My Aunt Dorothy’s 85th Birthday

On August 16, my Aunt Dorothy celebrated her 85th birthday and when I asked her what she wanted she responded, “let’s go to the casino in Montgomery, Alabama on Saturday!”

Aunt Dot had received an invitation from the casino to come celebrate!  A free t-shirt was promised (provided that there were enough points on the casino game cards). I had passed through Montgomery many times, but never stopped so I was up for a four-hour round trip with Aunt Dot and my sister, Brenda.

It had been a while since I’d gone to the casino. I don’t cotton to casinos because they are designed to make most people a loser and I don’t like giving my hard-earned cash to a computerized game machine that is next to impossible to beat! It’s also why I rarely play the numbers.

My Aunt Dot has always been lucky.

Luck is luck and a power far greater than I can sum up. But at the same time, Aunt Dot has been lucky for as long as I’ve known her and that’s been my entire life, so I at least expected HER to win something.

We ALL lost!

Some are lucky.

After standing in line to cash in the paper tickets that the computer gives you as change. (The ticket can be taken to a cashier or alternatively, can be dropped in a bucket where they are collected for charity. Aunt Dot cashes in her tickets because “I don’t know what charity they are giving my money to! I contribute to the National Negro College Fund and nothing else.”), watching a raffle where various amounts of money were won, and retrieving my aunt’s T-shirt, we decided to go to the Civil Rights Memorial at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

I have been intrigued by Maya Lin’s installations for some time and we were all mesmerized as we circled the fountain, touching the water and reading aloud the names of the slain and events that challenged the very core of America’s conscience.

Aunt Dorothy (L) with my sister, Brenda

My aunt and my sister witnessed first-hand, the Civil Rights Movement as had many in the south. My sister was at A&T State University, during the Greensboro sit-ins. I was too young to remember much. The pain on their faces as they circled the fountain bore witness to the past. Being there was painful but uplifting. My aunt prayed. We all did. The experience reminded me of the blues.

We piled in her little red Honda and headed back to Atlanta. We talked.

“I started working for white folks at 10”, she said. “I kept white babies. They had fat feet. I was so little and they were big fat babies. I hated having to take care of them but mama wanted me to work. There was nothing else for us to do, other than work in the fields.” Eventually, she left the south. Most all her siblings did as well. My sister too, briefly to Boston. My mother and father didn’t.

“What’s your middle name?”, I asked.

“Lee”, she responded. “I’m a Lee, Harry’s middle name is Lee, Willie Lee. Robert Lee. Your mother’s middle name was different. Mae. I think Mama just used the same names because she had so many children (there were 11, one died, 10 lived). The rest don’t have middle names. She just got tired of naming I guess.”

She talked about her third husband Henry, now 87, who does not go out much anymore. “He just sits on the porch. I can’t get him to do anything anymore,” she complained. I thought, ‘he’s 87’ and smiled to myself.

Towards the end of our journey, it dawned on me that I was sitting next to my mother’s sister! I know that sounds crazy but sometimes you forget about things like that. My aunt has known me for 63 years, my entire life, longer than my mother who died in 1977. My sister was in the backseat asleep and I was sitting next to my mother’s sister. It was then that I realized the gift of a road trip for Aunt Dot, wound up being a gift to me.

 

Wolf Creek Library Project

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Talk about this portfolio piece--who you did it for and why, plus what the results were (potential customers love to hear about real-world results). Discuss any unique facets of the project--was it accomplished under an impossible deadline?--and show how your business went above and beyond to make the impossible happen.

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Project Name

Talk about this portfolio piece--who you did it for and why, plus what the results were (potential customers love to hear about real-world results). Discuss any unique facets of the project--was it accomplished under an impossible deadline?--and show how your business went above and beyond to make the impossible happen.

Ms. Hurston’s Eatonville

 

Snap Zora
Zora Neale Hurston in Florida

After spending years in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, the second oldest incorporated municipality founded by African Americans in the US, I am now working on a Journeys Project in Eatonville, Florida, the first incorporated African American municipality in the US. Eatonville is also the town where celebrated author and anthropologist, Zora Neale Hurston often lived and worked. The people of Eatonville inspired her work, which she wrote about often.

The Journey Projects will collaborate with the Zora Neale Hurston International Museum of Fine Art to present an exhibition that celebrates the residents of Eatonville and its ancestors, including Zora Neale Hurston and Deacon Jones. The project, which began in September, includes gathering photographic images from Eatonville residents to be included in the artwork, working with local youngsters to create cyanotypes on fabric that will also be included in the artwork, and collaborating with organizations to commemorate and honor the townsfolk and Ms. Hurston.

The Historic Franklin Property, which is situated in both Eatonville and Maitland.
The Historic Franklin Property, which is situated in both Eatonville and Maitland.

I have gone to Eatonville twice. It is a beautiful little town, which Ms. Hurston describes as "the city of five lakes, three croquet courts, three hundred brown skins, three hundred good swimmers, plenty guavas, two schools, and no jailhouse".

Opening of exhibition at the Hurston Museum.
Opening of exhibition at the Hurston Museum.

I ran into this little dog on my morning run.
I ran into this little dog on my morning run.

Thus far, I've attended community meetings, gone to church, walked with a local walking group, lingered at an historic property on Lake Sebelia, hung out at a local tavern and so much more. I've learned a lot from stories and conversations.  I return to Florida in a couple of weeks. Like the Journey Projects on Facebook to keep up with more frequent postings.

Looking forward...

I did cyanotypes with students at Hungerford Elementary School, grades 1-3

Angels

Reposting:

 Angels In Straight Jackets  is a multi-media installation that will feature sound, performance, projection and video centered on three textile- based mixed media sculptures. It is a collaboration of three artists and scholars: mixed media artist and “visual mythographer” Lynn Marshall Linnemeier, of Atlanta, scholar Mab Segrest, Fuller-Maathai Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at Connecticut College in New London, and Shani Collins, Professor of Dance and Movement at Connecticut College. The goal of installation is to examine the ancestral memory of patients and personnel who lived and worked at Central State Hospital in Milledgeville, Georgia. The hospital once one of the largest and oldest asylums in the world housed thousands of patients in this asylum and later prison that was the capital of Georgia during the Civil War.  The goal is to examine the hospital through the lens of community memory and an exhibition to be held at Georgia College and State University also located in Milledgeville.

Redressing the Stone

THIS FROM AN EARLIER POST:

Redressing the Stone brings together members of the Lithonia, Georgia community as they collaborate with artist Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier to create an Agan for the community. The Agan is a masquerade costume that is used in an Egungun masquerade in Nigeria. Egungun means bones or ancestors. Artist Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier creates Agans for communities.  Through a series of hands on workshops and other activities, members of the community collaborate with the artist to create this sacred cloth.

“Lithonia” means “city/town of stone”. It lies just 18 miles outside of Atlanta and is considered an Atlanta suburb. Lithonia is in the heart of the Georgian granite quarrying and viewing region.  According to Georgia.gov, “The community got its unusual name, according to locals, when, in the 1840s, a Classics teacher combined the Greek words “Litho” meaning “rock” and “Onia” meaning “place.” Considering that the East Dekalb area contains an abundance of Gneiss granite, the teacher aptly chose the name Lithonia.

The nearby granite dome, Stone Mountain, is composed largely of a rock called Lithonia gneiss.”

First Visit Central State Hospital

Mab and I traveled to Milledgeville in June 2011 to discuss plans for a possible exhibit. Upon entrance to the hospital I found myself surrounded by death and decay; Central State had been closed for the most part since 2010 but many of the buildings had been abandoned for years. Vines covered a number of the structures and some had missing roofs.Central State Hospital_0156

I visited the grounds  of Central State Hospital several times over the course of designing the installation but nothing impacted me more than the cemeteries. Hundreds of metal markers greet visitors at the grave site entrance of the main cemetery, Cedar Lane. According to Alan Judd of the AJC: “For decades, patients at the state psychiatric hospital in Milledgeville were buried on the facility’s grounds, their graves marked only by a small metal stake. Groundskeepers tossed as many as 10,000 stakes into the woods in the 1960s, leaving the graves forever unmarked. In recent years, patient advocates have placed several hundred recovered markers in a memorial at the hospital’s Cedar Lane Cemetery.”

Cedar Lane Cemetery, Central State Hospital
Cedar Lane Cemetery, Central State Hospital

The metal markers at Cedar Lane reminded me of Arlington Cemetery in Virginia. But this graveyard was different because it held the remains of over 25,000 differently enabled persons. As I walked down Cedar Lane, every now and then I would see a headstone but for the most part, just trees and sunken earth, evidence that someone had been buried there. Cedar Lane Cemetery, along with the African American cemetery, is one of (if not) the largest burial ground for differently enabled persons in the world.

African American Burial Ground, Central State Hospital
African American Burial Ground, Central State Hospital

We have no evidence that Mary Roberts was buried at Cedar Lane Cemetery and not much is known about many of the 25,000 who rest there, but I knew that I had to create an installation that would remember and honor all of them. After reading the intake documents from the file of Mary Roberts, I knew that she would be my vehicle and I used her voice and my memory to channel her spirit.
Excerpt from intake examination:

Why were you sent to this place?

I wanted to be examined to see if I was crazy.Central State Hospital_0175

What had you been doing to make them think you were crazy?

I was at home praying.

Were you very much excited at that time?

Yes sir.  I would pray, shout and sing and then sometimes I would cry.

What do you think of yourself as compared with other people?
I don’t think I am better.

Do you think you are a Missionary?

Yes sir.

Do you think you are especially appointed by God?

Yes sir.

How long have you felt that way?

A long time.

White chair, Central State Hospital
White chair, Central State Hospital

Do you think that God has especially appointed you to preach for him?

Yes sir.

In what way did he reveal that thought to you?

I can’t exactly tell.

Have you any property?

No sir

Do you think you are rich?

No sir, I know I aint rich.

Do you think you can do anything better than anybody else?

No sir.

 

Has anything strange happened to you?

No sir, not much.

 

Angels In Straight Jackets, Exalted on the Ward

Connecticut College Art Department
Students in the Art Department at Connecticut College working on fabric square designs. The squares will be made into pillows and included in the installation. Pillows are incorporated throughout the installation. They serve as symbols of comfort as well as protection. Patients who were excited or agitated might have been put in a padded room or inn a straight jacket.

At about the time that I started working on the Wolf Creek Project in 2011, Mab Segrest contacted me about another Journey Project for Central State Hospital. When we met in 2011, Mab was Chair of Gender and Women’s Studies at Connecticut College. I knew very little about Central State Hospital but remembered Dorothea Dix in North Carolina.

“Keep on acting crazy and I’ll send you to Dorothea Dix!” my mother would threaten when I was overly rambunctious. To be sent to an asylum scared the crap out of me, even as a child. Cartoons and movies were full of insanity and even in my own home town there was a “sanitorium”.

Central State Hospital, located in Milledgeville, Georgia was  founded in 1842. At various times in its history, it was the largest mental health asylum in the country. Mab is writing a book on the institution and  I am creating a site specific installation for the Ennis Hall Gallery at Georgia College and State University. We are both working from intake documents of patient, “Mary Roberts”, an African American woman who  was interned there in 1911 for singing, praying, and shouting.  Her identity has been redacted because of confidentiality. The work also remembers some 30,000 patients who are buried on the hospital grounds, probably the largest burial ground of differently enabled persons in the world. The Moonlit Road gives a good synopsis of the history of Central State.

According to intake documents, Mary Roberts had “fits of insanity” at an early age. In fact, several of her relatives had episodes of mental dis-order. Tuberculosis was prevalent. “She has two children living and nine dead”, noted an attending physician. Much of the art work remembers her dead children and indeed all the children born in the facility.

I traveled to Connecticut College on two occasions in 2012 and worked with students in the Department of Art and Gender and Women’s Studies. I challenged the students to create pieces that would serve as prayers, healing, and offerings to those buried at Central State. The students did cyanotypes on fabric. Our main focus was hands, touch. The cyanotypes created by the students are included in the installation.

Student designs with my photography. I continue to explore design possibilities.
Student designs with my photography. I continue to explore design possibilities.

Collaboration is a core component of the Journey Projects and it is a challenge to use many parts to create a greater whole. I will share more about the process in the coming weeks before the show, which opens on January 29, 2015.

–Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier

 

Catching Up

It’s been a while since I’ve written on the Journey Projects blog. In fact, it’s been over six months! ‘So what have you been doing since you last posted’ you might ask. Let’s see if we can’t catch up.

Groundbreaking September 8, 2014 Wolf Creek Library, Atlanta, GA.
Groundbreaking September 8, 2014 Wolf Creek Library, Atlanta, GA.

Beneath the Ogirishi Tree, the Journey Projects at Wolf Creek has been installed! The Wolf Creek Library opened on September 8!  I am currently working on Angels In Straight Jackets, Exalted on the Ward, a site-specific installation for Georgia College and State University that will open on January 20, 2015 in Milledgeville, GA. This new work remembers those interned at Central State Hospital, a state mental health facility founded in the mid-1800’s. More to come on this project.

So many people were employed on the Wolf Creek project and I was so happy to pay artists for their work. Jason Smith and his crew at Smithworks Iron and Design brought my vision to life through their fabrication of the Ogirishi Tree, which greets visitors upon entering the library.

Smithworks Iron & Design installing Ogirishi Tree.
Smithworks Iron & Design installing Ogirishi Tree. The tree, comprised of steel, ceramic tiles and ornaments is approximately 18′ tall. It contains two benches –one for adults and children that face the large glassed windows.
Pierre Coiron, Stability Engineering, working on structural design.
Pierre Coiron,  Stability Engineering, working on structural design.

Pierre Coiron of Stability Engineering was structural engineer for the project. The trunk, legs, benches, and branches all had to be precisely placed to ensure stability and safety. You should check out the engineering firm’s work on some major architectural projects in Atlanta and points beyond.

The Ogirishi Tree.
The Ogirishi Tree.

When entering the lobby of the library you can see the tree in the distance and the light from the surrounding landscape through the wall of windows. Leo Daly & Associates designed the building. I remember envisioning the tree when the space was just forest. To see my vision come to light. to complete the project on schedule despite setbacks tried my nerves at times but overall the journey was magical. I continue to push the boundaries of what I imagine and what I can do with this life that has been filled with making things tied to memory and myth. More to come…

Catching Up

It’s been a while since I’ve written on the Journey Projects blog. In fact, it’s been over six months! ‘So what have you been doing since you last posted’ you might ask. Let’s see if we can’t catch up.

Groundbreaking September 8, 2014 Wolf Creek Library, Atlanta, GA.
Groundbreaking September 8, 2014 Wolf Creek Library, Atlanta, GA.

Beneath the Ogirishi Tree, the Journey Projects at Wolf Creek has been installed! The Wolf Creek Library opened on September 8!  I am currently working on Angels In Straight Jackets, Exalted on the Ward, a site-specific installation for Georgia College and State University that will open on January 20, 2015 in Milledgeville, GA. This new work remembers those interned at Central State Hospital, a state mental health facility founded in the mid-1800’s. More to come on this project.

So many people were employed on the Wolf Creek project and I was so happy to pay artists for their work. Jason Smith and his crew at Smithworks Iron and Design brought my vision to life through their fabrication of the Ogirishi Tree, which greets visitors upon entering the library.

Smithworks Iron & Design installing Ogirishi Tree.
Smithworks Iron & Design installing Ogirishi Tree. The tree, comprised of steel, ceramic tiles and ornaments is approximately 18′ tall. It contains two benches –one for adults and children that face the large glassed windows.
Pierre Coiron, Stability Engineering, working on structural design.
Pierre Coiron,  Stability Engineering, working on structural design.

Pierre Coiron of Stability Engineering was structural engineer for the project. The trunk, legs, benches, and branches all had to be precisely placed to ensure stability and safety. You should check out the engineering firm’s work on some major architectural projects in Atlanta and points beyond.

The Ogirishi Tree.
The Ogirishi Tree.

When entering the lobby of the library you can see the tree in the distance and the light from the surrounding landscape through the wall of windows. Leo Daly & Associates designed the building. I remember envisioning the tree when the space was just forest. To see my vision come to light. to complete the project on schedule despite setbacks tried my nerves at times but overall the journey was magical. I continue to push the boundaries of what I imagine and what I can do with this life that has been filled with making things tied to memory and myth. More to come…

Introducing Sepiastory

manoj-chennai morning-by hrishi-1000I first met Manoj Purushothaman at the Alternate Roots retreat in 2013. He interviewed me about  the Journey Projects. He later contacted me about doing video documentation for the Journey Projects.

I was impressed by Manoj’s gentle manner and his passion for documentation. When I asked why he chose to document my process, his answer was that my work focused on ancestors. He went on to tell me about his own process, which is fascinating.

I won’t tell the whole story here because you should go to his website and take a look at his work. I can tell you that he grew up in the beautiful port city of Cochin, in the Indian peninsula. That he worked in IT but left that profession to pursue a career in photography. He continues to explore the photographic medium but is also working in film. A true Renaissance man, Manoj writes screenplays and also paints.

Manoj and I have interviewed a number of people who lent us their photographs for the project and we will be sharing clips from the interviews in the future. To learn more about Manoj and his work please visit his website at sepiastory.com

Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier, Director of the Journey Projects