Stitching Julia: installation for an imagined life, 2015-2019 
Installation with video, audio, photography, fabric sculpture, dressmaker’s form and dress replica, blogging and lab sketchbook. 

Lab and sketchbook – viewable on ISSUU:

The blog notes and reviews can be seen here:

One image of my grandmother, a formal photographic portrait, is all that my family had seen of Julia Algt Kaczur, who immigrated from Hungary in 1912. She died in 1933, five days after giving birth to my father after complications from childbearing. It was shocking to learn how little was known, how her life was erased, not discussed, as though her death due to childbirth was a family tragedy to be buried. She was voiceless. Julia immigrated from Hungary, had an arranged marriage to Joseph Kaczur, a Hungarian immigrant coal miner in Jonestown, PA, later lived in the ethnic Hungarian neighborhood of Cleveland, had 5 children, and was a seamstress. I decided to try to shape a sense of her life, to try to conjure some familiarity. With whatever means possible, I searched for places she may have walked, the ship that transported her, her neighborhood, her grave, any documentation, recollections from family. Finding that she worked as a seamstress, I sewed a likeness of her dress in the photograph, and started a close read of the photograph to mine for historical and cultural details. Each who has seen this photograph are impacted by it, and often say that she looks like she has quite a story to tell. Relatives have remarked that although none of us have ever met her, we have all experienced a strong “sensation” that we have met her as though her “ghost” has paid us visits. Wearing the dress and mimicking her physical movements at a sewing machine to know her through her body’s actions and movement, I videotaped my relearning to sew and hired a remote seer, a medium, that specializes in visualization and purported communication with spirits, and began to stitch together a forgotten, disappeared, woman.

The further I went in the research, the more oddities popped up, things disappeared, equipment broke down, emails were lost, miscommunications multiplied, information was inaccessible. Even now as I write this, the laptop containing all of the research files, photographs, audio, the original video footage of me personifying my grandmother, has crashed. Luckily, I made a backup on an external hard drive, because I’ve learned that this project is dynamic and unpredictable. It’s been a challenge – the necessary tenacity to stay the course, whatever the course may be. In the end, the tiniest of discoveries matter. 

Blogging on the ICI’s website had been an extension of the project, along with excerpting M. Merleau-Ponty’s, Phenomenology of Perception. The interplay with Merleau-Ponty’s writing forced me to reflect on aspects of the body and consciousness (soul) relationship, and helped me to process the actions and presence of perceptions and experiences. I pushed to bring into physical being through art making, a physical sense of Julia. 

This project would not have been possible without the generous support, residency appointment and research resources of the Institute of Cultural Inquiry (ICI), Los Angeles, and participation in the project “With Everything but the Monkey Head: Theorizing Art’s Untheorizable Practices”

A very special thanks to Brian Szabo, Laura Lombardo, Richard Kaczur, Lisa Weagraff, for research contributions and digging through photographs and ephemera.




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