I had the pleasure of meeting GG a couple of months ago at a party in Chicago. Subsequently, we had a couple of conversations on the phone. She knew that Amy and I were colluding on a surprise for her and Leon, and GG had to gather the precious bits of flotsam that represented their life together without knowing what would become of them. She is lovely; a true Southern gentlewoman and a ballerina. Originally from New Orleans (hence the fleur-de-lis theme you will see throughout the piece) Leon and GG have had a wonderful life together spanning five decades and most of the country. I had to somehow do their history justice in an 18 x 22 space.
The elements I was given to work with were so special: GGs sequined wedding bag, Leon's military pins, lovely cards and letters. I felt honored to be entrusted with such meaningful items from their rich life together. Seen here, GG's wedding photo (gel medium transfer on patterned paper) is nestled in her bridal crown on a whisp of tulle while I percolate on how to bring all these beautiful artifacts together.
I painted and embellished the outside of the shadow box using a variety of media. I made the tiles by hand out of paper clay, painted them a metallic green and embossed them with metallic powders to give the appearance of oxidized and aged metal. The glass bubbles had a vein of copper running through them. A length of copper tape ran around the sides of the lid. I opted to go with copper and green as my two main colors instead of trying to pull off the "golden" anniversary theme. Gold is so difficult to do without looking cheesy. There was one other reason for the color palette which I'll get to in a minute.
Covered with a warm-gold checked fabric, the inside of the box houses photos and souvenirs of a life spent together.
Leon is a successful electrical engineer and business man whose climb up the corporate ladder moved the White family all over the country: Georgia, Illinois, Wisconsin, Massachusetts. I had many of his business cards representing his accomplishment and moves. Seen above, a floppy disk with a plan that Leon created and instituted, notes on GG's labor pains when she was delivering their second child, Lee, and a photo of Lee as a boy with one of the two beloved family dogs on a tag and Lee as a man pictured with his own family. The three White kids are featured in a charm bracelet of sorts, silhouetted and cut out of a group photo, as well as pictures of Amy and Neal in the square frames with the same dog.
Neal, the baby, is seen above with his wife and their babies, also Auntie Amy and the kids. Mardi Gras beads encircle Leon and GG.
The second of the two family dogs, Duffy, was also included. I was given a great photo of him looking out the window, on the back of which GG had written, "Is anyone ever coming home?" After scanning the photo, I printed it on a transparency and laid over cloud patterned paper. Duffy ultimately found a place in a doll house window. The moving truck with Leon at the wheel was rubber stamped and cut out to carry the Whites from state to state.
Reason number two I used copper: GG's "going away" gloves. These were the gloves she wore when they left on their honeymoon. A gorgeous peachy-orange color that you can't fight, you gotta work with it.
A cross-section of the box: this is what the landscape inside looks like, you can see Leon's business cards and logos from favorite vacation spots, as well as Leon's alma mater, lining the interior walls.
I wish I'd had time to have the box properly photographed before it was whisked off to New Orleans for the big party. This shot has some burns from the flash I couldn't fix in photoshop, but you get the idea. I hope you can see "GG & Pops" and "50" hidden in the glass bubbles adorning the frame. The glass on the front is outlined with glass micro beads and a diminutive, shrinky-dink Leon and GG stand next to their mailbox in Lake Forest in the lower left corner. The crown topped the box.
Happy 50th Anniversary, GG and Leon.
My thanks to Amy for entrusting me to visually document her parents' beautiful history.