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2020 SPE Annual Conference: Hosted by The University of Houston | Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts | School of Art

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Barbara Dombach

SPE Member since 2009
Member Chapter: Mid-Atlantic

the Forbidden Box

A woman named Blanche with fidelity wrote in her diary nearly every day from 1915 till the day she passed away in 1955 and she hid every volume in a box. A stalwart woman, a farmer's wife who sold produce at market, raised four children, lived through the depression and sees her sons off to WWII. Amid her conviction to the ridged Reformed Mennonite society doctrine she acquired her unfaltering strength only to have her faith tested later in life beyond what her religious allegiance could tolerate. In her written words lies my inspiration for this body of work for she was my grandmother whom I never really knew.
As a youngster I was an inquisitive kid and the attic intrigued me, but the thought of being up there alone gave me the strangest shivers. Not to be alone I would venture there with my brother, when he worked on his trains I would explore. Thus a forsaken box was found, even though it was tattered and crisp after sitting years on a hot attic, I was not allowed to claim it or the treasures it held. Mother outright scolded me and returned the box to another hiding place.
Long forgotten and years later the box reappeared as mother's watchful eyes saw it being unloaded from the moving truck she boldly stated, "discard that." A little part of me wanted to do as she said for when I saw it the memory of finding it revisited. Unwilling to yield to her command the forbidden box was placed in my garage where it awaited my return inquisition. Written fragments of my grandmother's feelings, emotions, religious doctrine and practices including that of her everyday life was my guide on this journey to discover her and a life nearly forgotten.

Mother's Before Me

Buried Our Baby Boy

19 Cents for them

I Ironed All Day

Momies Man Was Here

Butchered Susie

As Mother Told Me

One More for the Army

The Corsetiere Was here

Artist Mother Me

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