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Familial Familial – Sparks Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Works

Familial

June 2015

Annie O’Dell Hendrick is a mixed media artist who uses genealogical and historical research and personal collections of family documents, heirlooms and found objects to inspire and inform her art-making processes. Annie’s work reflects her interest in families stories and belief systems, genetic and genealogical connections, and the influence of geography upon family structures. Often, the creation of her works becomes an act of paying tribute to people, places, and geographical landscapes which now exist only in memory. The creation of these pieces is Annie’s personal attempt to present, interpret and preserve the historical and genealogical information that she gathers. Originally from Maryland’s east coast, Annie currently lives and works in West Virginia. She will receive her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, WV in 2015, after concentrating on painting, drawing, and art education.

Artist Statement

     My work stems from thoughts about memory, the cycles of life, and the human desire to collect physical objects that serve as symbols for loved ones or life events. My works are often physical manifestations of my mindful attempts to preserve memories and honor landscapes, places or people that no longer exist. My pieces represent my interest in family histories and genealogy, and my thoughts about personal and family mythologies, spirituality, and the pull of geography on individuals and family groups. Often, the creation of my work becomes an act of healing as I pay tribute to the people, places, and geographical landscapes, which now exist only in memory or the subconscious.

     My methods combine traditional skills like embroidery or bookmaking, and contemporary art-making techniques such as digital illustration to create works that are detailed, complex, tactile and narrative. I use a variety of materials, including found objects and collected items. My pieces are typically presented in three-dimensional formats, and are often housed in containers of some sort. The materials and containers I choose are imbued with a great deal of energy, history, personality, and emotion. The lengthy process of choosing materials and creating these pieces becomes an act of meditation, mindfulness, remembrance, education, and healing.

Matrilineal, 2014

     The objective of this work was to present an interpretation of my matrilineal female ancestry, and how the physical geography of their homes affected their emotional “inner” geography. This work honors each of the strong women on my mother’s side of the family. One fled from hardship across the sea to a different country, another moved her family to a different state so her children could access an education. Each member of my female ancestry has contributed to the woman that I am now. As I looked through my collection of family documents while working on this piece, I found that commonalities existed between the women in my family, even when they were parted by geography and generations. These commonalities exist in every family, and it is my hope that the intimate format of this work will spark a variety of emotions related to the idea of “family”- love, loss, curiosity, reverence, nostalgia, and serendipity, and inspire viewers to think about the rich history a family possesses.

     “Matrilineal” is presented in book format, and utilizes a variety of collected paper ephemera and historical found objects. This work was directly inspired by (and found a physical body in) a battered, antique, gold-leafed, dark leather photograph album that was given to me by a friend, and originally destined for the thrift store. The leather folio contained a few tintypes, and I wanted to give this forgotten, unwanted album a purpose again. “Matrilineal” consists of twelve portraits of eight different women in my family. As well, this work includes a hand-written poem in a fold-out spread, and a spread which opens to reveal an accordion of images. This book is completed with a bookmark that is constructed from a strip of antique patchwork, which features a stitched-on, rough-cut, smoky quartz as a weight.

 

Patrimony, 2015

     The pieces that I create reflect my thoughts about the intangibility of memory and life, and the tangibility of the physical objects we leave behind. My work, “Patrimony,” is a shrine of sorts, dedicated to my paternal grandfather, who passed when I was a teenager. “Patrimony” was created with a variety of items from my grandfather’s personal effects and paper documents. This collection was all that remained after he passed away, and has become a rich source of information and history for me. The process of collecting materials and constructing this piece was, in itself, an act of reconnection to my grandfather as I handled his letters, his photographs, and his personal effects. Handling his documents and creating this work helped me to reconcile some of the painful memories of our family’s history, feel closer to my grandfather, and to understand some of the difficult things he experienced during his life. Utilizing these documents and creating this work allowed me to see my grandfather for who he really was- a gentle man who suffered a lot in his lifetime, but did his best to be a good husband, father, and grandfather. The specific items chosen for this work serve to represent and honor my grandfather and his experiences, and to pay tribute to the place where he grew up and is now buried.

 

Processes, 2014-2015

     I typically prepare for each of my works by creating drawings and collages in a small sketchbook. This visual journal helps me to record ideas, genealogical and historical information, short essays and poems, and literary or internet research resources. Some pieces, like “Matrilineal,” take a great deal of planning, sketching and research, while others, “Patrimony” for example, are fleshed out with only a few quick drawings. Before construction begins on each piece, I spend a great deal of time conducting research and collecting images and materials. For this body of work, entitled “Familial,” my research stems from the documents, photographs and mementos that make up my genealogical collection. I support this research with historical photographs, maps, essays and articles found in a variety of resources. The creation of each of my works requires a careful and thoughtful cohesion of many images and materials. I combine duplications of the images and documents in my own collection with ephemera and documents found in public domain resources. These images are then housed in or alongside objects that I have collected or purchased specifically for use in each piece.

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