May I keep her floating?

A seed by: Kaersten Colvin-Woodruff
Project: Calling our Ancestors Home
Kaersten Colvin-Woodruff is a visual artist working in 3-dimentions and mixed media. She is a professor of 30 years at Pennsylvania Western University at Clarion in Clarion, Pennsylvania and is currently teaching sculpture, 3-Design, and African American Art and Artists. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the State University of New York at Purchase in 1991, with a concentration in sculpture, and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Arizona State University, also with a concentration in sculpture in the year 1994. For over thirty years she has been exhibiting and lecturing on her artwork in both national, and international exhibitions. She is affiliated and collaborates with Pounds Per Square Inch Performance out of Toronto, ON, Canada. She has also exhibited at The Scottsdale Center for Contemporary Art in Scottsdale, Arizona, The Ossabaw Island Foundation out of Savannah, Georgia, The Foundation for Contemporary Art in Accra, Ghana, and The Peruvian North American Cultural Center in Arequipa, Peru. Her latest artistic undertakings are with the Art of Peace II in tandem with The Arrivals Legacy Project directed by dramaturge and cultural animator Diane Roberts out of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and choreographer Gerry Trentham, and The Apology Project, with Pounds-Per-Square-Inch-Performance under artistic director Gerry Trentham out of Toronto, Canada. Both projects are interdisciplinary collaborations between performers, artists, and filmmakers.


Visual Arts
This is an original seed

As a child I spent hours playing in the Livingroom of grandparents’ home whenever I came to visit them. Back then, everything appeared bigger than it was. The furniture was as large as monuments. The patterns on the carpet and wallpaper were road maps that could transport me from one end of the room to the other.  The old gnarly picture frames on the walls housed sinister looking people that I had never met before. At the time I didn’t realize that these people were dead, nor did I know that they were ancestors of mine.  When I asked my grandmother about them, she explained who they were. In response I recall asking her, “When they died, why didn’t they take their picture frames with them?”  Back then it seemed like a legitimate question, but now as a grown woman I question the question because it doesn’t make sense. As a child I saw these faces having ownership over their picture frames. The two could not be separated.

Nowadays, my mother is my oldest living family member.  During COVID, I moved in and took care of her. She was incapable of taking care of herself as her dementia worsened.  As the months moved on she continued to slip further and further away from me.  And from time to time, I caught myself psychologically preparing for her death.  When will it happen, I ask myself?  When will she be called home by the ancestors in those old picture frames?

Reflecting on my five-year-old self this question remains; When she passes will she take her picture frame with her, or can the frame hang like a pendant around my neck, with my mother floating in the middle?

While meeting with the members of my Arrivals pod, the following associations were made while getting feedback from the group regarding this seed. Their comments and questions were helpful.

  • Assumptions of class associations
  • The development of racial admixtures within family groups
  • My brown hands and arms against the image of my white looking mother
  • Assumptions of what an African American looks like.
  • Enslaved Africans and Free-People-of-Color in the Early Colonial period in the U.S..
  • The colonial imagery used (picture frame and wallpaper)
  • The contrasting sounds of windchimes and heartbeats/drums
  • The oval shape of the frame looked like a portal of some sort.
  • The blue tone of the water was reminiscent of ocean water.


Credits: This seed was filmed by photographer Prince Brooks of 32 ½ Productions out of Clarion, Pennsylvania USA.  Website:

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