The process and experience of connecting with others — sharing stories and creating an actual network and face-to-face community — is essential to this project. Participants are asked to host me when they are able so that we can spend some time getting to know each other and so that our interaction is about more than the making of the portraits and they are more than passing subjects.
The importance of face-to-face interaction and conversation in our current society cannot be overstated. We are hyper “connected” in our dependency on devices, yet our lives have become hermetic and we are actually increasingly disconnected. Too much of our communication and “social” activity is now virtual not actual. Thus a crucial part of this project is its collaborative nature, which aspires to connect with people and share stories and spend time together. In short, to take pause, to reflect.
Taking Pause is about connecting with people and creating a collective project that will be an intimate glimpse of our country in a troubling and disconnected time. The United States, one of the wealthiest countries on earth, has a disparity in income that is unconscionable. We live in a period of incredible abundance but are we aware of what really matters? Many of us find ourselves struggling to find clarity in a sea of possessions that occupy our physical environment and block our mental space and yet whose meaning is long lost or worse, never even existed. How we manage our mounting accumulation of possessions, and the inherent wastefulness of this in terms of material, time and natural resources, has become a huge societal problem — independent of means or situation.
This project asks people to share something of deep personal importance. The question is intentionally open so as to inspire a range of responses. Some may be abstract or experiential. It need not be an object. Participants have been grateful for the opportunity to be reflective in this way and to tell their stories. What people have shared thus far is about deep memories and identity, not monetary value.
My mother, 82 and mom to 5 children, struggles to scale back a lifetime of possessions laden with memories, yet she didn’t hesitate to pick Sassy Sally, a beat up little wooden doll carved for her by her mother when she was a young girl growing up on a rural dairy farm in Connecticut in the 1930s. Sassy Sally is a family character, made up by our great grandmother, whose legendary tales of misbehavior have been passed along as oral stories from generation to generation. Sally is nasty and terrible but she was the only doll mom had as a child, invaluable because her mother made Sally specially for her. For Martha, the first participant, the decision was also immediate, “Oh Robin, it would have to have legs!” What she meant is that she would want something that connected her past to her future, that contained memories of time spent with family. For her, it was the battered and treasured family recipe book, which has inspired and nourished her family for years.
This project will greatly diversify as it expands and will be most insightful when the completed portraits and stories are compiled in the final book and exhibition. Only in these final manifestations will it be possible to view the whole of the project and for a future audience to fully relate to what others have shared.