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Columns : Art Life - Susan Mackay Last Updated: Feb 6, 2017 - 2:32:04 PM

By Susan Mackay
Aug 19, 2006 - 11:02:35 AM

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My children are leaving for the summer. They are going to spend eight weeks with their father up in Canada. The three of us are dealing with their impending departure in different ways. My son, who is five, expects to see Daddy, “Tomorrow”. My daughter, who is older and has a more solid concept of time and distance, will infrequently hug me and say she doesn’t want to leave me. And I? I cry when they are not looking.

Leaving is always a struggle.

One moment the person we love is there, vibrant, animated, dancing before our eyes. They are present, warm to our searching touch, then in a second – a cold space in our world.

To fill the void I am making busy plans. I am going up to New York to meet with
Grand Bahamian conceptual artist, Janine Antoni, who is doing extremely well. She has been featured on PBS amongst other plaudits. As she grew up here, friends have told me a lot about her and I have been given a book to look at about one of her art pieces. “Moor” is an in depth look at a piece of art she exhibited in an exhibition entitled, “Taught, Tether, Teeter” in 2002. The art work is a rope, entitled “Moor” that she has woven out of different fabrics and materials. Visually appealing, the various coloured materials are masterfully threaded together. However what takes ‘Moor’ beyond merely an aesthetic well crafted piece – is the revelation of stories attached to each article used. For example the book starts;

“Melissa’s dental floss is used as whipping to secure the beginning of the rope and it is clasping Danielle’s red reversible jacket, which is black on the other side and which her roommate Katrin from Germany gave her, and it feels like it drifted into her life……” from “Moor”, Janine Antoni, 2003

And so it continues, often personal accounts of what the material (for example: a shirt, flags, coconut husks, a nest....and so on) meant to the person donating it – each weaving into and out of and onto the next story.

When I look through the book and read the ordinary stories of clothes that have found owners or precious memories attached to shirts, it echoes so deeply that I am moved to tears. The stories in their banality are so familiar, so touching. Although I don’t know who Melissa or Danielle or Doug or Anissa are, their stories resonate with me.

I have left and moved from this island so many times, that when I have subsequently visited my friends in their homes, I see picture frames, table cloths, lamps and other paraphernalia that were a part of me that I left to them. Whenever I witness this ‘stuff’, I witness a rich part of my life, thick with memories, but born anew in a new environment. My associations are different for each object – happy, sad or bittersweet. And to my friends, these inanimate objects have different, new associations and memories.

In the same way Janine pulls in tangible references of her life and by entwining the strands from different people, she creates a thick connection between all the people in her life and all their memories. Although it is highly personal to herself and the people who have donated ‘things’ to her, there is a commonality to the materials and stories that means that it speaks to us in a louder language than the personal. We don’t know who Melissa or Danielle are, but we can relate to the feeling behind the simple stories.

Not only are the pieces of fabric connecting with each other – the stories smearing into each other, what she creates with it, is immensely important – a rope – with all its delicious associations of strength, practicality and union. However it is so very organic, (obviously NOT a commercial rope), and though the craftsmanship is quite apparent, it is reminiscent of an umbilical cord, thick, pulsing and alive. A cord – that reminds us all of our connection to things, people, memories, the past and the future. We are all inextricable linked. The rope becomes a symbol of this emotional and physical joining and the linking and passing of time.

Janine’s piece, eloquently reminds us of this. She has successfully shown us a truth of her personal connections and so successfully conveys a universal understanding of this connection.

And so, as I face the imminent separation of my children, I can also hold the knowledge of our undeniable connection. The memories and the past are bound tightly in our hearts connecting us beyond physical presence.
“I am with you, always. I am here in your hearts.” Words that could so easily slip into a platitude, suddenly sparkle with truth.

The word, “moor”, in my Collins Pocket Dictionary, as a verb means, “secure (a ship) with ropes, etc”. And so Janine Antoni, with beautiful simplicity, and rich potency, reminds me of my emotional tie to my children – irrespective of distance or time there will always be a thick fabric of connection – a rope that entwines our hearts.

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