Personal Collection Treasures: Sharing Community Stories

Thank you to all who sent compelling stories about your collections! We enjoyed reading about your projects and the treasures you unearthed. We selected two stories from Jen Chadbourne and Patricia Silva to share here. 


If you’d like to share a story, please feel free! You can still submit stories through our form at https://bit.ly/tfipersonalarchiving.


Jen Chadbourne

Here is an original mixed media painting: "Lilith" (2019)


I can best describe this as a sort of dark commentary on how women are viewed, and sometimes feel inclined to behave, within the United States military. I've kept it behind some furniture for about a year; my current living situation is a bit awkward now (staying with a somewhat conservative family), so I'm not entirely comfortable hanging it on my wall.

I'd like to get it framed soon, it hasn't been damaged, but a good frame will help keep it in good condition. I'll also feel quite a bit better seeing the image (and the message) out in the open: A message kept in secret is a waste, in my opinion.


Patricia Silva

During the pandemic, I did not begin an archive but made time to organize and review my small collection of vintage postcards from places where my creativity has taken me. It’s a petite but growing collection. Of the six postcards I have, I am looking for four more locations.


The first film festival that accepted work resulted in my first trip to Paris. The historic theater was in Montmartre’s epicenter, and I found a cheap rental nearby, overlooking the Boulevard. The famous Boulevard of Camile Pissaro's 1896 series; of Vuillard's 1908 sliver of cobblestones, rooftops, and windows under dusk light; and Bonnard's 1867 light study, Montmartre in the Rain, where the night scene collapses public and private intimacy through an equilibrium of light. That light reminds me of the public/private emotional dimensions of cinema.


This trip was not the first time my work was exhibited internationally, nor the first time that I had traveled in support of my creative practices. But it was the first time that I connected some dots. I had wanted to be an art historian but didn't see a path to earning a living that way, so I thought I would do something practical—photography! Thanks to a scholarship, I graduated from photo school but could not afford to work in my industry upon graduation. As a young immigrant, I didn't have a safety net and was still learning all the US and New York City manners. So I took office jobs to survive. A decade later, I returned to grad school to focus on my work. Two years after that, I stood in a sun-lit Montmartre vineyard, Les Clos Montmartre, a vineyard much smaller than the one I grew up on in Southwestern Europe. There I was—contemplating the twists and turns of a creative life that hasn't been easy, but worth struggling for.


This experience eased me into accepting the importance of enjoying my life, which is often too constricted by responsibilities and financial pressures. That sun-lit moment was a needed refresher.


Generally, I do not travel for leisure. Until a couple of years ago, my travel was to see family or in support of my work, but with the climate crisis, I feel too guilty even to do that. Since my first trip to Paris, I began collecting vintage postcards of specific places that are powerful reminders that a creative life can expand beyond my studio and take me elsewhere for a reason. So I look for library postcards online (those are the best!), on Etsy, and sometimes eBay. I keep these pictures in a spiral-bound notebook. I'm picky about the photos, and sometimes I feel guilty spending $10 on a postcard. But there are far more odious things in the world, so I give myself a little splurge.



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© 2020 The Feminist Institute. All images courtesy of the artist.