Walk in her shoes?


Exhibit:  May 4 - August 18, 2018
Reception:  Saturday, May 12, 5-7pm
ArtWalks:  Thursdays May 10, June 14, July 12, Aug 9

Interactive Site Installation
part of Re-Play: Storybook Attic Group Exhibit at the           Center for Contemporary Arts in Abilene TX

There is infinite freedom and a particular nostalgia in dressing up and playing make-believe. I recall traveling the open seas hunting treasure and taking prisoners; exploring outer space and discovering new worlds; ruling vast kingdoms as a powerful queen. Sometimes I emulated my heroes, the real women and men in my life. Often, I dressed up in my grandmother’s shoes and clothes. She had closets and drawers full of beautiful things from as far back as the 1940’s, and my imagination soared!

In February 2017, her house burned, destroying much in the way of material things, photos, mementos, and records from my father’s ancestors. I was charged with the time-consuming and emotionally taxing job of creating the personal property inventory for insurance. A significant part of this inventory was comprised of her shoes, purses, and clothes, on which she spent tens-of-thousands of dollars over the years. I identified over 250 pairs of shoes, and there’s no way to know how many others were completely destroyed. Of those recovered, there are more than 60 pairs of Salvatore Ferragamos alone, which range from $350-$600 new.

Sorting through piles of charred shoes and clothing, I recalled how my father worked long hard hours of blood, sweat, and tears manual labor on the family farm and ranch, and how my grandparents rejected most of his attempts to proactively address both business and family issues. At times they refused to hire help or buy equipment that would have made his work easier and more efficient. The long hours and stress kept him from being present for much of my childhood and fueled his chronic depression. Yet despite his intense dedication and hard work, they paid him $200-250/week for years—less than a pair of my grandmother’s shoes.

My grandfather was a handsome, proud, and well-respected man. My grandmother is upheld in her community as a beautiful, kind, elegant, generous woman, and she is. When she was able, she “dressed to the nines” every day, taught an adult Sunday school class, advocated heavily for the public library, and gave her church a tithe almost every week that was often more than they paid my father. All beautiful things, yet despite the outward displays of beauty and generosity, that side of the family fractured and is broken to this day.

I’m grateful for all the things I’ve learned from my grandmother, and I adore and care for her always. Still, this fire has served as a catalyst to look more deeply in the mirror and consider how I “dress up” and what I pass along to those who might wish to walk in my shoes. Are my thoughts and actions aligned with my sacred values, or do I sacrifice them for the sake of appearances?

How about you?

Will I walk in her shoes?
Will others walk in my shoes?
Will I want them to?
What do we trade to keep up appearances?
What do we choose to make sacred in our lives?
What value do we place on things, and what price do we pay for them?
What will you leave with your footsteps, and will you want your progeny walking in them?

Instagram feed for #dressupandmakebelievewithcara

Thanks for dressing up and playing make believe!

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