back. The writing came about after completing the paintings. Inspired by the Constitution of the United States, I chose calligraphy on parchment paper as a vehicle for the words.

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Next, the Interactive Display…

I designed the interactive display because I felt it would be interesting to ask people about their own families. I posted a sign asking viewers what was the reason they or their ancestor came to the United States, when did they arrive and from where. The display was hung initially with a few stories placed – my own and some volunteers – so people could read examples. Pens and shipping labels were in a container with the posted instruction signage and the viewers fill the labels out and tie them to the chain on the display.

Below are photos from a library exhibition of the display. The bottom photo shows people filling out tags.

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The diversity of family origins is a strength and common link for many Americans. The anchor chain in the display is symbolic of that link. The goal was to cover the chain with stories and let the stories become the chain. The stories people volunteered were a lesson in world history.

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My Nona, Wallpaper and What’s for Dinner…

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“Changing Patterns” • oil on canvas • 28″hx42″w

The third piece of this work is a painting plus text that incorporates the collected stories from past exhibitions. It is called, “Changing Patterns.” The painting is of my grandmother cooking in the kitchen and my uncle in his U.S. military uniform standing behind her. In front of my grandmother is one pattern of wallpaper, behind my uncle is a different pattern. It symbolizes the changing patterns of old country to new country.

On display with this painting are the stories I’ve collected from previous exhibitions of the “Hope is the Anchor of Our Lives” interactive piece. I have typeset the stories in a format that resembles a menu. Ethnic foods, and old family recipes link us to our past. Also, my family often told stories about relatives at dinnertime. Perhaps yours does too?

Below is a view of side one.

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Below is a view of side two

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The last time this work was on exhibit, the menus were tacked to the wall. In a future exhibit, if more space is allotted, a small table with a tablecloth and chairs will be set up so people can sit and read them as if they are at a dinner table. (The “menus” would be laminated to prevent wear and tear.) In the center of the table would be a big cooking pot where people could write their stories, again on shipping labels, and throw them in the pot.

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To view the paintings where you can zoom them up, visit my website at LidiaStudio.com and look under “Boat to America” in my gallery section. Thank you for spending time with my family!

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