Michael Ferris, Jr., Maria Gillan
Maria
recycled wood, pigmented grout
21"X 15" X 16"
Courtesy of George Adams Gallery,
New York, NY
My Mother Tells Us Stories of San Mauro


Inside me, I hear the voices of the women who came
before me, my mother and grandmother, my aunts,
my sister ,
all of them  speaking that Cilentano dialect until their
words blend together and form the beat I move to, the
lessons

we learned through the way they worked, the things and
people they loved, the work they did to earn money,
the houses they cleaned and polished, the meals they
cooked, heavy with garlic and basil and oregano,
picked fresh from their

gardens Their whispers become a thread of sound
inside me, firm and strong as the wax-coated thread
my mother used to sew the lining in coats at Ferraro
Coat factory. These were not fancy women, not
delicate like silk thread,

but tough and utilitarian and used to hard work and
doing without, my mother carrying San Mauro in her
blood and in her heart so that she could teach us that
place we had never seen, teach how to weave that
same thread , the one that I

use to pleat together my past and that I twist into a
rope, strong as a suspension bridge that leads my
daughter home.  Women have done this forever
stitching this strong thread from one generation to the
next, teaching their daughters

to be women, not by what they say but what they do.


                                                       
 --Maria Gillan
                                                       COLLABORATIVE STATEMENT
                                      Artist Michael Ferris Jr. and Poet Maria Mazziotti Gillan

In this collaborative project, Maria Mazziotti Gillan began by writing a number of poems based
on Michael Ferris, Jr’s sculpture of his wife Rosemarie. Gillan responded to the presence of the
piece and how it depicted a very strong and powerful woman. She eventually took the influence
of those writings and created a much larger poem about the connections that cross from
mother to daughter and from one generation to the next, called
My Mother Tells Us Stories of San
Mauro.
In turn Ferris did a sculptural portrait of Gillan herself. His intent was to capture the strength of
spirit that was often described in her poems. Originally, he wanted to make the sculpture’s hair
a wild popping and vibrating form as if ideas were bubbling from her head. He also felt it was
important to include Gillan’s writing within the piece so he placed actual pages from her books
in the core of the head; in essence, Gillan’s words were absorbed into the center of the piece.
We both found much in common in our work but what was most exciting was how we used the
work and ideas of the other to push off into places artistically that we might not have gone on
our own.