In 2007 I woke up one morning with a clear image in my head. Receiving a clear image like this ‘out of the blue’ is rare for me. I knew it was some kind of gift.
It was of a worried middle age woman bent slightly at the waist turning to look behind her. Her long cape-like shall covered three children nestled against her in fear. I went to the studio that morning and made that sculpture which I entitled, ‘Mother Protecting Her Children During War’. I later concluded that this sculpture documented a moment in time, sharing the story of All mothers protecting their children during ALL wars.
I exhibited the sculpture in Chicago and later at the Botanical Gardens at Yale University. Midway through this exhibit a man broke into the greenhouses, stole a van and loaded up to 12 of my sculptures. The theft was heartbreaking and a bit surreal. The man was trying to sell my sculptures at a gas station days later at 5 am. As it turned out an antiques dealer was there pumping gas at the same time and the thief tried selling him my work. The antiques guy was touched by the ‘Protecting Mother’ sculpture and bought it. The next day a picture of the sculpture was on the front page of the local newspaper. The antiques dealer saw it and contacted the police and long story short, 9 of my stolen sculptures were found; and the thief was arrested.
The ‘Protecting Mother’ sculpture was found just in time to be shipped to an exhibit I was having in France later that month. The story of this piece of art has only just begun.
During the France exhibition a family from Austria saw the sculpture, later to find out they were deeply moved by it. They saw themselves in the sculpture immediately, as they became the protective caregivers of a child whose parents were substance abusers. After the exhibition closed 6 months later, this family traveled from Austria to Switzerland where the sculpture was placed before being shipped back to the US. It was serendipity that they found and purchased it on the spot.
I had a second copy made in bronze, which was sold to a collector of mine in Chicago.
I had a third copy made. This time a man from CT bought it. He later told me that the mother in the sculpture reminded him of himself. He told me how his mother left him and his brothers at a young age and he became the ‘mother’ protecting/raising his younger brothers.
This man paid me in cash in monthly installments. One day just after he paid me I was on my way to pick up my baby from a home daycare provider; an incredible woman who came to the US as a refugee from Iraq. I was planning on giving her the money that the man had just given me for her daycare services. SUDDENDLY I was STRUCK by the connectedness of it all. The Iraqi daycare provider totally embodied the sculpture’s message. She fled Iraq protecting her 4 children she once told me. The story was tragic and frightening. Once I realized the connectedness of it all I had to pull my car over to the side of the road to weep. The coincidence that this money was going to her was just too powerful.
Yes I believe this to be true. The universal stories, energies colliding to make apparent something truly awesome. It’s circular… it’s real.
I made a fourth copy of this sculpture and exhibited it in New Haven for World Refugee Day. A Rwandan refugee came up to me and told me in her broken English that the woman in the sculpture was her. She kept pointing to it. She told me how she had hid all of her children during a raid and was able to quietly guide them out of the window to their safely. I didn’t ask her who she was running from I just listened to her story. She said she protected her children. I couldn’t help but feel other powers at work. It left me silent. I do not question the greater meaning this sculpture. What I do know is that it simply fit into our shared and complex narrative.
The fifth copy of this sculpture found it’s home with a brilliant philosopher whose parents were Holocaust survivors. He saw this sculpture representing all Jewish mothers during this horrible time in our history.
For years I’ve wanted to share this story. I was never able to justifiably write about how incredible some of these stories really were and what impact they had on me. It all seemed so layered…perhaps hard to follow…but it was as clear as day for me to see the thread that linked all these stories to one piece of art. After all it is merely a journey of a work of art that found deep meaning in some people’s lives. What is has shown me is to trust in what I create. Do not worry about how it will fit into this world. We have no control over this. It is not our job to find its value; the work will speak for itself.