Stories from the Kitchen Table
I created “Stories from the Kitchen Table” to preserve and honor a fading way of life in my childhood home, a continent away. Going home means traveling the long distance back to a small village in northern Germany and my family’s old farmhouse, a house that seems untouched by modern time, and, one day soon, will be left behind.
The hardship of farming and events during World War II cast a prickly shadow over family members that can still be felt today. Telling these tales gives me a chance for reflection and transformation. Memories and emotions intertwine into new stories.
When I visit, I absorb the ingredients of home: the flavors of dishes that are so familiar, and the same furnishings, photographs, knick-knacks, and worn kitchen tools that have been there since well before I was born. Most of all, the very essence of home for me is gathering around the kitchen table to sit down for a meal with family and friends and share stories old and new.
Connecting past and present, my composites include old family photos combined with images reflecting how I perceive my heritage today. I use flowers and fragmented images of fabric: these dish towels, tablecloths, napkins, and decorative wall hangings (dating back to 1799) were passed down from generation to generation – a salute to the women who lived and worked under the roof of this old house. Pieces of the traditional costume, buried for decades in an old farmer’s trunk, add a layer of local history to my images.
My grandmother was a great influence. She was the overseer and guide of a local farmhouse museum across the street; she was the keeper of local history and the keeper of family stories and tales that often were shared among women in “spin clubs.” In past times, “spin clubs” met with the purpose of spinning wool, doing needlework, and stitching tablecloths and wall hangings. These close-knit groups of women stayed together until death. Today, these clubs barely exist. “Stories from the Kitchen Table” transforms this tradition of storytelling into a visual journey.