“We may not have all crossed paths but we are family.”
~ Jeannine Chanin Penn
SUMMARY: Past, present (and future) generations converge on unique artworks where visual stories, paint and pictures create a living legacy.
Contemporary mixed media art combining materials including acrylic, photography, special objects, collage and more.
It started here...
I carried around these broken plates for a long time. They were part of a set of Wedgwood dinner plates that belonged to the grandmother I never knew. My Mom told me so many stories about her that I had a sense of her...her style...her beauty... her essence. She only lived until her early 50's and died before my Mom ever met my Dad. My husband thought I was crazy carrying and moving around these plates but I sensed I would do something with them to preserve them. I envisioned this painting one night while at a Los Lobos concert at the Greek Theater and it became the beginning of exploring my Legacy Art.
This is my grandmother.....Gertrude Jeannine Katrina Gresgary.... I was named after her and she had thankfully said to my mother, "if you ever name a daughter after me ... do NOT name her Gertrude, name her Jeannine!"
My mother would should us these photos of her almost always in magnificent hats that she made. This piece was inspired by one of my favorite images of her where she is not only incredibly striking and beautiful but pensive. In my imagination she was having some vivid thoughts and daydreams. I'd like to think that a lot of her lives in me.
The photos of my mother dancing as a young girl have always captured my heart. Even when my mother was alive we would look at them together and she would tell me the stories of her dancing, her recitals, some auditions, the songs she would dance to and I was in awe.
In her photo album she has a song name in the caption of almost all of the photos. This one "Honey I'm in Love with You" I have since sourced and listened to for a fully immersive moment as I created this new interpretation from my imagination and her legacy.
MOTIVATION: As a child my mother would sit me down and show me the beautiful photos of her mother (the grandmother I never met) in the grand hats she made, with her impeccable style and beauty. She’d share many other amazing family photos from many generations including ‘cabinet’ cards from the 1800’s of distant family from Russia. She’d share photos of her youth (including the scores of friends, family and many boyfriends she had), her travels to places like Bermuda with her stylish swimsuits and fashions of the time ... and narrate the memories and stories she experienced as we flipped through the pages. In my mind, these things came alive and I imagined being there and being part of the story.
Unfortunately, my mother passed away almost 30 years ago and those stories are faded memories in many ways but the photo albums are mine and I often look through them piecing together and recreating my own version of those moments and stories. I have since had a son, got married and tell my own stories of my parents (my Dad passed away when my son was only one) hoping to paint a picture for my son and my husband of the parents I loved, the past family I never knew, the countless relatives I’ve had in my life that they never got to meet. I still wonder what it would have been like to be at that club in New York City with my Mom and Grandmother drinking whiskey sours and listening to big bands, what it would have been like to have my parents walk me down the aisle, what it would be like to have a tea party today with my nieces, my mother and my wealthy great aunts that I barely knew, what it would be like for my son to stand next to his grandparents at his graduation...
My stories taken from these photos now have a place outside of a drawer or a shelf basically hidden away and often forgotten. For me, it is a healing and a generally a happy place (although sometimes bittersweet) to think of the generations coming together whether it’s a visit to something past, a visit from the past to a present moment or any combination of that. We live in this moment and collectively come from the people before us... some we knew and some we didn’t ... but we are part of them and their stories and they are part of ours.
If you would be interested in commissioning your own Legacy Art, please reach out to me via the Contact form. It is my passion to now share and create them for others and honor their stories, history and experiences and create a bridge between what is old and what is new.
A few years ago I started putting a lot of thought into legacies and my own legacy. I became curious and concerned that my only families legacy would disappear... That the few photos of the Grandmother I never knew, my Mother’s childhood and other parts of our family life would disappear. How could I give them more life and relevance? I started to create pieces around my own legacy telling stories... some real, some a bit fantastical as I filled in the blanks and imagined another time when my mother worked in the music business in NYC, danced at Grossinger’s, had too many boyfriends to keep track of and was loving life.
As I saw photos and memorabilia my mother had saved in a new light, this piece has been a labor of much love that took longer than expected to finish More than anything It captures a celebrated period of time that here, happens to be visually told from my mother’s photos (I have absolutely no idea who this man is but he appears in several of her early photos and here they are at Grossinger’s and apparently won a polka contes!) EVERYTHING in this piece comes from her old albums, scrapbooks an actual 78 record that was part of her collection, and more from her life.