Like much of my work, Forget-me-not is about memory, story, and devotion. In part, it stems from my disinclination toward the abstraction of war by the modern media. Television, in particular, does not lend itself to considering individuals: we are taught to refer to our servicemen and women as ‘troops,’ which is a collective term. It wasn’t enough for me. As a mother, I wanted to know more about the sons and daughters from my community who were sacrificing themselves in my name: where they lived, what they liked to do, what kind of people they were. Making these portraits helped me to do that: slowly, with research, consideration, and – within the communities of my studio and sewing circles – discussion.
I am a Seneca woman, a member of a matrilineal society. The Iroquois concept of ‘mother’ is broad, extending from one’s mother through a long line of women: ak’sote ( grandmothers ), ak’sote-kowah ( great-grandmothers ), aunties, sisters, Sky Woman, mentors, friends, leaders. So it was with this view of motherhood in mind – and its dense web of connections extending across generations – that I asked the men I know to suggest women who were significant to them to include in this work. Some of these women were mothers in the physical sense; others gave to our culture in other ways.
The result, I hope, is conversation and communion among individuals: those hung from the web of the circle and those, like you, within it. It is a conversation that I intend to expand. Information was gleaned from public sources; there will be errors, and I welcome correction. I also invite you to contribute to these stories to further illuminate the individuality of these men and women.
I will allow myself some politics in that I wish Forget-me-not was finished. But I fear I will be adding men and women to its web for some time.