#mili-eu: Ileana, Mr. B’s grandmother

#mili-eu: Ileana, Mr. B’s grandmother
Family photographs woven in doily and the golden earrings
Omnia Photo project
Centrul de Resurse in Fotografie/Is This Art Gallery
Bucharest, December 2023 – February 2024
Installation and photo-objects: Ana-Cristina Irian
Concept and implementation: Ana-Cristina Irian
Family Photography collection: Cristian Bassa

The purpose of this research-based endeavor is to explore and illustrate how delicate personal items, such as doilies and photographs, can serve as a means of communication, memory preservation, and the evocation of visual narratives in interpersonal contexts. The intention is to intertwine the perspectives of both the female and male gaze by juxtaposing the doilies crafted by the woman with photographs taken by her husband and grandson.

Born on February 13, 1928, in Măceșu de Sus, Dolj county, Romania, Ileana, at the age of 22, had already relocated to Bucharest, having recently married Gheorghe. A devoted homemaker, she cared for her house and family throughout her entire life. In her leisure time, she enjoyed crocheting doilies (known as “milieuri” in Romanian, or popularly as “mileuri”) with her friends, engaging in conversations as they crocheted together.

Ileana lived to the age of 90, leaving behind several self-crafted doilies and a collection of family photographs captured by her husband and grandson, portraying her at various stages of life, from 21 to 84 years old.

The concept of incorporating family photographs into a doily originated from a project focusing on the needlework practiced by Romanian women in the last century, particularly the home production of crocheted doilies and their role in contemporary private spaces.

Nine portraits of Ileana taken at different ages were chosen for the project. As she aged, more of her photos were woven into the doilies, aiming to enhance her recognizability in her own creations.

The doily, also known as “milieu” in Romanian, has a rich history initially as a clothing accessory before migrating from the human body to domestic spaces and pieces of furniture. Functioning as a membrane, the doily delineates permeable boundaries, covering and revealing specific surfaces in a domestic space, akin to an extension of the female body.

The initial phase of the project was completed and presented in June 2022 in Bucharest at Carol 53 and in February 2023 in Chișinău at Artcor. In December 2023, while exhibition at CdRF -Is This Art Gallery Bucharest, new elements were introduced, including photographs woven into doilies, initiating a discussion on the original/copy in photography and photo-objects with earrings. This highlighted the connection between the body and beauty accessories accompanying a person throughout life, established through childhood ear-piercing with a needle.

It is noteworthy that Cristina observed Ileana consistently wearing the same pair of earrings in all the photos. Portraits illustrate the changes in the shape of her face and skin alongside these earrings, aging harmoniously. For Ileana, this marked her first encounter with a needle, and she continued to wear the same pair of earrings throughout her life, an idea incorporated into the exhibition concept.

Each exhibition serves as a milieu, adapting to the space where it is displayed. The circular motif, present throughout the project, initially represented by vertical wooden wheels, symbolizes the entry of the object into everyday discourse as a “milieu de table” and an object inviting conviviality. In 2023, the circle transformed into the table displaying photo-objects in Chișinău and Bucharest, the shape of the projection screen, and the details in the drawers showcasing Ileana’s earrings.

The project utilized photographs and personal items from the family collection owned by mr. Cristian Bassa.

(exhibition photos by Sorin Florea)

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