Emma & Lorraine

An exhibition and collaborative project, in collaboration with Adele Ball, Pallavi Sen, Keely Snook, Harrell Fletcher, Dillon De Give, Emily Cappa, and Angelica Teuta.

Presented by Mildred’s Complexity, Narrowsburg, NY

In the summer of 2015, Crews was a fellow at Mildred’s Lane in Beach Lake, Pennsylvania during a session called Walking, Talking, and Social Practice. During a walk through Narrowsburg, New York (just on the other side of the Delaware River from Beach Lake), she met Lorraine Bodens, an eighty-two year old woman who has been making hand-painted yard signs for nearly twenty-five years. Her large plywood signs are carefully cut by her boyfriend and painted (by her or her mother) to use as yard decoration for holidays, birthdays, and other special events. Most people we talked to in the small town knew about Lorraine’s signs or had seen them in her yard over the years. In the last ten years, Lorraine stopped making signs and stored her collection in the shed in her backyard where they were at the time of Crews’ introduction to Lorraine. After a few conversations, Lorraine showed Crews the signs, and she explained how she had often unsuccessfully tried to sell the signs for $5 each.

Crews brought these stories back to her peers at Mildred’s Lane during a conversation about the collaborative exhibition they were planning at a store-front gallery in downtown Narrowsburg, only a few blocks from Lorraine’s house. The team went to meet Lorraine, and together, they decided to invite Lorraine to install a selection of her signs in the gallery along with a few of her late mother’s paintings as the entire exhibition. Lorraine agreed, the team selected several of their favorite signs and paintings to display in the space, and the signs were installed in the white box gallery — a context Lorraine had never seen her work in before. When she came to the gallery with her boyfriend to see the exhibition, she said, “I’ve never been to an art show before, and the first one I go to is my own…!” During the opening, members of the team took gallery-goers on tours to Lorraine’s backyard to see other signs that weren’t selected for the exhibition, and the audience could purchase those signs or signs from the show. In the end, all of the signs in the show plus some from the yard sold for $30 to $250 each, and Lorraine received all of the money. She said, “I made enough money to pay my property taxes for the year!” Download the publication here.

Later in the year, Crews contacted Lorraine to see how things were going, and she was happy to report that she had been invited to exhibit all of her Santa Claus sign paintings in a new exhibition around Christmas at a different gallery in Narrowsburg.