Jo Fitsell Coffin

Grandmother’s Silence
fiber/acrylic on canvas/cheesecloth, linen, cotton
34 x 34 in.

This piece has never been accepted into any of my shows. It is unusually dark compared to my other work. It has deep meaning for me. I have placed on my grandmother’s mouth a kind of brace that keeps her from talking. The keys to open it are below.

My grandfather molested all of us. After focusing a lot of emotion and attention on him, I turned my sights to her. I loved her so much and she loved me. My sisters and I figured that she must have known and kept quiet. I created this piece as an invitation to her to talk to me even though she is long ago passed. To unlock her silence and allow her to share her pain, anguish, disappointment and fear because it is so like mine.

I later married a man who also had deep sexual wounding and after our divorce I came into contact with other men with these issues. When I finally looked at my own sexual wounding, I was able to attract a different kind of man, however I have always wondered what my life would have been like, if she told me her story, early on. Maybe I wouldn’t have had to live it out myself? At any rate, this story stops with me. My daughter knows my joy and my pain. I hand her down no secrets.

© Jo Fitsell Coffin