We opened the car doors--his and mine. Whack! It was 105 degrees downtown in downtown Charm City last Saturday afternoon. Walls of heat marked an earlier, 20th century entry into Baltimore not far from here...in another car, August 1969. I was eight months pregnant and the faucets and toilets in our rented place only delivered hot water. To be fair, the city has lovely seasons--crisp Fall and glorious floral Spring.
Twelve years ago, the children gone, work done, never fully integrated into this southern city, we returned to Manhattan. We returned to see how Lisa Anne Auerbach, an artist known to me through knitting, had transformed my "Knit a Condom Amulet" zine to become part of her installation, The Tract House.
She collected a sizeable group of "lifestyle tracts" from others like me who had something important they wanted to say to the world. Located in a storefront on 123 Saratoga Street, it is a few blocks away from the larger exhibit at the Contemporary Museum, "Cottage Industries."
While we looked over the tracts, collected them as everyone is encouraged to do, a young couple walked in. They were students from the nearby culinary school, were quite taken with the full table--ranging from a high school student's anguished, "I Hate Baltimore" to "You No Longer Have To Throw Your Holey Garments Away!" to "Save the Beans." And so much more including Lisa's own D.D.I.Y. manifesto arguing, "Don't Do It Yourself." You have until August 24 to see for yourself (open Wednesdays through Saturdays).
Lisa Anne's intricate machine knitting on the wall highlighted the titles of many of the tracts and added to the obsessiveness of the entire storefront operation.
All that was needed: a sweaty person in formal wear out front demanding the passerby to "Step up...See what we have for you inside (voice drops) to read."
We did our part. I enacted my true self by collecting one of every tract, then reading them all that night in my motel bed. You can do something like that by going to The Tract House link where all are artfully arranged and available for careful reading. Let me know your favorites.
In Federal Hill, another part of downtown, I'd belonged to Resurgam, a co-op gallery, had my first show in 1989. Discovered it's no longer there; probably closed sometime in last three years. We drove by the house we'd lived in for 25 years...large and unwanted after the riots of 1968 and discovered it had been sold again and was being expanded. It's the American way even as what we really need to do is contract.
I am always ambivalent about Baltimore, the city's low-rise scale becomes more appealing the longer it's behind me. Would there have been another place to be a feminist therapist in just the way I wanted...to raise children with lots of green space around them...morph into my own art?