Friday, February 6, 2009

"Layers of Memory and Imagination: Women in my Family"

Two weeks ago I taught a class for PSU at Mt. Hood Community College. This group of students was engaged, verbal, and creative.

Friday night involved lecture and discussion of how women's participation in all aspects of life was missing from history books and general knowledge until about 30 years ago. At that time, women scholars began to unearth the stories of "ordinary" women, as well as those who were well known in their own time.

We talked about how strange it can feel to take a womancentric view of history. We discussed stories of women who came before us in our own families, what we do and don't know about them, and what we imagine they were like.

Saturday the students did creative projects, focusing on a woman or women in their families whose life inspires them and whose history is important to them to record and remember. We discussed how it is important for us to know the stories of those who came before us and who helped shape who we are.

The creative projects were focused on the good qualities and strengths of the ancestors or relatives, but we also acknowledged the mixed feelings that we all have toward close family members. Several students said the projects helped them integrate their feelings about the women they chose to portray.

This student had a great time aging a photocopy of her great-grandfather's citizenship certificate. She made a collage of the "aged" document and included photographs of her great-grandparents who immigrated to the U.S. She also included photos of her grandmother and her mother. The flower designs on the right are photographs of her grandmother's china, which she insisted on bringing with her when she left her homeland.

This collage is dedicated to the student's grandmother.It includes a copy of one of her grandmother's favorite hymns, photographs, and symbols of her grandmother's favorite pastimes.

This abstract collage caught the essence of the relative honored.

This collage has a lift-up "veil" to symbolize the inner self of the student's mother.

This student made a colorful freeform collage for her grandmother. Her mother-in-law took the class as well. I regret that the picture I took of the latter's collage didn't turn out--you'll have to take my word for it that the piece was evocative and moving.

This is what the student's assemblage for her mother looks like when closed.

Here's the assemblage open. The piece is complexly layered in execution and in meaning.

This student turned an old piece of cardboard into an elegant triptych for several generations of women in his family.

Here a student made a touching assemblage for her mother and sisters. She showed her mother before and after her stroke, and said making the assemblage helped her begin to adjust to the change.

This exquisite assemblage honors a close friend who died young. Underneath the lacy paper is a drawing by the student of her friend.

This assemblage honors several generations of strong women.

A rich collage of gratitude for women family members.

This collage celebrates the student's immigrant grandmother's love of her
new country.

This collage honors the Mexican heritage of the student. She chose vivid colors reminiscent of Mexicio. She placed "rayas' like those shown in images of the Virgen de Guadalupe, around a photo of her grandparents.

This picture is too blurry to really show this collage, but it shows a bit of the glowing colors, set off by black and white photographs and text.

My apologies to those whose work was omitted because the photo didn't come out right, or whose work was shown blurred! If anyone wants to send me a better picture I'll put it in this post. Next time, I'll be sure to charge my camera battery before class. Thanks to all of you for a wonderful teaching and sharing experience!

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