An Evacuee’s List

Oct 08

September 23, 2020

An Evacuee’s List

I grew up looking at my mother’s lists — left on post-its, taped to the refrigerator, or found underfoot sometime after their enigmatic instructions had been dispatched. My experience of her as an artist is bound up with the memory of her lists, dadaist assemblages in my mind’s eye.

I shared this image with fellow students in a photography class. The photo was met with yelps and consternation: Meds and ducks together? Why is the cigarette crossed out? Beer in parentheses! Ok Calendar, Whaaaaaat.

It turns out: this summer’s Walbridge Fire came quite close to my parents’ home and farm, the land where I grew up. So they came to stay with me in Petaluma (how odd and sweet to host one’s parents as evacuees!). One morning they evaded the sheriff and returned home for a few items. My mother made a list beforehand, which she kept misplacing in various pockets and purses. I took a photo for backup.

Several of the items listed seem to be about a meal (“toms”; garlic; poor ducks) but are intermingled with objects that point to some other necessity: air purifiers, photo albums, baby books. And the unsure-of-itself cigarette? Surprise, it’s a pictographic crossed-out foam roller.

The person making this list, who happens to be my mother, Susan Preston, who happens to be an artist, is doing a strange sort of multi-tasking, simultaneously preparing for the evening’s meal while retrieving possessions in case her home burns down.

And this, my friends, is the world we seem to be living in. Let’s not forget to remember our toms & garlic & beer in parentheses.

Listen to snippets of a conversation I had with my mother, Susan Preston, about list-making and how she gets slippy with it. I won’t call it an interview, because I interrupted too much.