7 minute read

From the Archive of Suz

At WashU, Lily was a communication design major and spent three years as editor-in-chief of Armour. She ate takeout Mission Taco weekly and spent every other Wednesday under the fluorescent disco balls of Mike Talaynas. Before that, she grew up in Los Angeles, moving to St. Louis in 2006 with her mother Suz, a single parent, consistent supporter of Armour and Sam Fox, and a WashU grad herself.

writing LILY SULLIVAN

I will have lived in New York for two years in June. Last July, a year into my stint as a style editor at a magazine in the city, my mother died. At the age of 23, I have come to know this type of loss sooner than most of my peers. In the blink of an eye, in one phone call you are left motionless and breathless. What has followed has been a series of ups and downs, redefining normal as I search for a type of livable grief.

My biggest fear in losing my mother was that I would lose her voice, that suddenly her field of knowledge, her experiences and stories would suddenly disappear. In the last months, I have reflected about what memorialization looks like—the art of memory, the art of loss, how someone lives on through their belongings. Inevitably as collectors we have a connection to things—bringing us back to certain times in our lives.

I have taken great pride in my work as a storyteller—finding the power of creative and the lives in which they lead. In college, I produced a thesis project which explored the stories of the stuff in lives of 8 women, my mother was my first subject. My mother was a scholar, a professional dancer, a professor, a world traveler and a self-taught artist. From her I learned the art of collecting, the power of memory attached to physical things. In her interview, my mother spoke about her collections saying, “I realized that I had to keep certain things just so that I could maintain a sense of who I am.” Upon her dying, I was given the gift of her archive, a seemingly endless collection of her past.

It is of great interest to me now, in the process of going through her belongings to rediscover her voice. I have found journals and letters and photos that create a map of her existence. Her story— the story of her stuff is as dynamic as the story of one dress. One dress, one set of stitches, one yard of fabric, the days she wore it and the picture of her years ago at my age—the same dress worn by me to her memorial service and for years to follow. In just one object, we can find a bit of what is lost, a portal backwards and an opportunity to look forward. In finding these things comes the memory of her constant zest for life; preserving and continuing her story, our story and now I suppose my own.

1. My mother was an avid writer, from a box of journals from her pregnancy with me, she detailed every month before and after.
2. I found these just after her death, I love how peaceful and vulnerable she looks.
3. Collected in travels, at thrift stores, there's a certain charm in a series of multiples.
4. A box of fabrics from her travels in southeast asia.
5. My mom started stashing things in altoid tins, change, fortunes and lipstick samples like these.
6. Suz like to press flowers in dictionaries and save old bouquets.
7. She was a french major in college before living in Paris in the 80s.
8. A part of her Peace art series, she started these in the mid 80s and continued to present day, a sort of ongoing art project.
9. A beautiful self-portrait collage on self-love.
10. Suz had great taste, her thrift store designer finds were remarkable.
11. A part of her Peace art series, she made these stickers from vinyl sheets.
12. She was a talented artist — I have found hundreds of drawn self-portraits, face studies from her 56 years of life.
She is my age in this photo. Handmade from a pattern, I wore this same dress to her service last year.
14. Suz always said you should try everything once, maybe a part of her wild stint in the early 90s.
15. Taken by her friend, a now famous photographer, a photo from this series ended up in his book.
16. Taken by her friend, a now famous photographer, a photo from this series ended up in his book.
17. A nude self portrait from her senior year photography class at WashU.
18. After spending time in Kentucky, the derby became a big part of our lives — thus a giant hat collection is necessary.