This body of work investigates what how loss of family is processed and what is meant by legacy.
When I was living in New York my mother contracted cancer and so I had to move back to Toledo, Ohio to help take care of her. She died shortly afterwards and because I was her only kin, and she had divorced my father year before, it was up to me to organize her estate. She lived in a huge, two-story Victorian house that she had inherited from my grandparents.
My grandparents emigrated from Greece seventy years ago and were typical participants in the American Dream of the twentieth century. They initially lived in a one-room apartment in downtown Toledo, worked hard to make their business successful which eventually enabled them to buy a house in 1960 where they raised my mother. She lived there until she met my father on a summer trip to Greece, fell in love with him, and stayed in the country. They had me, but divorced a few years later. My mother returned to America and to her parents’ home where I was raised. Consequently, this huge house was full of three generations of personal items.
The day after she died, I learned that my family home that was in my mother’s name and that I was supposed to inherit was going to be seized by the government to pay outstanding medical bills. It is a huge loss for me on two levels: a loss of a loved one and a loss of a legacy.
Going through three generations of personal possessions brings up a multitude of memories and intensifies the grieving process. My mother was a professional bellydancer, taking the art very seriously. She performed both internationally and nationwide, made her costumes by hand, and owned her own dance school where she taught bellydancing. As I pack up her things, I come across her costumes, sewing materials, instructional books, and other items that she used for performing and teaching. I also came across my grandparents’ possessions-old photos, love letters written between them over 80 years ago, spectacles of a grandfather that died before I was born and so that I was never meant to meet.
Going through this remnants of my family-these peoples’ lives-brought up questions in my mind. What is meant by legacy? What do we leave behind after we are gone? How are we remembered?
In addition to these questions, I was also trying to process the loss of family and home. The idea that for the first time in my life, I didn’t have a parent’s house to come home to. The fact that the American Dream that my grandparents had worked so hard for had to be given back.
This body of work was created from 2008-2012.