Toe-to-toe, suspended from the ceiling, the hollowed shells of two sisters are frozen in a circle of tradition, reaching toward one another.
A quilt pattern, which their greatgrandmother made decades before, is stitched on their skin — a clear skin, made of packing tape. They are family; and they are women.
The sculpture is part of “Heirloom Love,” a mother-daughter exhibit celebrating heritage and women on display at the Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame. The exhibit is a collaboration between mother/painter Julia Garnett and daughter/ sculptor Cara Garnett. It is the first of what Patricia Majher, the museum’s assistant director, hopes will be many motherdaughter shows at the museum. “We’ve never done a mother-daughter show before, and this one picks such a different medium,” Majher said. “We are always hoping to draw people interested in history, and having the art shows is definitely an added benefit.”
The show, which runs through July 25, focuses on the heirloom quality of passing traditions from woman-to-woman throughout generations.
For elementary school art teacher Julia Garnett, the show’s theme of motherdaughter traditions is a fitting portrayal of her real-life relationship with her daughter.
Although surrounded by art most of her life, Garnett said her daughter didn’t decide to pursue it until her freshman year of college. Cara Garnett, now a graduate student working toward a master’s degree in art administration at Eastern Michigan University, said she has learned to love the art world. The two are happy to be showing together.
“It was really neat to collaborate on an artistic level with her,” Julia Garnett said. “But even if she wasn’t my daughter, I’d still like her work.”
The work, Cara Garnett explained, is made through a very particular process with the help of some very unclaustro phobic volunteers. Friends and family members were wrapped, one limb at a time, with two layers of tape. Garnett then cut the volunteers out of the mold and taped the sculpture back together. “I saw a sculpture like this once before, and I just thought it was a cool idea,” she said. “After a while, it became sort of an obsession.”
To tie in the heirloom theme, Julia Garnett provided a variety of paintings depicting interests the two women share, such as gardening. At the center of the gallery is a quilt that was made by Julia Garnett’s greatgrandmother.
Julia Garnett incorporated the quilt pattern into a series of paintings depicting relationships between women in her family, as well as some of the sculptures. Working together has taught the women a lot, they said, which is a true representation of the show’s theme.
Julia Garnett said through shows like these, she hopes to continue to teach her daughter many important life lessons. “I hope that throughout her career she can learn to make many powerful statements with her art,” she said.