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Artist uses community-donated film to create 3D project that emphasizes togetherness

Elizabeth Stone's "I REMEMBER" project features donated photographic materials, sewn together to create large scale tapestries. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Stone.

The "I REMEMBER" project, a community-based art project using donated film negatives, will be on display Friday at the January Third Friday Durham reception from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Durham Arts Council building.

Elizabeth Stone, a photographer and visual artist from Montana, is the creator of the "I REMEMBER" project.

She came up with the idea for the project from a previous personal artwork called "Ecdysis," a 2019 installation she created by sewing together more than 3,000 of her personal 35mm film negatives into a large sculptural piece.

Stone called that piece a "statement of self."

But now, with the "I REMEMBER" project, instead of using her personal negatives, Stone worked with community members to sew together donated film. Donation locations for the project were set up around the Triangle.

“I asked for donations of film, either negatives, which were my preference, or little slides, and I sewed them together into a big piece to reflect your community’s identity,” Stone said.

She thought about community and what unites it throughout the process of creating "I REMEMBER."

"I also thought about where we are right now in this country and how divisive things can be," she said. "And so I wanted to find a way to kind of bind individual members of your community and their stories together into a large piece.”

Stone held small sewing bees where people came together to sew the film negatives into little squares, which were later joined to create the artwork. 

“That was one of the more rewarding components of the project,” Stone said. “Just having people come to the table, get to know each other and be involved in making a piece of art.”

Stone worked on this project in October, when she was the artist in residence at Cassilhaus, an artist residency and exhibition program located between Durham and Chapel Hill. This program started in 2009, and artists stay anywhere from three to seven weeks to complete a project of their design and choosing. 

“We started working with (Stone) well in advance of her coming here so that she could have a useful and profitable time while she was here,” Cassilhaus co-founder Frank Konhaus, who directs the Artist in Residence and Exhibition Programs, said. “We connected her with a lot of folks in the area that could work with her on her project.”

Susan Tierney, the artist services manager at Durham Arts Council, said the council has been working with Stone since the beginning of her project, helping to coordinate donations and sewing bees. 

“I love the notion behind what she was doing because we’re all living in this incredibly divisive period of time, and she’s sort of thinking about what is it that we all have in common," Tierney said. “What is the thing that can kind of ground us back? We’re all human beings, and we’re all in this together, and it’s telling stories.”

Though the "I REMEMBER" project will be displayed this week, it is still unfolding. Stone said she would like the piece to stay within the Triangle, and she encourages people to continue donating film to make the project bigger.

Eventually, she hopes to find the piece a permanent location in the community.

“In the meantime, I want it to travel within the community so people can see it, think about it and, depending on how the pandemic plays out, perhaps have a few more sewing bees so that people who want to contribute now to the piece could come together and sew negatives together and make the piece even larger," Stone said.

Inquiries for film donation and future sewing bees can be made through Stone's website

@DTHCityState | 

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