"The Sweetest Heaven (I Will Wait)"
A commission for Recipe, an art exhibit at The Vendue hotel.
My friend Larry gave me an old pocket date book from 1942. The little book had four entries in the date book and dozens of entries in the address section. Entries included a some fairly high profile people, including a cardinal in Vatican City and (what turned out to be) descendants of the inventor Marconi living in Bologna, Italy. I Googled everything and everyone. I found out that the diary belonged to a young man named John Campagnoli. He had recently returned from the war, and was living on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. John was the great-grandson of Giovanni Campagnoli, an Italian immigrant who developed and built Marconiville in Copiague, New York. Giovanni was school chums with Marconi, and Marconiville is still there today.
However, it was the four entries in the date book that really got me:
April 28: Millie wants to have a long talk
May 2: Millie out until midnight
May 8 - Millie out until 2 a.m.
May 12 - Millie not home at all
Whoa. Millie wanted to have a long talk, then she starts staying out all night. There was no way I was leaving that alone. I wanted to know what happened to Millie.
It was 1942, so World War II (and a sense of propriety) was still going on. There were a list of women's measurements in the front of the book for hat, gloves, dress, shoes, and "nightie" - so it followed that Millie was his wife. Her birthday was also listed, as was the address of where she worked (at an insurance company) in the Bronx. It could be that Millie was working late; getting back and forth from the Bronx to 5th Avenue in 1942 wasn't fast or easy. Or - yes, maybe there was a fling. Clearly, John loved her enough to note her measurements so he could buy her gifts and necessities. He also didn't make one other entry that year except for the nights she didn't come home - as if that's the most notable thing that happened that year. So what happened to John and Millie? Did they break up? Did they work it out? Did they survive the war?
After two days of obsessive research, I found my answer on the Find-a-Grave website. The headstone, dated 2001, read: John & Millie: Together Forever. Go ahead and sniffle. I'll wait.
Now, how did this piece fit into an exhibition where the theme, Recipe, would normally lead one to create art about food? I was reading the entries to my husband and when I said "Uh, oh. Millie didn't come home at all," he said "He didn't make her brownies. When there are brownies, people don't stay out all night." So true. Brownies are a recipe for a happy marriage.
If my husband was thinking about brownies. I was thinking about the recipe for a timeless love. I thought about John missing Millie on the steamers to Europe where he would fight in the war, and missing her when she didn't come home from work. She passed away 10 years before he did, so he also waited a decade to see her again on the other side. Brownies don't hurt, but I think the recipe for a timeless love is patience. This work is about the sweetness of longing for home and for the one you love, whether you're waiting on them to come home from work or waiting to see them again in the next life. The actually diary is in the piece, as well as one of the maps that traced his sailing route to war, and the entry for "Millie wants to have a long talk."
"There's Something Strange About the Cat"
A commission for Cats Vs. Dogs, an art exhibit at The Vendue to benefit Charleston Animal Society
If you have a sweet, snuggly cat at home I’m happy for you. I don’t know what that’s like. If there is a cat within a 500-mile radius that is mentally unhinged, missing bits and pieces, and looking for a comfy place to brood and wallow in melancholy, it’s going to find me. You will never see my cat in a cute YouTube video. My cat has been places. She has seen things. She has stories. She reminds me of Snoopy sitting on top of his doghouse typing, “It was a dark and stormy night…”
My cat would never play with toy mice, but she would write a Dickensian novel. I figured her opening line would be something delightfully gloomy such as “Meanwhile in London…” and so I spent a weirdly pleasant afternoon coming up with two dozen shadowy ways to finish that sentence. Words are typed on kozo paper using an antique Royal typewriter. Paper squares are mounted on individual wooden blocks set in beeswax in a vintage wooden box. The kitty, appropriately, is of unknown origin. She is holding an existential fur ball made of fiber and paper.
Meanwhile in London…
dogs are devoted to poets
a villain goes to heaven
a priest writes a frantic letter
a scholar finds a lost language
a fool leaves town on a blind horse
a stranger arrives with a strange creature
a storm brews overhead
an old man draws a map
a rook plays tricks for the trickster
the earth smells like rain
wine spills on silk
a poor man finds a key
a cat reads poems to a king
a secret escapes
an idiot invents magic
a story is told for the last time
an elephant builds a wall
poison drips from forgotten flowers
he tames an ancient garden
a bird builds a nest of bones
a gardener grows a miracle
a house is made of forbidden books
a thief hides in a ruin
a candle gutters
a mother says a prayer
a seer reads the signs
a machine solves a puzzle
a madman hides in a dream
a monk marries a ghost
a liar tells the truth
she makes up birds
an alchemist arrives on a sinking ship
the sign of the fox disappears
a star falls
a monster sleeps
a hero awakes