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- Tagged birth father, exhibition, family, Fred McKenna, grandfather, history, Italy, Mum, photos, process, WWI
I’m starting a new WWI work, featuring two relatives I never knew – Mum’s birth father and his brother, her birth uncle. If this turns out well, it will travel to Italy for the 2014 Legato exhibition. I’ve aged laser copies of some documents relating to them, collaged them on, and added paint and ink. This is all just an under layer; once it is dry I’ll use a coat of clear gesso over the top and keep working on it. The colours are not as lively as the ones I used for the WWII works. I’ve gone murkier, grayer and duller because that’s how WWI feels for me. It’s probably also a reflection of my feelings about Mum never getting to know her birth parents and having a ‘dim dark’ past.
In 2010 Tony and I took four works I’d created to the Legato exhibition in Cassino, Italy. They honoured four men who had swerved in WWII; my dad, my best friend’s dad and uncle, and the father of a woman who had worked for dad.
I am sending work next year, when the commemorations will be all the more special as the world marks 100 years since WWI. I’m already doing a large landscape based on my recollections of the walk to one of the memorial services we went to, but have been hankering to do something honouring a solider as well. But didn’t know who, or why. I should have known to listen and wait, because the answer always comes.
My good friend Joanne D had asked me a while back about doing a piece to honor her grandfather but we didn’t pursue it. She and I have been emailing and I’m going to do a piece that she can show her Granny then it can travel to Italy, then return to her family. Fantastic!
Before I knew that was happening, I decided to search the internet for local people who had served that could have relatives I could trace and talk to. My mother was adopted, and didn’t find out until she was in her 60s – but we were able to find out both her mother and father’s full names and are in contact with some family members. I was scrolling through names and there was someone I thought had to be her uncle. I range her half-sister and she confirmed this but went on to say that her father had served in WWI as well. Would I like her to send me some copies of war records etc so I could do a work about him.
I had to end the conversation and think about what I had just heard – that I was being given the opportunity to honour the grandfather I never knew by creating a work about him and sending it to Italy to be honoured by hundreds of people. I felt utterly overwhelmed. I wrote back today to say “yes, please do send me some copies” as I’d love to do this.
When we connect with people, and tell others what we need, it’s incredible what happens. Here’s a photo of Mum, and the piece I did of Dad – I knew they’d both be excited to hear this.