Last fall, the Art Museum at the University of Memphis (AMUM) issued a call for submissions for an exhibit set for Women's History Month. They were looking for objects brought to this country from international women now living in the Memphis and Jackson areas. The result is "What I Kept," opening this week at AMUM.
Fifty-five women from 33 countries participated, with each woman asked to include a written story about her chosen object. The show features 21 photographs by Jason Miller (he describes it as a "life's work" for him) as well as some of the objects. Andy Hunter's documentary In the Middle about international women will be screened during the exhibit.
"The exhibit promotes dialogue, raises voices that may not be heard through artistic means," says Penny Dodds Karwacz, the curator of "What I Kept."
The objects range from the sentimental to the utilitarian. Two women — one from the Netherlands, the other from Ghana — brought mortar and pestles. There's a cookbook, a Koran. Some brought traditional clothing items, others paintings and pictures. A few brought dolls. The youngest participant, a 3 year old from China, brought a figurine of a rabbit, bought by her adoptive parents before they had met her.
Karwacz says the objects represent different things, depending on the woman — a link back to the culture, happy memories, a sense of control, a feeling of protection.
"It's heartwarming how emotional it is to talk about about the objects they cherish," says Karwacz.
"What I Kept" at AMUM March 14th-July 2nd. Opening reception Friday, March 20th, 5-7:30 p.m.