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Abbie Pannell

Artist Statement

Imbued with ritual, the heirloom is more than just an object. It is the accumulation of experience and memories associated with a person, or even a whole family. My work plays with the instability and impermanence of memory. Memory is not always truthful. The heirloom is also a marker of a significant person’s passing. The means of acquiring the object, through the loss of someone significant, creates tension between the person receiving the object and the object, itself. The various pieces that I have made play with the conventions of loss, how we remember, and how we make objects gain significance through history and our desire.

The pieces have a sense of history and of belonging to a group; yet, all the pieces are not traditional heirlooms. For example, Rolodex: Abell-Ongoing, is a rolodex which explores work issues, using sewing. It tries to transform the ordinary into heirloom, using an heirloom’s vocabulary. Each card is an attempt at creating a deeply personal object, which both enchants and discomforts. In Points of Origin, the viewer is confronted with a row of childlike homes. Within each house, the sound of names, births, and marriages are repeated over and over. The nostalgic sensibility engages the viewer in both historical and personal contemplations. Both projects preamble many relevant questions with regard to human relationships: How much do we know about people, how do we categorize one another, and how do our relationships and imagined perceptions affect the way we relate to both the objects and to one another? These heirlooms are instable and fleeting, despite attempts at permanence. The heirloom is transformed into an object that always describes and always indicates absence.

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