Made in Mattoon

Made in Mattoon

From a small Midwestern farming community, raised during the Great Depression, my paternal grandparents are not the kind of people you read about in history books.

Actually, they did what most married couples do today–they divorced. I found their story compelling because, they split in a semi-public way at a time, in the mid-1950s, when divorce was taboo. I always wondered what brought about the abrupt ending to their marriage, because their experiences of each other always seemed tense–especially long after their divorce.

My own parents raised my siblings and me in a suburb not far from where both my grandparents lived. Mostly we just saw my grandmother. She was special to me. She encouraged me to have fun, be creative and try new things. When she was watching, I felt seen.

My grandfather was more distant and somewhat estranged. Although I always wanted to see more of him, there was something holding that back. When I was around 30 years old, I began spending time with him.  We built a friendship huddled with cameras and microphones, sharing stories about the characters of our family’s past. We toured around east central Illinois and uncovered clues to his and my grandmother’s lives.

When he passed away six years later, some of his belongings were reunited with some of my grandmother’s items–this time under my care, as their new owner. It can be strange how things disperse and then seemingly serendipitously reconvene. Some of the items in the collection were acquired during my grandfather’s estate sale, some passed down from my father, some from my mother. I selected, curated and now maintain and arrange them, like a miniature museum.

To me, these items are readymade works of art. Imbued with the active memories and lives of Madge and EC Bauer, the objects are the conduits for my discoveries, which I share in the documentary (currently in-process) called Made in Mattoon. I uncover some of their stories, translate them, and give them form.

Working with the expanded field of documentary, this project is an excavation of materials (a collection of heirlooms) and stories surrounding my paternal grandparents of Mattoon, Illinois. Their generation is almost gone, and I wanted to learn about them, document the process, and preserve something which is unequivocally part of them.

As an artist, I learn how to tell their story in a way which is unequivocally mine. 

Clip from Made in Mattoon, 2021. (60-min. experimental documentary, work-in-progress)