My father (Tom Bailey) and his aunt, the woman who raised him (he was orphaned at 9), were both born in September. He was born on September 15, 1929 and died in 2006. His aunt Ruth was born on September 23, 1899 and died in December of 1998.
I don’t know if it is related to their birth dates, but over the years I’ve noticed that thoughts of them both surface more in the fall than during other times of year.
I like to think about them both. They are the two in my family whose personality traits my own are most akin to. Intelligent, educated, filled with curiosity, fascinated with the physical world, and introverted. Ruth was passionate about the organic structure of the world she knew and studied biology. Tom studied the physical structure of objects and relationships between them and became a mechanical engineer. I find solace in the handling and manipulation of objects and became an artist. I have an archive rich with objects belonging to them both and often include items from those archives in my personal studio work.
As most parent/child relationships are, my relationship with my father was a complex one, and one that shifted throughout the years. He knew me most of my life. I say most of because he suffered from dementia in has later years and wasn’t at all sure who I was for the last bit.
He, like me, was socially awkward, and although he had a brilliant and creative mind, was filled with self-doubt. He relished his solitude and appreciated the life of experience and sensation as well as the life of the mind. He was filled with emotions he seemed fearful of expressing.
Ruth, whether by character or social constraints of the time, also had difficulty expressing the love she felt. I think of my dad as emotionally tone-deaf. Do I think of myself in this same way? Sometimes.
So this week I made a book/assemblage from an astronomy book that moved from Ruth’s house to mine when she died. The unbound pages are collaged boards; recessed areas hold images of both Ruth and my father overlaid with mica. Each page has two circular cut outs that allow them to fit over round wooden assemblages attached to the inside covers of the book. The book is primarily, but not entirely, built from the original Astronomy book. The assemblages built with items and materials from both Ruth and Tom’s archives.