My Mother's Trunk

Among my memories of growing up in the house in Western New York in which my mother also lived as a child, an image of an old, enormous steamer trunk arises. Although I never ventured to open it in my childhood explorations, when my mother died and I was tasked with clearing out the house, I sensed its importance and had it shipped to my home in Atlanta. There, it sat in our basement for 28 years. Leaving that home, I moved the trunk to my art studio and one brave day I opened it. It is likely that more than 50 years had passed since my mother closed it.

Opening the trunk, I explored the layers, sections, and compartments that were aspects of its structure. I photographed the trunk in each stage of the process and also made portraits of the contents. Within I found my mother’s radical writings as a social work student studying at an Historically Black University (Wilberforce University) in the 1940’s, doodles she made when she was bored in class, gifts from sweethearts, her books, her assignments, and the clothes she wore during that time of her life.

I made the analog images of the trunk and its contents using black and white film, printed them on cotton fiber paper and toned them in a selenium bath.