I remember the joy of dicsovering Haribo jellies, Nutella and margarine among colorful clothes packed in heavy cardboard boxes we used to get from relatives who lived in West Germany, when Poland was lacking many basic things. It was a celebration, the whole family was present for these grand openings of gift boxes.
The clothes, mostly second-hand, were good enough for mother. She never felt the need to buy new ones, preferring to save money for more important expenses. She always looked modest and didn’t like black. Some say that what one wears is a part of creating one’s identity. My mother, all her life, wore clothes that she had never chosen.
On February 28, 2012, four years after her death, I started reliving the past. My work since then has been about building on my memories and longing. Self-Portrait With My Mother is my attempt to summarize that period, to move beyond the past -a final reconciliation with reality.
My grandmother’s house –where my mother, my sister and I all grew up– is empty and cold now, almost in ruins. This is where I’ve kept my mother’s clothes since she died. And now since my grandmother passed away, it’s where I’ve been making these self-portraits, recreating dresses and outfits from memory, like my mother used to match them. I recently tried on a different set of clothes that came in one of those big boxes many years ago. I found her blond hair on the green coat.