With this performance, I wanted to investigate alternative forms of remembering loved ones who have passed away. In the jewish tradition, a Yahrzeit Candle is burned yearly to commemorate the anniversary of a death. I sought to expand upon this ritual and transform it into a physical memorial to honor my grandmother, Beatrice Klein. Beatrice was a semi-traditional Jewish grandma who liked getting her hair and nails done, hated cooking, loved books and always had corn muffins in stock. Her sass was unparalleled.
She was an avid shopper and had no shortage of brightly colored blouses, chambray tops and dungaree bottoms. When she passed away, my parents were left with the daunting task of sorting through her personal belongings. Costume jewelry—including brooches, clip-on earrings and loose crystals (my grandpa used to make jewelry). Stockings and tights that were so ancient and corroded that they crumbled to the touch (still in the their original packaging). Canvas shoes, ceramic cats and close to 100 camisoles, all delicate and feminine. I held onto whatever objects caught my eye. At first, I wasn’t sure what I would do with all of these items but after several years, their purpose became clear.
These precious artifacts were woven together with memories and projected family photos to create a sculptural and spoken narrative of how I remember Beatrice. By surrounding myself with her essence, I became a spirit object, a totem, a physical embodiment of her spirit.
I gathered eighteen (her lucky number) of her personal belongings and wrapped them into parcels and distributed them among the audience: a camisole, blouse, tights, loafers, silk scarf, denim jacket, jewelry, watch, chatques, her favorite perfume, her beloved Entenmann’s corn muffins and finally, a pair of her signature cat eye glasses. The audience members were called by number and dressed me piece by piece.
For the finale, I played, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” by The Platters, one of her favorite songs. I shut my eyes tightly and pressed an old photo of her against my heart. I swayed back and forth and called out to her, inviting her spirit, wherever it may currently reside, to fill the space. I invited my audience to think of their loved ones as well.
The resulting piece brought me closer to my audience than ever before. I am very grateful for their support and participation.