Persistence of My Memory

Persistence of My Memory, 2005
Chrissy Conant
Porcelain, wood, glass, nylon momofilament, brass
Site specific installation
Branchville Gallery, Branchville, CT

I Wait, I wait.

After picking out the space for my site-specific installation, I quickly made a connection between Branchville’s raison d’Étre as the town that was built around a train station, and porcelain. There is an old mine about 500 feet from the gallery, (and about 550 feet from the train station), which, up until the late 1940’s was mined for feldspar, mica, quartz and various other minerals - common elements used in the making of porcelain.

I had my material. But how did trains and train stations relate to my experience? This got me thinking about train travel and its personal connection to my early childhood. I grew up in Princeton, with a father who commuted daily to Manhattan for over 20 years before passing away at age 65. I spent much of my time waiting to see him. As a little girl, I would set the table for dinner, and then I would wait, for Daddy to come home. I would think about the train he was on. I would think about travel. I would think about “here” vs. “there.” Will he make it this time? In anxious anticipation, I would wait to hear the sound of my dad’s car horn beeping, as he turned into our driveway - our special signal which meant open the garage door. I would run to push the button - it was my job, as this was before the days of the automatic garage door opener. He did make it. He was home, all was right with the world. Mommy and I were safe. With this installation, I illustrate this memory of waiting, with all its fragile implication, preoccupations, and psychological issues of longing, nostalgia, and death. It is now a memory, whose colors have faded yet its impressions still affect me.

I realized something profound as I was forming my ideas and figuring out the installation’s construction. Through the process by which I was gathering the necessary materials, I was recreating the same feelings of anxiety and waiting. I had decided to try and collect my materials by embarking on a letter-writing campaign to the CEOs of a few companies who manufactured material goods which I thought might work in the assemblage. The uncertainty of asking for assistance from a head of a corporation, explaining my unorthodox use for their product, and then waiting to see if the big CEO would satisfy my desire by literally giving me what I wanted, was a self-imposed challenge. I knew I was working against a tight deadline, and some days the anticipation of having to make those follow-up phone calls and emails was astounding. Not to mention changing the ingredients of the installation due to a company’s cooperation or not. For those corporate officers who rejected my requests, I went as far as to explain to them that all of our written correspondences were going to be made public as a part of the installation, and that their companies would be categorized in the “withholding” binder, whereas the letters of the companies who were willing to give to me were placed in the “giving” binder. To date, one CEO passed on my written request to his Director of Corporate Donations, who has yet to return any of my follow-up phone calls.

Any psychologist will tell you we repeat what we know.

I would like to thank the following companies and their personnel for their generous support: Akron Porcelain and Plastics Co., Margaret Roleke, and Maryland China Co.