One Hundred Widows | Collected by Elizabeth Withey
September 27 – November 2, 2013
Inspired by a friend’s story, Elizabeth Withey started collecting widowed earrings, and the stories of their lost pairs. Interested both in the stories themselves and the commentary they provide on the nature of loss, Withey also found herself interested in the importance that we place on the couple, or the pair, as a unit in our society. So, she collected one hundred—drawn from all kinds of people, from colleagues and relatives to distant friends-of-friends and notable artists, musicians, and politicians. Initially presented online at onehundredwidows.tumblr.com, the collection will be translated and re-imagined as a physical installation in the Latitude 53 Community Gallery this fall.
How a show is put together is almost as important as the work itself—the curator or artist translates ideas and projects into a new form. We asked Elizabeth Withey about what it’s been like transforming One Hundred Widows from a collection and blog into a show for our Community Gallery:
“I knew I wanted the actual earrings to be together in the space, enjoying light and fresh air, having admirers they way they did in their glory days, when they were pairs, when someone cherished and wore them. I wanted these single earrings, these ‘widows’, to get close, to get to know one another, and to once again do what they were born to do—sparkle, dangle, tinkle, swing, glimmer, clink—even though it would not be from the soft, fleshy lobe of an ear.
For the past year the earrings have been living in individual ziplock bags in an old Lululemon bag on a top shelf in my closet, back with the winter pantyhose and slips, things I rarely wear. They've been patient—in their original owners' jewelry boxes, and in my custody.
I originally thought a simple museum-style display would suffice, that I would place each earring in a shadow box next to its story. But it felt distant, stuffy, disconnected. I wanted the widows to look and feel alive. Rummaging through the earrings in their ziplock bags, and scrolling through the photographs, I decided I'd mount the earrings as a unit, to show the collective power of solitude, loss, to show there is beauty in just one, in many ones together. Suspended above a floor-mounted spotlight, the 100 single earrings force us to look up and behold, to pause and observe, to zoom in and then pan out, to search for what is ours, for what is familiar.
I also decided to enlarge a selection of Shaughn Butts' beautiful images from the original One Hundred Widows blog, so visitors might more fully appreciate some of the widows close up. The photos in the show represent as broad a cross-section as possible, including earring styles and eras, geography, stage of life at which the earring was worn, colour, shape, materials and the emotions or images evoked by the story.”